Lazy Summer Nights

It’s Friday! And I wanted to keep up the streak of posting I’ve been on, but unfortunately I didn’t ride yesterday. Distracted by other things in the morning, I thought I’d ride in the evening. But it just got hotter, and hotter, and wetter, and wetter, until it was a July-like jungle sort of atmosphere outside. We let the horses out of the barn at about seven, as the sun was finally starting to sink towards the treeline. There were clouds here and there that gave some indication that they’d like to rain on us, but nothing actually happened except for that heavy sinking mass of humid air sitting upon us. We went and picked some blackberries, and just that little bit of activity was enough to drench us. No rain, although there was a sudden boom of thunder several hours later, unheralded and unaccompanied by anything else.

Summer evening in the paddock

Too hot for anything but grazing, and even then... Notice the half-hearted rain clouds in the distance.

So I sit here typing, feeling the air grow thick again, with the excuse that I am finishing my coffee and can’t possibly ride until that has been accomplished. I used to think that the custom of riding racehorses in the pre-dawn hours came from riding in the American South, the heartland of colonial racing. Everywhere from Maryland south is a stew of subtropical sliminess from June to September, with Florida clocking in at May and staying late, for overtime, until October. There really is no rational time to ride besides five o’clock in the morning, when the land has cooled enough to produce a breeze blowing out towards the oceans, almost enough to make up for the fog drifting up from the swamps.

When I rode at my first training center, at nineteen or twenty, I took my first yearling to the racetrack in the darkness. It was a big track, maybe 3/4s of a mile, and far away from the barn, cantering through the fog, I felt very disoriented. But very thrilled. Riding in the dark is a heady feeling. And, nicely enough, very little for your horse to spook at. However I do recall a scary spill – no one got hurt, but just the details of it were worrisome – her horse stumbled and went to his knees, and she rolled right over his shoulder. No one saw her and she was left alone on the backstretch, in the dark, to settle and remount her two-year-old. (She was the boss’s girlfriend so she had to take a lot of ribbing for it, too!)

I’m not enough of a go-getter to climb out of bed in the darkness to ride my own horses (although I foresee that in the very near future to ride someone else’s horses!) so I have to make do with a bit of heat and humidity, riding in the midday as I do. And as the coffee is finished, and it’s getting on towards eleven, I suppose I have no excuse.

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Filed under Herd Life, racetrack life, writing

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