All These Things That They’ve Done

Thoroughbreds are four flying hooves and baggage.

Like a kid off the street, a four or five year old racehorse has seen it all. He’s been to more states than most Americans. He learned basic dressage at 18 months of age. He is accustomed to daily prickings, pokings, potions, and proddings. (I’m proud of that alliteration.) Significantly, he has known pain, and has often learned to run right through it.

Final CallSo many rescues come nameless, without biography, without identity. Their baggage is unknown; we come upon it through trial and error, through hard falls and close calls.

We’re lucky with racehorses, they’re all hard-core tattoo freaks – or at least that’s how it seems to our non-horsey friends. The Jockey Club recently opened up their tattoo records, free of charge, and the legions of no-name Thoroughbreds are suddenly reunited with their identities. Their histories are there for the finding.

The newbie’s name is Final Call, and I’m lucky to know it. It means that with a total lack of fuss, I can log in to Equibase.com (free) and look up his Past Performances (also free). I can easily see synopses of his races and learn about his style and his education. Final Call likes to break early, keep his head in front, and fades when passed by closers.

Thanks to YouTube, I can even view his races and get an idea of his movement, the way he gallops, and his personality. High movement, with his head up, good for the turf. Pricked ears while he’s in front. Uncertain, side-to-side waggle of ears when in company. A horse that likes to be in charge, but won’t fight for it.

Even better, I was able to see him in his native habitat. It was picture of where everyone would like to see a racehorse come from: a nice quiet training center yard, with paddocks for turn-out, a decent distance from the training track, and a few friendly grooms ambling about making sure everyone’s alfalfa ration is generous. It’s easy to assess his true temperament in these surroundings: a curious, kind, fun-lovin’ guy.

It isn’t always that simple. Sometimes they come from auction yards, feedlots, the backside of the racecourse, frenetic with activity, kinetic with athleticism and hormones and sheer, unadulterated movement. Movement, the manna of a Thoroughbred’s soul. How many problems can we solve by staying in motion? But I am getting ahead of myself.

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6 Comments

Filed under Jockey Club, Stereotypes, Training Theory

6 responses to “All These Things That They’ve Done

  1. lynn sullivan

    OTTBs are so versatile. with a little patience and time they can learn to do almost any discipline you point them toward. they all have a good work ethic and are best in a routine that allows them some time outside in a paddock. i have the wonderful job of retraining these beauties and have not found a job they cannot do…from jumping, barrels, team penning, roping, trailriding, dressage…you name it,we have done it on an OTTB!

  2. Very much enjoying your writing – keep it coming!

  3. I have watched ALL of Calabar’s races at least three times. He was a back-of-the-pack-surge-to-the-front kinda guy. Unless there was mud. Then he wasn’t so keen on the running. 🙂

    Your descriptions of movement, and the sheer poetry of watching these guys run, is wonderful.

    He has been tough for me on occasion–okay, more than a few occasions–but he is the best teacher, the best mirror, I could ever have asked for.

  4. I can’t wait to read more about him.

    Is the title of your post taken from a Killers song by any chance?

  5. Great post! You’re putting the lyrical back into their lives. As it should be.

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