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



jacksonsgrrl said...

Holy Hell Girl! How fabulous! I am dying to go on a riding vacation in Ireland, and here you went and lived there and rode everyday! WOW!
I can't believe you told them you could ride racehorses with no experience with them. BALLS! :) So, I'm trying to talk friends into going to Ireland on a riding vacation with me, not having much luck! I'm just going to go alone... I just wish I had friends there so I wouldn't have to pay exhorbitant prices! The most exciting thing I've done is lived in Key West and worked on a dive, oh yes. Horsey? NOPE. Anyhow, no wonder you had such great cantering advice! I have found that I like doing it on a trail ride much more then concentrated arena work right now. Good advice. It just happens and then we'll add the rest soon! Can't wait to hear about your next country!

manymisadventures said...

Oh my goodness, that looks like so much fun. What an awesome story!

I am pretty much determined to travel after I graduate from college, and riding will DEFINITELY be part of the equation.

BritnieAnn said...

Wow! Youve lived a life like in a book! How awesome, great pictures, thanks for the insight! So interesting!

Karma Anais said...

Great photos!

Albigears said...

Yes, travel! Travel every chance you get. I think everyone should have to spend time in a different country after they graduate from high school or college.
MMA- do it before you have a mortgage, or a car payment, or a husband, or a good job, or kids... that is the reason people don't see the world. They get tied down and then never go.
Mindy, I'll go with you!! Have you checked out Equitours? I did a 200-mile ride through the national parks in Spain with them and thought they did a really good job.

Merri said...

This is great! I just started working on my story of going to Ireland in 1993 to gallop racehorses, and it sounded a bit like my experience.

I couldn't gallop them either, but that didn't stop me. The first yard where I worked for a week, I just mucked out stalls, and I could NOT for the life of me understand any of the lads there. it was like they were speaking a different language. It sure wasn't english! they must have thought I was mental, because I always said 'What?' about 13 times and then just stared at them blankly and said, "Uh - mmmhmm."

I ended up working next for a wacky jump trainer for 6 weeks. I got to gallop a few (managed to come off only once! : ), went to several racecourses to help run the horses, and had a blast in general.

And PS you're right, everybody should travel. It should be a requirement right after high school!

- The Equestrian Vagabond

achieve1dream said...

Very cool post!!

Anonymous said...

Wow, what a cool post!!!