The weather outside is frightful. So bad, in fact, they cancelled racing today. Like any good rider, I’m always looking for an excuse to not ride, and fifty mile an hour winds and sideways rain seem like a good place to start. But this is the racetrack, and these are racehorses, and the more you don’t ride them, well, the more you don’t ride them. Riding lessons become flying lessons.
Now, we all know that I learned to ride at a posh fancy hunter barn. I learned to do things the right way. The British way, the time-honored way, the safe way.
I would have gotten in so much trouble if I’d ridden in the barn! You always, always dismounted outside! What if you rode into the barn and the horse went into a wild tantrum and knocked you into a wall? Then what? Well you’d just be so screwed, that’s what!
Now it’s like, “Hey Natalie, your horse didn’t go into a wild tantrum and knock you into the wall. Maybe check his temperature, huh?”
Okay, it’s not that bad. Not quite. But I do get to ride in the barn. And it’s awesome.
I’d shedrowed horses before in Florida. Racing barns are just very cleverly designed so that the stalls are back to back, instead of facing a central aisle, and so when it’s raining or snowing or there’s hurricane force winds threatening to blow you out of the saddle, you can ride down the aisles that run in front of the stalls. The first time I went to ride in Ocala, I was completely astonished by this set-up. I still don’t know why you’d have a center-aisle barn if you could have a shedrow (especially in Florida, where you don’t need exterior walls and can let the breeze float in, like the aisles are wide porches shading the stalls and your work area.)
Of course the shedrows at Aqueduct are a little more treacherous than these breezy open places I rode at in Florida. It’s older, and darker, and narrower, and there are buckets and wheelbarrows and chickens and pigeons – any number of dangerous obstacles in your path. There are also other horses, other people, farriers, vets, innocent bystanders, magical falling rakes and pitchforks… basically, scary stuff.
Remember the old video game Paperboy? It’s like that, for racehorses. Shedrow, that would make an awesome video game. Get the racehorse around the shedrow without getting smushed against a wall.
It’s not really the walls that bother me, actually. Remember I hit one of those already, over the summer, and that did stop hurting. Eventually. About two weeks ago. It’s the pipes that always concern me. There are these pipes running along the ceiling, as if you’re riding in a subway tunnel or something, and I’m nervous of anything above my head when I’m riding, courtesy of that fancy hunter barn and their Worst-Case-Scenario approach to teaching.
But still, I’ll take pipes over fifty mile and hour winds and blowing rain. Go outside and ride where? I am not – leaving – this – barn!