1 August 2007
"Gypsy gold does not chink and glitter. It gleams in the sun and neighs in the dark" ~ Saying of the Claddagh Gypsies of Galway
I think I've tasted heaven. My older brother is very into racing, he goes to Cheltenham every year, that's his 'holiday'. He also goes to a lot of meetings at other tracks. All this means he knows a lot of the big trainers both locally & nationally. My sister, who is my build wants to go into racing so today me, her & my brother went up to one of the local trainers yards, her to spend the day there getting a feel for it with a view to getting an apprenticeship & me because I begged to go, lol. So I got to be stable lass for the day & my God, those horses are heaven on earth......
All of them in racing condition & you can feel & see the power, the muscles rippling & the hardness of the sculpted bodies, amazing & so awe inspiring. The pure grace in their movement, gentleness in their face but at the same time the ominous air of awesome power & strength, completely & utterly amazing. Needless to say neither me or my sister were allowed on the big boys but we did get to go out with the string on 'school' horses, the ones that aren't racing but usually used for trainee jockeys/lads to hone their skills etc.
Mine was a bay gelding & hers was grey, both of them gorgeous & even though they weren't the top class you could feel the power beneath you, smooth long strides but as soon as they got onto the gallops you could feel them bunch up & gather themselves, like sitting on a coiled spring, you could feel the horse's excitement travelling up through the reins & the saddle, mouthing of the bit & the jogging, feel the hard body gathered beneath you, knowing with one touch of the heel or slack on the reins & you would be gone, flying. We both ended up going upsides (racing in pairs, I say 'race' but the idea is to keep pace with each other rather than race) each with one of the yard lads. I broke into a canter with mine, got ourselves ready & on the mark broke into a racing speed & my God! The speed literally took my breath away, you know when you're excited & you get that rush in your chest? That excited/sick feeling? I had that.
I could feel the horse bunched beneath me, gathering his hindquarters up to push him forward, feel the pull on the reins & then....gone, having to bridge the reins to avoid having them slip through my fingers, crouching low & feeling his mane whipping up, hearing his breathing & glancing down seeing his legs like pistons shooting out, eating up the ground. Feeling the wind whip past me & feeling the euphoria gather in my chest & throat, the sheer joy & freedom at the speed & motion but at the same time that innate sense of danger. My fingers knotted in his mane, cheeks stinging, looking ahead & seeing out of the corner of my eye the speed at which things are passing, no more than a blur.
The sheer, raw power beneath me moving at 25/30mph+ needing control from my hands & heel only, the speed & energy at which we were moving & feeling the air catch in my throat, feeling a shout of ecstasy escape. The excitement & the knowledge that this horse wanted the speed as much as I did, having to collect him up to stop him running out of steam, keeping my legs on & guiding him with my whip to keep him straight & trying to fight the urge to go flat out & just race. Smelling the smell of horse, the smell of his coat & the glancing over to see the same grin on the lad I was pacing with, euphoric. Relaxing into it & moving with the rhythm, respecting the power but urging it on as well. Feeling the resistance in the reins, the responsive mouth, the iron hard neck seeing the veins raised & feeling my horse fight for his head, gently keeping the reins gathered giving an inch but slowly taking it back again, keeping him paced. Both of us fighting not to give into the temptation to go flat out, him constantly asking & me bringing him back, checking him back down to a working pace.
Reaching the end of the gallop & slowing to a canter, trot & eventually a walk. Coming down from the high & seeing the sweat on the horses necks, feeling the heat of my own body & ache in my thighs from riding short, catching my breath & letting the reins slack, watching the horse stretch his neck long & low, gathering him back up to ride back down to the others. Joining the string to ride back down to the yard & realising it's still only just 7, the sun rising higher & feeling the freshness in the air, the clean clear earthy smell & breathing it deep, feeling my heart return to normal. Watching the steam rise from the horses as we make our way back, back to unsaddling & breakfast but above all remembering, remembering that sheer, pure unadulterated adrenaline rush at that first burst of speed & wondering if I'd have been able to stop even if I'd wanted to.