I was at work one Saturday and was on Craigslist-go figure-looking for inexpensive places to board the BRH. While scrolling I saw an ad for an exercise rider. I instantly emailed the lady. I had experience riding, but how do you prove that? Well, YouTube and blogspot.com. I attached my blog site and my channel on YouTube. Not in my wildest dreams did I think the BRH would land me a paying position to ride. YES. I GOT PAID TO RIDE. It still shocks me. Anyway, The next morning Leanne emailed me and asked if I could come interview. Hell, yes! I drove to her house and found 7 race horses in her back yard. She has a 3/8mile sand track running through her woods. This is cool. The first horse I rode was the pony horse, appropriately named, Pony. It was the first time I had ridden in a racing saddle. It's like, just sturrips. That's it. I kept thinking that there was a reason that this chick had me come out and a stinking saddle wasn't going to get in the way of me getting this job. She kind of looked at me like I was crazy when I started posting. Well what do you expect from an eventer? She's lucky I wasn't rocking a sitting trot. We picked up a canter and here I am half sitting in the saddle. GET OFF HIS BACK! Ok! Ok! Sheesh. I wasn't getting this job. I watched everything she did. Forget two point. My sturrips were shorter than any cross country rider would have. When I got out of the saddle, my knees were well above the knees rolls, or where the knee rolls should have been. I felt top heavy, forward. Not what the practicing dressage ridier is used to. My mind couldn't help but think of all the bad things that could happen at a damn-near gallop riding so far forward. These horses don't really canter. The gallop slow, but don't canter. Upper body forward, arms low and still, ass in the air and rocked back for balance and for Pete's sake HEELS DOWN. I pushed all my weight, as far as I could, into those heels. After a few laps-and remember I am still on the Pony-I knew I had a new respect for jockeys.
Next, time for a real race horse. I'm not going to lie...I was nervous, but the false confidence that I always exude was there. Leanne grabs my left leg and slings my silly butt up on Red. He was calm and not cooky like the ones you see on tv. She explains to me how as soon as you are on the horse you need to be "tied-on." Ok, the last ting I want is to be "tied-on" to a race horse. To her tied-on is ready to go. Reins, sturrips and ride on. I called out "tied-on!" She unclips his bridle from the lead and says make 3 turns at a progessive pace. Ok. I got this! One turn (lap) at a "canter" and pick up the pace each turn ending in a steady gallop. Well, I soon found out Red makes his first turn slow and steady and then the rest of the turns you can piss off. He has his own plans. I thought to myself, I better not have a horse run away from me. And then a split second later rationalized with, all I have to do is stay on and keep myself in control. See the biggest thing I learned is that these race horses don't give a crap about what you want. They want to go. It's all a mind game. They don't whoa, they don't leg yield and they sure don't rein well. How do you control them then? Well you kinda have to think what you want them to do. And they actually do it. True Story. You will lose if you try to muscle them. Needless to say, I made the three turns, at the correct pace, while staying on and loved it.
The Race Horses:
Red is a 6 year old TB gelding. I would say he is about 15.2-3 and has absolutely no markings what so ever. He is, well, Red. He is well into racing. He knows what he is suppose to do when he is out and doesn't have time for the little stuff. He was the first "racer" she (Leanne) let me ride. He pulls a bit, but is manageable. He makes his first turn at a slow pace and then the mind games start to keep him controlled throughout the rest of the ride. I give him 8 out of 10.
Woody is a four year old gelding who reminds me of the buzzard on the Saturday morning cartoons. Not a care in the world. I don't think he really gets the racing yet. He is like a 3 year old child, he needs lots of encouragement and a crop. I wondered at first if he would even race, but as I started riding him everyday I realzied that he really needed to trust me. Once we trusted each other (after about a week) he picked up the pace and I think he will do well. Plus, I think he will do better at the longer races, not the sprinting type races.
Curly is a four year old gelding who is smooth as butter. He is gorgous and despite his smaller size is a power house. The first time I rode him we did three turns-one mile-and after the second turn when we picked up the pace, he started having breathing issues. He was sucking wind and couldn't fix it. Leanne ended up having to tie his tounge to fix the problem.
We are friends now.
Oh, Herc. Herc is the 16.1-2 four year old stud that threw me the first day I rode him. The stories I have of this horse. He is massive, gorgous and re-freaking-diculous!! He reminds me of a frat boy that is girl crazy. He can focus for short periods of time and needs constant attention to remind him what he is here to do...just like a frat boy. He is always ponied for a few laps first because he is just that silly. After 2-3 laps Leanne says get tied on. I push a bucket up to him and get ready to get on. Now, remember I have never ridden a stud before, but I have riddin young horses. I applied all I knew. I lifted my leg and slide my foot into the iron. I was trying to move fast, but slow. Ya, know how you move with the young horses...I put all my weight into my hand on the pommel and made sure I had the reins and lowered myself into the saddle. Well, I should say I lowered myself onto the pommel where my hand was becasue this dude flipped. He reared, then bucked, then reared (this is where I attempted a lame dismount off the right side). He continued to repeat his pattern while I scuttled my silly self out of the way on my ass. I am just not good a sitting bucking. Rearing I can do, but bucking just sucks. I stand up nd instantly feel that my knee is going to be an issue. How did I know? Well, it didn't work. lol I hobbled to the bucket while Leanne took Herc for a few more turns. I did a little self-talk because I knew as soon as she rounded the corner it was round two and got my mind together. Accept it. You will probably get dumped again. After a few deep breaths, I told my self I'll be damned if this horse dumps me again, today or anyother day. I sang a few lines to a Taylor Swift song and she rounded the corner. "Ready?!" She called out. In my mind I pictured the scene in Ice Age, where Sid the sloth decideds that he is going to take the caveman baby back to his "herd" himself. He then looks up at the huge wall of rock he will have to tackle and mumbles "I'm gonna die...." That's basically how I felt. I was gonna do it, but in my mind I thought I was gonna die lol. So I walk over to this horse that now looks even bigger and step up on the bucket and repeat the same steps I did not 5 minutes ago. He bunny hopped and I instantly kicked the shit outta his ass to move him forward and told him to get up in the most angry voice I could, which was easy because I was kinda pissy. Leanne made a good judgement call by still keeping the pony. We rode three turns and by the time we were done, Herc was calm-er and my knuckles were white from grabbing mane. My knee didn't hurt it just felt like rubber. Like my tendons and ligaments were stretched to the max. The pain would set in this evening.
The next day, I dreaded riding Herc, because I knew that it was going to be a repeat of yesterday. The funny thing is this horse has raced before! And this is his behavior. We did the normal 2-3 turns with the pony horse and I got on. No rearing or bucking. Better than yesterday. We did 2 turns with the pony horse and Leanne said tied on? I said yup! Here we go! We galloped 3 strides and this big ass grabbed the bit, tucked his head and bucked like he was a bull in the PBR. What seemed like 5 minutes of bucking was only about 100 yards. Honestly, I have no idea how I stayed on. I had my left hand on the reins my right hand *trying* to grab the reins to help pull his head up and my feet and legs were so far forward my knees were strainght and across his shoulders. I felt like I was in the rodeo. BUT I stayed on! And that is all that mattered. I won. As soon as I got him stopped I bitched him out (verbally) and got the hell off. I needed to get my adrenaline back to normal levels. As I fixed the saddle-which the cantle was almost to his withers-my hands were shaking. I then started singing again. Saddle fixed-me back on. This is our entire relationship. After a week the bucking stopped. But I still rode defensively.
Sierra is a four year old TB mare. She is crazy. This chic will do what ever she wants when ever she wants...at a gallop, with no warning. She spooks at things that are not there and flips out at stuff that is there. She weaves on the track and changes leads at the wrong time. She is spindle-y and choppy. BUT I like her. She is my favorite. The first time I rode her we went one turn and as we were making our second, she decided to jump the ditch and try to turn around-at a gallop. This is something trainers frown upon. I had Leanne get the crop. Next time she would get a spanking. That was the only time that she tried this stunt. I think the crop helped, but the biggest thing is that I switch techniques with each horse. 7 horses, 7 different rides.
Penny is damn near a pony. She's a twin. She is fast and all business. All you have to do is hold on. She isn't spooky and she knows what to do and how to do it. She is Red's full sister. She has no markings just like him. It is hard for me to ride her being so tall. When we gallop I am almost at her ears, which is kinda good because Penny knows english well. You can ride her just by talking to her. I really think she talks after we leave. And I think I throw off her balance. I have to accomodate her leads with my weight around the turns.
Lucy is the one I will be putting my money on for sure. She is more than just business. She is the horse you see on tv. Get on and go. No games. No waiting to get your thoughts together, just go. I didn't get to ride her until three weeks in and I totally understand why. This chic is tough. Background: we don't run the horses all out...but that is all the horses want to do. How do you meet in the middle? Well it's different for each horse, some don't mind working slower (Woody, Curly, Herc) others want to go but will let you rationalize with them (Penny, Red, Sierra). Then there's Lucy. She takes the first turn like a western pleasure rocking horse. Once she see's the begining of the new turn it's piss off. It takes all I have to hold her. I prepare for her speed increase on turn two, at turn one. It's all mental. I sit still and literally think about how she will be steady and collected. It works most of the time. She is a hang on and let her do her job type of gal.
So those are all the horses I have ridden in the past couple months. I have gained alot of muscle and knowledge.
I went to the track Wednesday after work to watch Red race his first race this season. I missed the race by 2 minutes, but when I walked in, I looked up and saw him in the winners circle. That was a great feeling. Next race is Wednesday. I'm hustling from work-in my dress, heels and hat this time ;) to watch Penny, Hurc and Lucy run. Can't.Wait.
Oh, and I wanted to add a picture of a future jockey....