Feeling That Rush

As I slowed the horse from a jog, below the empty looming grandstands, and fought her into a jigging, uncooperative halt, I reflected on just how foolish I really was. I was sitting on a racehorse, on a racetrack, about to turn and gallop. As if I were ten years younger, as if all the years between had never happened, as if I hadn’t walked away from racehorses shaking my head, a decade ago, and started looking at college catalogs with sincerity – I’d go this time. I’d get a real job. I’d have a career.

But that was ten years ago, and I’d proven time and time again that I hated real jobs. I hated careers, I hated offices, and salt-laced lunch breaks, and, yes, air-conditioning, too – stale and tasteless and fluorescent-colored days – even worse in New York, where the winter sun rises after the business day begins, and sets before it ends, so that the brightest light you see all winter might be the neon and LED madness of Times Square glowing into a snow-filled sky.

Two horses galloped by, nostrils fluttering and snorting with every stride. I saw a break – the homestretch was empty. I gathered my reins, bridged them against the filly’s neck, and sent her back into a jog, and then a canter.

Her ears swung around, pricked, captured the sight of the horses rounding the bend ahead, and she latched onto the light eggbutt snaffle and dug down, with an intensity I’d never felt in a horse before. And if I was still questioning my calling, it was reassuring to feel that this filly, this blooded Thoroughbred, knew exactly why she existed, exactly why she was breathing and living and tasting this city’s dirty-salty-humid air. The wind whistled in my ears, literally growing louder and louder as she settled into faster and faster strides, and I thought that the wind could serve as my clock – this loud for a good gallop, this much louder for a swift, timed breeze.

However foolish, however weak upon pulling up at last, however shaky my arms and legs from the physical effort of staying with, and finally breaking that stride, I had that glowing runner’s high when we walked off the track and back down the hill to the stables. And so did my happy, happy horse. She’d be coddled and kissed and washed and walked dry. I’d get on another horse, try to hold it together for another few miles. Get on with that trepidation and get off with that wild rush.



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25 responses to “Feeling That Rush

  1. gosh…someday…i must try this 😀

  2. Wow, that was great. I felt like I was right there with you. I’m a little winded now.

  3. You made the right choice. I so envy you.

  4. Yeah, baby!!!

    Love your description, and while I love my job, I do have visions of the bravery required to have done what you did.

    I’m sure Bar would accommodate my dreams, though.

  5. Your writing just gets better and better!!! Wow, that was excellent! I’m curious about what kind of instructions the trainers give you- do they set a distance for you, and tell you how far to go, whether to breeze or gallop, and is it difficult calculating the pace?
    Perhaps we all feel a bit of what you described so well, the horse knowing why he exists and ourselves pushing again past our fear to freedom when we gallop. I am right there with you and Vince would give his left nut, er, forget that, he already gave them both somewhere else… Keep it up, Natalie! You’re riding the envelope!

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Thanks Barb! Yes, the trainer gives instructions. Because you jog the track backwards, you turn back at whatever post the trainer indicates, pause and let the horse settle and watch the others go by, then gallop on. The faster you are, a breeze, for example, the closer to the rail you go. Slower gallops are closer to the inside of the track. And pace.. I’m finding pace quite difficult.. Let’s just say it ALL feels fast!!

  6. Fiona Farrell

    Beautiful piece. So evocative, so exciting. Such an illustration of facing one’s fears/nervousness, looking at them where you can see the whites of their eyes, and going forward at speed despite the intimate visit. Dare I predict that living on the edge on that leather postage stamp translates into working through other trepidation into the wild rush of success at say, writing? Or follows what must have been more of same, moving to NYC? Brave life you’re living there these days. Two formidable skills on display here: riding a racehorse (emphatically not an OT TB)and writing so powerfully about it. Thank you for taking us on the ride.

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Thank you, Fiona. Is it brave? I admit it makes me nervous when people tell me I am brave. I’d rather not think of myself as brave; it implies that what I am doing is dangerous, and I would prefer to think of it as just another job… But if what I have done is to sidestep the status quo, and neatly avoid the white-collar life.. I had no choice, that is who I am. I’ve run through the alternatives and the suggestions, and come back to the beginning again.

  7. laurie

    Loved this.

  8. Blob

    I don’t think we ever need to know what we’re going to do when we “grow up.” Being happy in the moment is a big enough accomplishment.

    This really was a wonderful post.

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Thank you. I don’t think we have to, either. There’s no limits, anymore. Everyday can be the first day of a new life. Again and again and again.

  9. Karl

    If you keep writing like that you’ll have a flood of lily white office refuges running away to the circus! I’m smiling at your 10 year sentence in the paper mines and figuring after my 25 years I’m a lifer, but thanks for sharing with us a whisper of life in the circus.

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      It’s never too late to run like hell, my friend. If the recession taught us nothing, may we have at least learned that there always other options. The trip just isn’t always pretty. But I’m no counselor, just a very crazy girl 🙂

  10. Beautifully written post…so evocative and so honest. Love that you get to gallop though your doubts!

  11. Pingback: Jessica Chapel / Railbird v2 - Writing the Racetrack

  12. TKinRock

    Nat, this is one of the finest pieces you have written–it is full of life. And I’m proud of the chances you guys are taking.
    Of course it didn’t make me tear up the way some about Rillo and other horses have 😉
    Love ya, Mum

  13. Da

    That’s my girl!

  14. Marguerite

    “stale and tasteless and fluorescent-colored days” – beautifully said. I didn’t quit an office job to ride Thoroughbreds, I quit to to become and Equine Massage Therapist! Twenty years in the flourescent-lit rat race was enough for me. I now spend my days in the backstretch helping these guys feel their best. My first glimpse of the stands as I drive in brings an instant smile to my face.

  15. THIS was fun to read! I so believe you are doing what you are meant to be doing:) Thanks for sharing.

  16. carrotplease

    Loved this. It reminds me of why, even after all I’ve heard and seen and all the crap that makes my heart numb and my brain hurt, I still love to sit on the rail and watch the morning works.

  17. Wow. I am living vicariously through you. Wow.

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