According to Sam and Jim Commenting on things that irk us off, make us laugh out loud or just seem too weird too believe According to Sam and Jim: You can lead a horse to the starting gate, but betting on what happens next is risky business

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

You can lead a horse to the starting gate, but betting on what happens next is risky business

Believe it or not, in one of my previous incarnations I was a race horse groom. Sam looks skeptical, but I was. The recent Kentucky Derby brought back a lot of memories too.  The Preakness is this weekend.

Once upon a time I even dreamed of becoming a trainer or a race horse owner and breeder. My dream was short-lived when I learned that track workers labored from sunup to sundown for very little reward. Many of the people who worked around the tracks also were scooped up regularly by Immigration and deported. One poor stable worker was so desperate to escape detection he actually hid (I kid you not) under a pile of horse manure. The Immigration people sniffed him out anyway.

 I enjoyed my time at Golden Gate Fields and the old Bay Meadows track in California. But it wasn’t until years later that I discovered why I liked to draw pictures of horses when I was a kid and why I longed so much for a Silver or a Trigger or a Flicka of my own.

Not until I was in my 40s, when I located and met my real (birth) father, did I learn the secret of my equine desires.  Lo and behold, it turned out my father had been a horse trainer. Boy! As Slim Pickens might have said, “That there was just about the doggondest coinkydink ever. “

It’s been many years now since I hung around a race track, since I regularly read Blood Horse and American Turf Monthly. One lingering memory of those days is the first time I led a horse to the saddling paddock for a race. We had nicknamed the horse Frog because he was so jumpy. It seemed like 10 miles from the stable to the saddling paddock while I tried to keep Frog from dancing off down the race track rider less. The trainer, walking behind me and Frog kept cooing at me to relax. But I felt like I was holding onto a $40,000 stick of dynamite that was going to explode at any moment.

Frog ran a pretty good race until about halfway around the track he realized he was out in front of the other horses and decided he’d wait for them to catch up. The other horses caught up then passed him like he was standing flat-footed. He was a lot more docile on our journey back to the stable.

Horses are pretty unpredictable – not like Sam. You never know what a horse will do to you when you let your guard down. Frog bit me in the back once. Another horse tried to kick me full force with his hind feet when I attached him to a hot walker. A saddle horse tore the hide off one of my legs when he tried to scrape me off on the side of a cinder block barn. Another saddle horse tried to dump me in a creek.  

I still love those crazy cayuses, but it’s easier now to deal with Sam who weighs all of 10 pounds, worships the hand that feeds him, and thinks I’m his personal love cushion. 

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