Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/845019-Horse-Racing
by Shaara
Rated: E · Short Story · Animal · #845019
Pushed before her young body was ready, still she gave it all she had.
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#333655 by Sophy


Horse Racing

“I don’t want to do this,” I told my dam, but she shook her head and lectured me. I was only a young filly, but I recall so clearly the things she said, “This is your heritage. Your sire’s bloodlines make you a champion. You must do your best and run your fastest always.”

They took me away from Mother when I was only one-year-old. I mourned her as if she’d passed away, for in a sense she had. I’d never see her again. I’d been bought by Calumet Farms, and that was far away from the thoroughbred pastures of my first home with my dam.

My new groom and trainer were never mean to me. They brushed and trained me with gentleness, but I was only a baby. I wanted to gallop through the fields and kick and play. I wanted to learn what horses needed to learn and to graze in the lovely green fields I could see outside my wooden stall.

They put a lad on top my back when I was only a year and a half. My back wasn’t ready for a rider, but I remember what my mother had said. Harmful as it was for my legs to carry a person, I did my best. I listened and obeyed all their commands.

Then the jockey took me out. He pressed me to run faster and faster. My bones, soft from youth, often hurt long into the night, but I followed my mother’s counsel. I put my heart into everything they asked.

During the days when I wasn’t at the track running circles in between fences, I stood in my stall and neighed to the others, wishing I could have a chance to chat. It was a lonely time. The horse in the stall next to me was much older. He had raced already, and he held his head away from me, snobbish as a trophy winner. I vowed I would someday beat him, if only I had that chance.

Sometimes, it is best not to wish, for wishes twirl around and bite you. When I was only two and still growing, they put me into my first race. Maybe they didn’t know most horses aren’t mature until age five. A thoroughbred racehorse, which is what I am, in fact doesn’t reach full growth until the age of seven. I’m surprised humans didn’t know that. Or did they?

My heart pounded as they locked me into the racing box the first time. Twelve horses were corraled into stalls on the right and left of me. Each one nervously neighed and pawed the ground. My jockey, a new one that had never before ridden me, was perched up on my back. He adjusted his body and his legs into the short, short stirrups. His crop touched my rump, and I shuddered. I was afraid of that whip. It stung like bees and biting flies, and it was often used without reason for I always ran as fast as my young legs could take me.

The last door slammed shut. The smell of fear was in the air. Adrenalin shot throughout my body. I felt sick with excitement and the panic of running into the unknown. A shot was fired, the gates opened, and that whip came down on my rump. I was off and running. I thundered forward in a race away from danger.

My jockey ran me around until he suddenly wanted me to stop. I didn’t understand why. There were crowds of people everywhere. Running seemed safer than standing still. I fought for my head, but mankind always wins. Three people sprinted out to hold my head. For some reason flashes of light came from the hands of several of the people. I would have bolted, but they held me still.

That was Keeneland, I later learned. I’d won the 4 ½ furlong race with a fair time for a maiden two-year-old, but there was no celebration for me. They shoved me into a trailer the next day, and I was off to another race. Saratoga, Churchill Downs, Tampa Bay, Keeneland again, Palm Meadow, Three Chimneys -- I ran them all with hardly a rest. In between I trained and trained and trained.

Then as a three-year-old, it was time for the Kentucky Derby. I was used to the staring crowds by then. The people's boisterous cheering, the running up and down the stands, and the papers that the breeze carried across the track hardly jarred me at all. The different jockeys in their satins of red and blue were as common as the lonely, whitewashed stalls. Each time, I was put into that tiny box, the bell rang, and I ran. It was all I did, and all I knew, except for the pain of my legs at night.

The Kentucky Derby was no different. The time came to gallop full out, and I did. I honored my sire and dam. I galloped as fast as I could, but even the new shoes, which I got for each and every race, couldn’t ease my pain. The jolt of my hooves on the ground was a shock of agony in every stride. When my jockey realized I was coming up lame, he tried to pull me to a stop, but I refused. I'd been trained to finish a race. I did.

Because of the jockey’s interference, however, I was last. The ignominy of it forced my head to the ground. Limping from pain and embarrassment, I hobbled back to the barn.

The Calumet Stables sold me to a brooding farm. I, like my mother, will raise more foals to follow in my footsteps. They'll be raced as children, forced into labor when their body is not yet mature. I can do nothing to help them. I must say just what my mother did, “Be brave, honor your heritage, and do the best that you can."

I wish things were different.


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