My understatement of the year to date. But such is often the outcome when dealing with a project horse. The Readers’ Digest version of the story: It was kind of a Bad Day at Black Rock.
The full story: As regards Ms. Tiz, the ship up was perfect. She hopped right on the trailer, seemingly up for any adventure.
Following an uneventful trip, she settled into her stall in the receiving barn. She was unconcerned by the substantial noise from the heavy equipment operating nearby and equally nonplussed by the speaker located directly above her head intermittently blasting pertinent info to the horsemen. She calmly nibbled hay as her entourage of man- and maid-servants attended her every need. She met and seemingly approved of Jerry Dixon, the young man whose services were obtained to lead her over to the races and hold her while being tacked in the paddock.
When the speaker finally blared that it was time to “Get ‘em ready for race number 6,” she cooperated fully, standing statue-like as her bandages were run and raising no fuss at all as her tongue was tied and the bridle put on and adjusted. As the call came to “Bring ‘em to the paddock for race number 6,” she walked quickly and with purpose up the track and into the saddling stall. Tiz calmly assessed the valet (a girl! Sorry…I personally have not experienced a female in this role) and stood stoically as the postage stamp sized saddle was placed on her back and the girth and overgirth were tightened. She was so unfazed by the pre-race doings that she dropped her head and almost appeared to be squeezing in a power nap as we waited for the jockeys to spill forth from the jock’s room.
Within moments, our rider appeared, introductions made and hands shaken all around. The “Riders up!” call was given, and the jockey was boosted onto Tiz's back. Tiz and Jerry (the handler) headed trackward and the filly was handed off to the pony girl to join the post parade.
Jerry (the husband) made a beeline for the starting gate to have a brief conference with the starter about Ms. Tiz’s known proclivity to misbehave during the loading procedure. I made a beeline for the bathroom to splash some cold water on my face. This is the most difficult part of race day for me—the 10 minutes—plus or minus—between leaving the paddock and the actual start of the race. The difficulty actually began for me when The Unbelievable came into my life—head case that he was. My chest begins to pound, my pulse races and I get a teeny tad light-headed until the horses are safely loaded and the gate has been sprung open. The uncomfortable sensations don’t fully stop until the full field has safely crossed the finish line.
Yesterday, the presence of my BFF Teresa who ditched work for the afternoon to spend the day with us calmed me tremendously. Kind of like when I am sitting in a plane, waiting for takeoff and am overcome with anxiety, I babbled on and on about this and that to take my mind off the fact that in just a couple minutes the horses would be approaching the starting gate.
The speaker system clicked on, and instead of hearing the anticipated “The horses are approaching the starting gate!” The crowd instead heard “There is a late scratch in Race 6. On advice of the track veterinarian, scratch number 2, Tiz Taken Back.”
What. The. Flock??? Tiz is many things, but unsound is not one of them.
A murmur went thru the crowd as Tiz was currently one of the favorites and now tickets would need to be exchanged. We, the entourage for Tiz that included me, Jerry, our son Ian, Teresa and the couple and their kids who had trailered us to the races looked dumbfounded at each other. Normally, if a horse is scratched for being unsound, the outrider will escort it back to the paddock and hand he or she off to its connections. Since there was no sign of Tiz, we began heading, almost at a dead run, down the track toward the barn area. It was then I saw the ambulance, and on the heels of that the line of horses with their ponies passing us on the way to the starting gate.
“Well she sure knew exactly what she was doing!” the pony girl of another contender said rather loudly as she passed by us.
The next pony person in line continued with “Yup. She propped, spun in a circle and dropped her head. Like, all at once. No one could have stayed on that.”
The Outrider chimed in, “She ran smack over the top of the jock and then straight through the fence back there,” pointing to the gap between the track and the barn area.
My heart skipped a beat. What would we find when we found her? A mangled mess requiring stitches and more? Career-ending wounds?
Word on the street (which travels at light speed on the racetrack) was that the jockey was seen exiting the ambulance with his arm wrapped in a blood-soaked towel and limping badly. But, apparently he had exited under his own power, so there was that. Thanks, God!
My mind flashed back several years to the exact same scenario that played itself out concerning The Unbelievable while we struggled to get his issues straightened out. They are ‘project horses’ for a reason. And I seem to be drawn to them for a reason that God only knows. Literally. And I wish He would clue me in as to why. I surmise it is because I too have issues. And if those closest to me had kicked me to the curb because of those issues…well…
We found Tiz in the test barn, already undergoing an examination by our old friend (and a former boss of mine) veterinarian Tom Beckman who had witnessed Tiz’s hasty exit from the track.
“A scrape along the back of her tendon that bears watching, and a couple skinned up places on her head,” Dr. B imparted to the concerned gathering of Tiz’s minions. “I think she’ll be just fine.”
“When I saw the way she hit that solid fence, I expected much worse,” the good doctor mused. He had witnessed the whole thing as it played out. “She tried to stop herself but couldn’t. Her head came most of the way through it.”
I silently put up another “Thanks, God!” in my head.
We collected what was left of Tiz and headed back to our barn. She was hosed down, cooled out and loaded up for the trip back home.
Rides home on days like this are the pits. Disappointment was thick in the air, both Jerry and I beating ourselves up with all the ‘shoulda/couldas’ crowding our minds. Ian was introspective as well, sitting up front with his dad while I began communicating madly from my phone in the back seat. I needed some answers…a place to start tomorrow down the road to redemption.
Who else could have seen what happened? Who could fill in some blanks? I FB messaged and old friend who might be able…Ed Meyer, who is now calling the races at Belterra. He immediately messaged me back, saying that no, he didn’t see the incident. He told me about the condition of the jockey and asked after the condition of my horse. We chatted about good times had ‘back in the day’ and old beloved friends.
I texted our jockey’s agent, expressing our concern about his jockey and our hopes that his injuries weren’t too bad. I honestly didn’t expect to hear back from him. I figured we were probably not high on his list of favorite people right now, our horse having cost his rider at the very least the rest of his mounts for the day and possibly more.
My phone rang and I looked down…it was the agent calling!
Not only did he assuage my fears, letting me know that although the jock was icing his leg and would have it checked out, the cut didn’t appear to be too bad and he didn’t expect to be out of action long.
We talked about how this rider had known of Tiz's reputation, but had ridden her without incident in her previous start. I told the agent I was seeking some answers and he assured me he would ask his rider my specific questions and get back with me. Then he thanked me for calling to check on the jockey.
“Nobody does that.” I was told.
WHAT?!? Are you kidding me?
After tucking Tiz in for the night, I followed Jerry in my car toward Paris, because like every man everywhere at any time, he seemed intent on finding out if that little gas light indeed served a purpose. My phone rang, and it was my husband.
"Are you listening to KLOVE?" he asked.
"No, I'm currently carrying on a conversation with the voices in my head," I replied.
"Well, turn it on...hurry!"
Our favorite song was playing...Even If, by Mercy Me. A powerful song that spoke directly to my heart when I needed it most. Thanks, God!
So here I sit, the day after the debacle, trying to stay true to my promise to the Lord to praise him through the good AND THE BAD. Thru gritted teeth and tears, I am emploring Him for the strength to try again. For the courage to pick myself up and keep on going. For the wisdom to learn whatever lessons He is trying to teach me now that He has allowed us to go back to the track. And for the discernment to embrace what the Bible tells me…I am NOT in control. If I am truly committed to “being His hands and feet” then I must trust that while things certainly are not going according to MY plan, HIS plan that is the only one that matters.
On the upside, Jerry and I got to spend some quality time with our son, something that is rare these days. My BFF and I got to spend some much needed time talking about quandaries we both are facing as Christians in a world headed quickly in the opposite direction. We reconnected with some old friends, and made a couple new ones, and I pray that our reactions to the events that transpired were pleasing to the Lord.
So, being the ‘glass half full’ girl that I am trying hard to be, let me leave you with this: Since my horse technically didn’t start yesterday, my lifetime trainer stats sustained no damage! That may not be the case for my pride, but that likely needed a little pruning anyway. And my sense of humor, thankfully, remains intact. And, just in case you could use a boost, here's a link to that song! You're welcome!