Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Gate Madness

Moments out of sitcoms seem to happen regularly at our training center.

Spicey was going back today, for what I was hoping was going to be her gate approval card.

I arranged yesterday with yet another trainer to meet up there, our two horses both breaking from the gate. Bobby had a big grey colt who was going for his gate card. I wasn't worried about Spicey not doing well this time. If I've learned one thing about this little girl is that all it takes is one time to show her what to do and she gets it.

While I'm getting Spicey ready, she is being her usual impatient self while tacking up. She is always so enthusiastic about going to the track, it really makes me smile.

So by the time Cowboy arrives and tells me we have to wait a few minutes because the tractor is still cutting the track, I'm thinking, oh great- now I get to walk Miss Nutty around the shedrow when all she's interested in is going to the track and going fast fast fast!

Finally give Cowboy a leg up on her and jump in my truck to drive up there to the gate.

When I get there, Bobby wants to know how she is about getting in the gate. I shrugged and told him she's fine. Heck, nothing fazes her- she just walks right in there without being led by anyone, complete nonchalance surrounding her aura and attitude. It's as if she wants to say- Dude, I was born for this. I know what I'm doing.

Bobby's horse isn't quite as amenable to the whole thing and Bobby has to lead and urge him, while Rick, his rider and our "gate master" (the guy who is actually trained as a starter- one of those guys who load the horses into the gate at the track) is on the horse, having to kick him forward. The horse is decked out in blinkers, extra bridle stuff (a Figure Eight) and who knows what else.
Mind you, these two already warmed up a mile or better before we started loading them.

Since Spicey blows the turns at our track, we take the outside. Bobby's horse is supposed to go on and work a half mile. We weren't actually going to work today, because Spicey has been doing spurts of speed all week practicing this. On the off chance that she may not get approved for her card today, I wanted to be able to come back with her tomorrow and then do the official work, breaking from the gate and going 5/8.

So, once Bobby's horse, who is a nervous nellie at this point, is in the gate, Spicey walks in (without any help from me, just Cowboy asking her to go in).
I get behind the horses and close the gate doors.
Bobby wanted me to spring the gate open on the count of three.
He is now perched inside the gate, up on the wall next to his horse's neck.
Cowboy turns to me and says "You know, you should probably smack her on the ass when the gate opens just in case she didn't get it from yesterday."

Well, the pulley string to open the gate is on the left of Bobby's horse. Spicey is loaded in the hole to the horse's right. My arms aren't long enough to reach over and smack any ass, let alone Spicey's, if I'm to be opening the gate!

So, after some hemming and hawing, I tell Cowboy to just do his Cowboy thing and Yeehaw at her real loud once the gate opens.

Rick is now laughing and tells Bobby "Damn, man, you can open the gate, get back there, so she can smack her horse's ass!"

Bobby leans back towards Rick:
" No, I can't! I'm trying to teach my horse something here."
"What the fuck are you talking about? The horse is in the gate, he knows how to break, I'll get him out, get back there and open the gate!"

"No, man, I'm telling you, I gotta teach my horse this thing I do. I gotta talk to him about it first!"

At this point, both Cowboy and Rick are looking at Bobby like he's lost his mind.

"I gotta let him know when I do this thing with my finger on his neck that the gate is about to spring open. This is important, man!"

I'm standing behind this charade laughing along because Bobby has this very intent and serious look about him like he is imparting a great Chinese Wisdom on his horse, who is actually so busy being nervous, he ain't paying a flick of attention to Bobby.

Bobby turns to me and says, "Ok, on the count of three, you open the gate."

Now let me back up a little bit here. When he first told me to open the gate, I had never done it before on this gate. Different gates open with varied strength on the pull string.
I asked him how hard to pull? He told me to pull it nice and firmly but that it isn't too too hard to open.
So at that point I'm thinking, great. It's probably a sunumabitch to open and I'll screw it up and the gates won't open.

So, when Bobby tells me to open the gate on the count of three, I reach up to put my hand on the string (which is actually wire with a loop at the end).

He then turns back to whisper in his horse's ear again. The poor thing at this point isn't just lathered up, but he is probably wondering why some bizarre ethereal mantra is being wormed into his brain via his left ear and why his rider and the other horse's rider are both laughing so hard, they are holding their sides at this point.

As I get my hand situated, Bobby says "Almost ready. I'm about to...."

He never got to finish the sentence. In my worry to make sure I would have my hand in the right position to comfortably be able to pull on the wire without hurting my already cut finger, I put my fingertip into the loop.
That's all it took.


The gates fly open!

Bobby is suspended on his perch still in the position of whispering those sweet nothings into his horse's ear. Spicey breaks like a world champion. The grey breaks about the same time.
They go flying down the track, all I can see is two beautifully muscled horses' rears barreling away from me- and my little girl passing the much bigger grey horse!


"Damn, girl! I hadn't counted yet!"

I feel bad because obviously this was not how we planned to do it and I honestly didn't expect the damned gates to fly open so easily- I had barely hooked my finger into the loop!

I apologize to Bobby severely, all the while trying to swallow the belly-whopping laugh that is threatening to spring up out of my throat.
I leave Bobby standing there, muttering something about wanting to teach the horse that a fingertip applying pressure to his neck means the gates are about to open up.


Teehee. I jump into my truck and run back down to my barn.

Spicey comes back like none of this was any work for her. She's breathing well but her muscles along her topline aren't even bunched up. Physically, she is so fit, that what she just did was sissy stuff for her.

Anne and Don are standing on the other side grinning at me.
"You know that little filly can fly, don't you?"

"Yup, she sure can."

Cowboy tells me that she would easily have outworked the other horse.

We got our gate approval card! Tomorrow we take it easy. Saturday Spicey works her last work before her first race, which I am hoping will go. Entries are tomorrow for next week.

She'll be a pissed off energizer tomorrow not being allowed to run like all hell broke loose.

All part of becoming a racehorse. This filly is so ready for a race, she's going to burst if she doesn't get to run soon.

As I walk Spicey around the barn after her bath, I overhear Cowboy telling Anne and Don:
"Hey, did you guys know that Tres can't count?"

The laughter is stilling filling my ears.

Spicey and Cowboy posing for the camera while warming up this winter

1 comment:

Handride said...

Hi, just wanted to let you know TBAblogs is following you. We've linked to your blog and we'd love if we could do a link swap. We're committed to following every great racing blog out there (123 people on Twitter, 132 blogs, 38 horse racing news feeds, pp search, video, and a little karma [charity] too) , so if we're missing any or if you have a comment let me know.