Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Exercising racehorses in Ireland


I've spent some time living and working overseas, and the best parts were always searching out horses to ride. I thought I would to through my old pics, scan some in, and post them here.

Country #1: Ireland

After graduating from college in 1994 I spent the summer running the horse program at YMCA's Camp Reed and then decided I needed to get out of Spokane. In October I spent all my money on a ticket to Ireland because I figured they spoke english there. Ha! Once I got there I had no money, so I lied and said I knew how to ride racehorses. I got a job as an exercise groom at Rathbride Yard owned by D.K. Weld in Newbridge, County Kildare. This yard (and all of them) were near the Curragh- which was a huge, huge, huge open grassy area that all the race trainers took their horses to to train. The grasses grew sideways and into each other and made fabulous footing.

Me on the old and seasoned 4-year-old Royal Carlton. Billy is next to us, he started the babies. While I was there a filly flipped over when he was driving her and broke her pelvis. Rather than euthanizing her they propped her up on hay bales so her feet could barely touch the ground. When I left she was still there healing, the vet said she wouldn't ever race but might be used for something else.

Who's riding who in which lot. I almost always rode Royal Carlton and led the pack. Problems would arise when I couldn't understand a single word the trainer was yelling at me to do- have you ever heard a thick Irish accent?? I'd have to turn around and ask one of the jockys behind me what he said. As we were galloping figure 8's out in the field.

We'd ride one lot, have tea (which Rene packed for me. It consisted of a thick butter sandwich with a piece of cheese in it), ride 2 more lots, have lunch, then chores until we left. Then I would often end up walking home 1-2 miles in sleeting rain in my rubber boots.

We'd muck the stall, then get our horse ready. Royal Carlton in his box.

Part of the Yard.
Me & RC on the 7 furlong long track.
This is Bernie on one of the babies. She was mean and snarky (like most of the girls there) and took every opportunity she could to point out how I didn't fit in.

The babies didn't have real names yet, they were just called their sire's name and then "colt" or "filly". This was the "Bluebird colt".

Trainer Jack Coates. He seemed like a pretty good guy even though he eventually figured out I didn't know what I was doing and fired me. I lasted 3 months though! We were galloping around the track and one of the new kid's horse got away from him and passed us. Royal Carlton figured it was time to race and I couldn't stop him. I rarely get scared on horses, but I was then. I couldn't stop or even slow down, and I knew if he spooked or went sideways even a tiny bit I'd be thrown off and die. I just hung onto his mane and prayed for him to keep going straight as he gathered speed with every stride.

Steamy horses after a workout. The jockeys that helped ride the babies were really nice and would always ride next to me for a chat as we were walking around cooling them off. J.O. is on the bay with the blaze, charming ole chap.


Got sheep? Don't have fences? No problem! Just spray paint them so we know who belongs to who.

My diggs. I rented a small room out in Rene and Dennis Reed's home. It's the one in the middle with the car.

The view from my window.

Their daughter Jeanette and her boyfriend Stephen would come and pick me up on weekends for all kinds of adventures. Here Jeanette and I are with John in Belfast, Northern Ireland. John rode for Ireland's National Showjumping team (or something like that). He took me cross counry jumping one day on little matching chestnut sporthorses- what a blast!

Stephen, me, and John. Going for a hike on the "mountain". Which was really a big hill.

THIS WAS FUN. Stephen, John, and I rented horses out in Phoenix Park, Dublin. Look at their feet!

Back again- Me, John, and Stephen heading out for a ride in the park.

John and Stephen. Wearing helmets while on horses is the law in Ireland. Now that I look at this picture I notice that John's helmet doesn't even have a chinstrap... cheeky monkey.

Don't let the rangers catch you! Jumping was not allowed in the park.

Next country: Egypt


Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Near the river and through the woods...

Taking full advantage of Karlin's time in Spokane, we head out on a beautiful, sunny, freezing (26*) afternoon ride. Alexandre's always ready to go.

I think it's nice that Alexandre was cooperative and smiled for the camera this time.

This may be the first picture I have where Jasper's feet are all on the ground and his ears are forwards. And he's not head bobbing. Caught him in the split second when all of these things came together, I should frame it.

Hmm. This angle is not flattering to Al's belly.

In and out of frostiness.

Hangman Creek covered in ice.

Awesome views.

Heading home. I'm actually pretty pleased at how far behind Jasper can get without getting upset. Now sure, if Alexandre disappeared around a corner it would be a different story, but still.

You can see part of the pasture where they live and the horse trailer parking area through the trees.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Riding with Karlin

There really hasn't been much to write about lately. We had a couple of weeks of insanely cold weather (-10 at night) and I was sick for a couple of weeks, and the boys have just been hanging out with the herd being horses. We had 4" of snow this week, then above freezing temperatures and rain for 2 days, and everything is wet wet wet.

The good news is that Karlin is back in town visiting her parents and we decided to try to go for a ride if the forecasted rain didn't appear. (Yesterday it didn't rain at all which gave the ground a day to try to soak up some of the standing water everywhere). I was excited because I hadn't ridden Jasper in... a month? and although I don't get nervous about getting on him after a hiatus I am always interested to see what he will do. I knew that with Alexandre in the lead he would probably be just fine. I was also excited because Alexandre hasn't been ridden since my friend Val came out, and he hasn't seen any of the trails yet.

We put on our neon-orange "don't shoot me" vests and headed out into the woods. The ride was fabulous. The footing was a bit slippery, which is no problem for the super-surefooted Alexandre, but Jasper lagged behind a bit taking little steps and being careful.

Gotta love cell phone pix.

I literally rode on the buckle 95% of the ride. He was my western pleasure pony for a day. I'm sure it was a combo of his Idol Alexandre leading the way and the footing... and maybe he's finally relaxed into his new home. And is starting to trust me more. I am the food lady, after all.

Alexandre was SO happy to go on a ride. He is always alert and interested in everything. He often stops to take in the view if it's a good one. We saw HUGE flocks of wild turkeys and some deer. Karlin noticed that it's hard to see the trail when he sticks hit head straight up in the air- camel style. Yep. He's a very forward mover and usually leads just because he walks out. He also has the endurance of an Arabian, and I learned early on that trying to tire him out doesn't work.

Alexandre's just waiting for someone to go into the tack room- treats magically come out of the there after a ride.

Let. me. eat. that. hay. down. there. now. please.
Jasper gets alfalfa the whole time he's at the hitching post. Trying to get more calories into him. Note new rubber mat. Nooooooooooooo, MY horse did not dig holes to China while tied up there, noooooooooooo...


Friday, December 11, 2009

A REAL Dressage Test

I laugh out loud every time I read this. Just had to share.

A REAL dressage test.

A --Enter extraordinary serpentine.

X --Halt.

G --Try again.

C -- Freeze in horror at judge's stand. Take opportunity to salute quickly.

E --Track left in counterflexed bolt.

FXH --Change rein unextended jig.

H --Canter. Or counter canter, or crosscanter.

M-F --Working out-of-hand gallop.

A --Just try to walk.

KXM --Tesseract, stopping at each corner to rub nose on foreleg.

C --Down center line, working trot bouncing.

X --Pulley rein. Halt. Salute, exhale.

Leave arena in free walk, loose language under breath.