Saturday, January 17, 2015

Life. Is. Not. Fair. + Racing Lesson 3

So just in case you would not have guessed...

Broken ribs + cold/flu = All of the pain.

Also I'm concerned about my shoulder and neck but we have to wait for the doctor's appointment to find out what the heck is up with that crap.

I have not been able to go out and see beastie unfortunately but I thought I would give another racing tidbit.  So here goes:

On the Bit (Racing Lesson 3)

In a perfect world, a horse is balanced, with his/her head on a flawless vertical while engaging the hind end right?  Light on the bit but still moving forward into your hands.  At least that is the best way I can describe it with my racing experience and minimal show horse time.

I have always been an advocate of racehorses being light in your hands...after all it is a severe amount of wasted energy for both horse and rider to fight over control...not to mention dangerous in a race.  You see the majority of exercise riders (those who help train the horses in the morning) are in excess of 130 pounds and many weigh between 150-200 pounds.  These are big, heavily muscled men that literally can take a hold of a horse and pin him down to the point he cannot go anywhere.  Meanwhile your average jockey weighs between 110-115 and has starved and dehydrated themselves, to the point of near collapse...literally.  There were days I told myself it was fine if I fell down to the floor after my race as long as I managed to get through the race.  "Don't fifteen minutes you can hit the floor"...

So when someone teaches the horse every morning to pull and fight and drag the rider around because it looks impressive to the owners who are paying to see a strong and healthy and aggressive animal...well, it makes the jockey's life terrible.  You see one step wrong, one out of control moment, and you go Boom (as I expressed in an earlier post).

The best horseman I ever worked for had rode races as well.  He was adamant about the horses being responsive and obedient in a race.  He was also the man who had multi-million dollar yearlings so most of those never made it to the show horse world to be appreciated for their awesomesauce.

Alas, many trainers and owners want to see their horses dragging the riders around in the morning which makes them seem like they WANT to race.  Not true, as we all know, horses are creatures of habit.  Still, the more they seem the horse pulling, with his head tucked in (SIGNIFICANTLY behind the bit) and fighting the rider, the more they believe the animal is ready.  This is not even considering the fact that these horses only get out of their stalls for a maximum of an hour a day...not loose but carefully controlled and baited into being aggressive and then walked with a lip chain on to ensure they do not escape.  I'll be the first to say and advocate that racehorses are not abused but pampered in a way I cannot afford for my own self but we do pump them up intentionally so on race days they will give you a hundred percent (I have seen show horse people do this as well).

When I breezed a horse to prepare them for a race (IE: GO REALLY, REALLY FAST), there is an occasional ritual of "teasing a horse".  This is when you get the horse primed and ready to go super fast, let them think they will and they get excited, but then hold them in a bit where they have been taught to go their fastest.  Usually this precedes a race by only a couple of day to prime them and make them want to go.  It does work... :/

The best horses I have ever been on are not trained this way.  Instead they are responsive and mellow until you give them an outright cue.  I personally have "rehabilitated" difficult horses in the morning so they will preform better in races, it simply requires patience, and being quiet.  The best system I developed was not responded to their antics, no matter what they did, for a stride or two and then asking them to CHILL OUT while not losing my cool.  You absolutely cannot lose your cool or tense because they will know and tension is part of the way we ask them to go fast.  I literally can get on some of the most difficult horses on the track and drop the reins to the buckle and they will relax.  You fight, they fight and many times no one has ever trusted them that way but reached up and fought them instead.  Trust CANNOT win the fight.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

For Miss Nicole :) Racing Lesson 2.5

This was originally a comment reply, oh my did it escalate.
Nicole Sharpe from Zen and the Art of Baby Horse Maintenance asked for more (LINKY!) :) Terrible decision Love hehe but here it is!

So say you are going into a turn, always left of course, so you want a left lead.  At the elbow, say the half mile pole, you would pick up your outside rein while holding the left to TRY and stay in your lane, and pull their head outwards, to the right, dramatically enough (Hopefully it just takes a slight bump, nothing more) to make it impossible to stay on the right lead.  Some horses (especially the ladies) you simply squeeze your fingers while others you have to haul back on.

OR you might take up your inside rein and draw the horse's nose inward.    It's easier but they tend to fall into the turn a bit harder making the situation more dangerous.  You ask them to step in to the turn by leaning into your inside stirrup and pulling on your inside rein.  These horses know they need to change leads, they are just waiting for you to tell them.  Also if you're not careful they over respond and will come over on anyone or thing in their way...including a rail  :X  The problem with this is that if you don't know your horse well he might come in too "hard", which basically means he will shift over too far and interfere with another horse's movement, which is literally disastrous.  Really.  When a horse clip heels they stumble at best, go down (IE BOOM! at 35 miles a hour) and trip other horses (because that's what happens when you ride up someones butt that fast), and then everyone goes Boom.  No one wants to Boom.

I literally made one of my best friends Boom.  Talk about freaking terrible.

So depending on the trainer (which you learn patterns of each & how to judge different horses quickly) You might go into the turn and shift your weight out, pulling on the outside rein to keep the horse from falling in too hard, or shift your weight in with outside rein OR any combination of outside/inside rein and outside/inside weight.  THERE IS NO LEG.

So needless to say, lead changes in a race are a jerk.

You take a step out of your lane someone goes boom, end of story.  There is both inside rein and outside rein involved ...just a great deal of both.  Also horses that are "rank" (Difficult) or sore, you really have to literally throw them onto a lead sometimes.  You can do this by catching them off guard while they are running (TERRIBLE IDEA) and throwing your weight around abruptly along with pulling in or out.  Some horses become so ouchy that they are afraid to switch leads.  As much as I hate to say it, most OTTBs are one of the two and usually on the cheaper side of racing, which means typically less TLC and worse riders that do not give one flying crap about the beasties they work with.

Grey beastie was lucky, his trainer and owner loved him.  His trainer was a woman (Rare) and a fabulous one at that, who loves her animals and treats them the way they should be, she also helps run the local OTTB rescue.  That's not common though, most throw their unwanted beasties into the rescue simply to be rid of them.  These other people (Mind you there is plenty of fabulous people like grey beastie's trainer out there) also don't care about the jockeys that risk their lives to ride the animals they do not take of and do not prepare their horses well for the situation, so you really do have to experiment and feel out the individual horse.  In the post parade or warm-up prior to race I would play with a horse's mouth to see how he responded.  If I tug here what happens? If I throw my weight here, what will he do?

Yes, there are variables...many variables.  Endless Quantum Physics...Quantum Riding! New field!

Racing Lesson 2 + Hi Angie + OWWWWWIIIEEEE...

Okay so first and foremost:


So I coughed and one of the ribs displaced and now shifts every time I move, breathe, exist, ect.
So, dear sweet baby Jesus, yes, Ow.


Hi Angie, my former agent (Whose life I ruined by making her a jockey's agent, my bad), who I invited to the blogishness.

Third: RACING LESSON 2!! (Backstory Needed)

When I was a teen I did ride H/J a bit, not much but a bit.  All I know if that when I essentially ran away to join the circus, everything was exactly the opposite of what I learned riding show horses.  When I showed up at the track I literally would get on any horse that any person would put me on which is a completely terrible idea because there are horses that the best riders would not touch and that are ruled off the racetrack for their dangerous behavior.  You have no idea how many times I was told that I needed to carefully GET THE HELL OFF AND DO NOT BRING THE BEASTIE BACK EVER.  Alas I learned how to work with the most difficult horses...until I broke my first collarbone.  Shortly thereafter, while watching a major race with said collarbone issue, I approached a trainer I worshiped for an autograph and proceeded to gush and tell him I was going to be a jockey.  Said trainer thought I was fabulous and offered me a position, I was lucky, this guy was known for loving to train riders like he trained fantastic horses.  Literally, my first day I rode a beastie that was purchased for 3.1 million dollars, along with several others worth more than my entire extended family could compile in years.  I cried because I failed spectacularly and said trainer approached me, put his arm around me, and laughed "You are making this so much harder than it has to be, just let go..."

(Yes, I went there Angie, Teehee)

The thing that led me to be able to ride for the best trainers in the world, exercising horses that won Breeder's Cup races, ran in the Kentucky Derby and other Triple Crown races, to work for royalty and be trusted with animals worth more money than one person should have, is that I did in fact let go.  I trusted them, I had patience, I relaxed.  You drop their heads and they are all like "Oh, okay, we're cool".

Racehorses love or hate a fight.  Either way, they will fight back.  You avoid the battle and you will be fine...probably...sometimes they are just jerks.

In any case, the simpler the better.  Lead changes work off a natural system.  You fall into the turn and use the fall to shift them into the lead ideally.  You are essentially using the fact that they are off balance to force them into the lead.  There is no leg...forget leg, you can't use it in a race so in the morning you teach them habits like when I tug on your inside rein you fall into the lead or if I tug out you open up to the lead (depends on the trainer).  I repeat THERE IS NO LEG.  You use leg, that means go faster, nothing else.  There literally is a saying "It's all in the hands".  Going into a turn in a race I typically used the turn (At that speed that is usually all you need) and cocked my mount's head out so they fell into the lead at the elbow of the turn.  They shift in a bit so you have to be careful, because there might be another at your heels (and if you clip heels, OMFG BAD, ALL OF THE BAD).
The horses are also trained to only switch leads every quarter of a mile to save energy and time things so you have your best shot of winning.  Grey beastie struggles with unnecessary swaps, he pretty much is telling me "But I did not even use this lead until exhaustion!"

Then you have jockeys such as myself who know how to THROW a horse on a lead for an extra spurt (Dangerous, all of the dangerous...don't ever do that one).  You essentially throw a horse off balance enough by jerking his head to one side or another so that he is forced to fall into the lead or fall down.

I know...Bad. *More Shame*

BUT all racehorses will switch leads (Unless there is something wrong, they're smarter than that. General Rule: Don't ask more than 3 times in a race unless you want to go boom).  Just use the momentum and turns, that is all we teach them.

Grey Beastie doesn't get this "One lap, diagonal, switch leads" thing.  It makes no sense to him.

Monday, January 12, 2015

*Shame* + First Racing Lesson

So...I cheated.

In case you did not know, I have twelve breaks in three ribs.  A little racing tidbit; When breaking from the gate the first stride is momentum, the second is the horse, and the third is the jockey.  The break was my homie, I was awesome at it and very few riders could beat me at the break if I wanted to be there (Which sometimes you want to break slow but that's another lesson).  I've gone down first and second strides a couple times do to the fact horses do stumble frequently and it's up to racing luck then.  In my last race my horse, Try A Lemon Drop (Who I LOVED), stumbled one stride from the gate and launched me into the clouds.  As soon as I hit the ground the following sentence began to roll through my brain (Let's highlight that word Began), "Where is the horse?".  Significantly less than a second later, I saw hooves, I felt hooves...all of them.  It's really quite incredible how fast your brain can learn to work and process...mine told me I was effed and I prayed Lemony or another didn't step on my head.  I also prayed Lemony didn't fall down or trip another because this is how you think when you ride races.  I was lucky as hell.  Still was ouchy though :/  I've been hurt before, two collarbones, one in several places, broken ribs, legs, wrist, torn ligaments, fingers, foot, toes, skull, jaw, eye socket, & ect. and it never deterred me.  This did not deter me, it was weight and jerks (More stories from racing...later).  It still is multiple fractures though and I am supposed to behave *eye roll*...

So we went to see the grey beastie yesterday since it was FINALLY above freezing, who was feeling quite keen by the way with his new feed program (which I directly told him that if he kept up the crap there would be NO MORE NUMS).

DIB lunged him (in an egg shape, because Lux has issues with a proper circle) and then rode him, working on bending and transitions (while I yelled orders, heh.) as well as his frame because NUMS make beastie forget how to carry himself.  Seriously I feel like we're kindred spirits there, I love food, he loves food, we both left racing and want to eat all of the food.

Then...I cheated.  I rode beastie.  ONLY AT A WALK THOUGH I PROMISE!  Okay and maybe I tried a trot down one side of the arena but my ribs protested and I agreed with them.  Trot is a no-go yet.  The farm manager spotted me (and knows of my ahem...issues because I rode races for the farm owner) and I'm pretty sure I'm going to drive her to drink...she might have had an anxiety attack.
Alas I worked on standing up in corners while bending with him (AT A WALK  OKAY?!?!).  He tried but became frustrated as hell quickly...also DIB & Farm Manager were right...ouchy.

For all of the OTTB riders out there, Racing Lesson: We actually teach them to do the opposite, to drop in on a bend, to save ground and energy.  It makes for a dangerous situation in turns.  See you switch leads at every quarter pole (ideally) in racing, at the elbows of the track.  So if you're going six furlongs you are supposed to switch leads twice, at the half mile pole and the quarter pole.  Inside lead on the turn, right lead in the lanes.  When they switch leads going into the turn we allow them to drop their shoulder and allow them to step out to jostle and intimidate other horses/riders down the stretch.  They don't stand up in turns, they move with them because of the speed.  Heck, some tracks are even banked like a NASCAR course.

Next Racing Lesson: Lead Changes in a Race!

I think this is going to be a thing :)


PS! Thank you to Jodi from Racing to Ride for the mention :) Already love you.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Meet the Family.

Okay since I'm doing this whole blog thing, I suppose I'll go all out and introduce my family (except for my husband who would kill me if I ever mentioned him by name online, I'll give him a code name when it comes to me).

Meet the Fur-Kids:
My first daughter ;)

Originally not mine but my sister's...she chose me.
Hellion.  Pure Hellion.
The big scary pit bull.  Found him at a
gas station in the middle of BFE
Kentucky when he was about 2 weeks old.
Had to bottle feed the little sucker.

We all live in a northern suburb of Chicago in a strange tri-level duplex with too many stairs, a Guinea pig named Oleander and a female rabbit named Mufasa (as well as the dodgy irish bastard that I married, hey there it is! Didn't take long! He henceforth is known as DIB).  

Friday, January 9, 2015

Chiberia Day 2.

Well another -20 degree, no barn day.  Apparently when you have broken ribs, the cold is extra nope-like.  It looks like sunday is the next time we can work, until then I'm lusting over all of the saddles grey horse needs, such as:

Henri De Rivel Dortmund Dressage Saddle

And obviously a sparkly brow band...because yes.

On the doggy front, we finally have paw-tector! Whoot! We can officially go to the bathroom outside successfully without having to be carried back in! (because someone has to do laps before they use the potty and stays out too long...)  They actually sold out of the crap for a while because of Chiberia/Polar Vortex yet alas we now are in possession of the crap! I highly recommend Musher's Secret or any other paw balm you can get, it really does work :)


Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Beginning.

I remember the first day I fell in love with horse racing.  I don't remember the first time I fell in love with horses, that goes back too far.  All I know is that I was eight years old and watched Thunder Gulch win the Kentucky Derby and decided then and there that I was going to be a jockey.  At eighteen I pretty much ran away to Kentucky, got lucky, and landed a job with a major international racing stable with no experience.

For whatever reason, it worked.  I did become a jockey.  I rode my first race at Churchill Downs, I traveled the world.  I got hurt (MANY times), I became sick from the weight restrictions, I made the most perfect friends and the worst enemies.  Then three years in, I fell in love with this ridiculous grey beastie and came to peace with the reality that... I. Could Not. Do This.  Any. More.

Grey horse came from a trainer I rode regularly for, and went to farm which belonged to an owner I rode race for as well.  I was warned off from him initially by the jockey who rode him in races but the moment I sat on him for the first time I knew he was mine.

His registered name was Delux Deelite, he was an almost white five-year-old gelding when I met him, he won his last race ever and I was the first to sit on him since his official retirement.  He squealed, bucked, and bounced around the shed row of his barn at the track, dragging me but maintaining a lovely frame and throwing his legs out like a fancy dressage horse.

I named him Lux immediately.

This is our diary of our new adventure together.  I'm not sure where we are going but I see a few events this spring...