The days now are an odd configuration: get up at the crack of dawn (which is nice – out here on the eastern edges of the time zone, the sun is up so early that I’d be angry if I were actually trying to get sleep) head in to Queens with Cory, work for a few hours, and then head back to Long Island for a nice nap. The nap is necessary because there is no question of going to bed at eight o’clock, the only way it would be possible to get enough sleep. But it does split up the day into two pieces in a way that has made it difficult to blog.
For one thing, I can’t remember, after I’ve woken up groggy and confused, in the midday, what on earth I composed while I was out on the racetrack. It’s like writing down a dream – if you don’t keep a notebook by your bedside, and force yourself to scrawl it down the moment that you wake, it’s lost forever.
It’s just a question of finding routine. In the meantime, I’m learning, learning, learning.
At the different training centers I worked at, every farm had a slightly different routine – one, somewhat hilariously, had us tack and mount the yearlings alone in the stall, without a groom’s assistance – and I don’t know if things are more or less regimented at the racetrack, or how identical routines are. But I can tell you that in general, a rider shows up ready to ride, a groom presents a tacked horse, and a trainer gives a leg-up. When the rider comes back in, they ride into the stall, a groom takes the horse’s head, and the rider hops off, strips the saddle and bridle, and walks out. Done. All the rest: the bath, the long cooling walk, rinsing the shedrow dirt off the legs – in theory that belongs to the groom and the hotwalker.
Of course, from what I’ve seen, everyone seems to pitch in to get the job done. Much more so than at the training centers, where we literally tacked up, rode, untacked, and walked away. There was no question of our bathing or hotwalking. That was someone else’s problem. So you see, there are subtle differences.
There is a week left of the Belmont meet, and before the races disappear to Saratoga for the rest of the summer, we’ve been spending our afternoons at the other “city” track, just outside the borough of Queens, in Long Island. We watch the processes in the paddock, everything from walking the horses before they are saddled, to the way the jockeys get a leg-up onto the horses while they’re still in motion.
Things we noticed before, but never really paid attention to – because we never expected to be doing them ourselves. We’ve run away and joined the circus. I had a friend who did that – she left upper-class, Big House, country squire life in the Cotswolds and ended up with a career as an elephant trainer. She claimed it was because she wasn’t allowed to play with the servants’ children. I can make no such claim. We did it because it seemed like the right thing to do. So far – still does.