As a teenager, I spent some time as a – no, scratch that – as the groom at a private dressage stable. It was, to my mind, a primo gig: mornings only, sole responsibility for four laid-back Warmblood geldings, a beautiful little barn and dressage arena along the Indian River, a stall for my horse. I had a boombox that myself and the owner, a retired woman with a passion for the German School, alternated between NPR and my Depeche Mode collection. (She liked the beat of Violator, said it was interesting to ride to.)
It was an ideal job, but like any job it wore on me, and my favorite mornings were the ones where I awoke, begrudgingly as always, to a dripping, dark, dreary dawn. That was the best news of the century. Because on these mornings, the little barn would be empty when I arrived, and there’d be a note on the chalkboard outside the tack room: “Day off today!” (Smiley face).
I’d hustle through my stalls, give everyone a grooming and extra hay, and breeze out after an hour, free free free. Usually to go back to bed, but free nonetheless.
Forward we go to dripping wet mornings at the racetrack, and the desire for an easy day, practically a day off, is now warring with my practical instincts for, you know, survival. “We’re walking today!” is received, by me, with a mixture of extreme pleasure (I won’t have to take anyone out in the pouring rain! Do you know how hard it is to ride in the rain when you wear glasses? Not to mention – walking horses takes way less time than exercising them!) and extreme trepidation about the following day (tomorrow is going to suck.)
Fact is, Thoroughbreds are tough bosses. The toughest. Hey corporate types, you know how you dread Mondays because your entire Monday morning/lunchbreak/most of the afternoon is spent emptying the e-mail in-box? It’s like that, only it’s a racehorse and it’s had off one freaking day and the world is about to come crashing down around your ears, if they have anything to say about it. Thoroughbreds don’t want days off. Or vacations. (Unless it’s all-expenses paid to a pasture upstate for a month, and then they’re all over that.) Staycations, the kind I tend to take, the kind where you stay home, preferably indoors, preferably asleep, are not the Thoroughbred way. Racehorses want out. They want to work. And they will punish you for giving them a day off.
And so this morning, several dozen pent-up, explosive, three-days-of-rain-oh-my-GOD-LET-ME-RUN racehorses converged upon the muddy, sodden racetrack all at once. Hilarity ensued. Or, to put it another way, lots of horses performed lots of haute ecole manuevers that were unasked for and there was a lot of cussing and shouting as a result.
Mine didn’t, thank goodness. A bolt here, a spook there; a rear here, a spin there, nothing too terribly spectacular. And yet somehow, I ended up with mud on my glasses. I guess something interesting happened out there. I’m just learning to ignore it.