Long Ride Home

by Ed Meyer

posted on November 23, 2009 in General Discussion | No Comments >>

I cannot believe the state of racing. It seems that no matter what state, there is some kind of bad news a-brewing. The trainers are taking it on the chin. Some are third and fourth generation handlers. They know their trade inside and out. But, if the game erodes at this rate, there will be nowhere to race.

I am against using names as it may make some embarrassed, or I could anger another. So, I will just tell you a story that happened to good folks. The kind of people who make up the game.

Up at 5 a.m., and they are loading the horse into the trailer. He has borrowed the trailer, and had to sell his this past summer to make payroll for his employees.  This man is in his mid-forties, and is as hard as a nail. That is his exterior, and his heart is as big as a whale. He is the kind of man who would go hungry, so his help could feed their family. They load up, and take along peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. In the cooler is a milk jug filled with water. But, he is on his way and will attempt to get some purse money with his runner.

After driving for 6 hours, they finally reach the backside. They check-in, and head to the ship-in barn. This is where “visiting” horses are held as they do not have a stall. The horse looks good, and his helper begins to walk and water the horse. They will feed him during the day, so he will be ready to run that night. So far, so good….

Well, it is getting closer, and the voice on the loudspeaker calls all runners over for his race. They walk a quarter of a mile, and have all of the hopes in the world. He has almost enough gas money in his pocket, and those sandwiches went down about five hours earlier.

They saddle up, and give final instructions to the rider. The only words of wisdom I have ever heard about jockey advice was: “Good ones don’t need it, and bad ones won’t heed it.” Lucky for them, this rider could hold his own…

The race goes off, and he lays right against the rail in third. He doesn’t make a move until the 3/8ths pole. He begins to shoot the rail and see daylight. He gets a head through, and gets slammed into the rail. His momentum has stopped, and tries in vain to pick up the pieces to finish 6th. He was a winner. The $10,000 purse would have carried him a few months… It all stopped when a bug rider got spooked and rode sloppy…. Well, words cannot describe that walk back to the barn.

After cooling out the horse, giving him a bath and getting a little feed, they are ready to head home. After another long drive, and praying while driving on fumes for the last hour they make it back home. After putting up the horse, they get home at 5 a.m. A long haul, with a horrible trip, has him pondering the sale of his ten horse stable. He finished third this summer, with wins at a local track, and second in another state.

It is not his talents that lack, it is the support of the industry. They race for little money, and that looks to be going away. The state will not recognize the people who suffer from the lack of support for a 100-year-old sport. He makes his way into his small trailer, where his two boys and his sweet wife live. She greets him at the door with a cup of coffee for him and his helper. They sit at the table for 15 minutes, and start to get up…. It is time to feed, as the sun is coming up on the distant horizon. Never a harsh word, or any excuses from this little man. His hands are like leather, and his heart is in the game. He has ten horses who depend on him daily, and they are in his care. Something that was handed down to him by his father, grandfather, and great-grandfather. He works hard, and thinks about the next time. The horseman is an eternal optimist. He takes a swallow of coffee, and begins his day….