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.
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.