Unexpected Hazard

Of all the hazards I would have expected, the Aqueduct Flea Market was not one of them.

You look for potential problems, riding a horse in the city. The kids on their ponies who used to wend their way through traffic on the Upper West Side, traversing the most treacherous block and a half of trail ride you’ve ever encountered on their way to the dubious delights of the jogger-infested Bridle Path, these horses were Bomb-Proof with a capital “B.” Old and wise, these horses had no issues with the whooping sirens and blaring horns on the expletive-laced streets of New York.

Two and three-year-old racehorses, on the other hand, they’re just looking for trouble. And there’s plenty of that on the urban backside.

I know that Tampa Bay Downs borders a driving range. And Calder is alongside an interstate. I’ve ridden at stables beneath the glow of theme park fireworks, and been on a Thoroughbred when the sonic boom of a returning space shuttle sent every horse in central Florida into their own special orbit. Horses fit uneasily into our civilized world, the world that would never have been built without their muscle and will.

All that, and the clatter and banging of metal pipes, the flapping of canvas tenting, at six thirty in the morning, from the back of a racehorse, is really more than I could ever have bargained for.

I’m sure it’s a very nice flea market, and it makes good use of the vast asphalt carpet that sits cracking and steaming during the summer months when Aqueduct’s grandstand is closed. It’s just – and I’m sure the horses echo my thought, as they go lurching and bolting around the far turn – so damned unexpected.



Filed under racetrack life

4 responses to “Unexpected Hazard

  1. You’re so right…the things we ask horses to endure sometimes would be overwhelming for any animal, humans included, let alone a prey animal like a horse. Then again, it’s also why so many OTTBs have very little spook in them. Not ALL, of course, and you of all people know they have their own special issues and quirks:) Still, especially for horses that have raced for a few years or more and traveled from track to track, sometimes there is very little that really freaks them out. Of course it’s all relative…huge tractors and farm equipment, loudspeakers, crowds-no problem! Wild turkeys wandering onto the trail…aaaaiiiiiieeee!!!! lol:)

    • Sara Tardanico

      I had an OTTB mare that I used to trail ride, and she was right off the track. I don’t remember her ever shying at anything. School buses would pass us on the narrow rural roads, deer would come out of the woods, etc. The ONLY thing that set her off was another horse galloping up behind her, and then it was off to the races. I always felt that her experience on the track with everything going on, crowds, loud speakers, etc., made any thing else a non-issue. But then, it does depend on the horse’s personality also.

  2. carrotplease

    Heh. I think stuff like this is why so many of our guys are so nonchalant about stuff I expect them to spook at. I remember riding a horse who had won just under 400K in his racing career, including some big stakes races, on a blustery 35 degree day, with the farm owner’s laundry flapping on the line and a chainsaw buzzing on and off right next to the ring. Never batted an eye – it always surprises me until I realize they really see it all at the track. When three year olds can hold their focus with the infield party on Preakness Day, I can’t imagine there’s really too much out there to really scare them (except maybe deep muddy footing, or the odd branch on the trail).

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Isn’t that the truth? If your TB spooks at a loud clanging metal noise he is LYING to you! 🙂

      But puddles? Oh LORD. There was a puddle on the track one morning that apparently was a trapdoor directly into Hades.

      And let’s not even get into the goat. I must get a picture of a two-year-old being ponied past the backside goat. It’s a daily occurrence.

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