Horse Race Short Story - Battle of the Sexes
Lying in my bed watching the dust specks in the light of the morning I relax not wanting to get out of the cozy warmness. That’s when it hit me! Today was the Parowan horse racing meet that me and my family were going to. Dad had a few horses to ride, so we were all going to watch and see old friends we hadn’t seen in a while. I slowly pulled myself out of bed and walked over to my mirror. The image in the mirror wasn’t quite the sight I wanted to see. I hurried and pulled my hair up into a ponytail, and threw on some makeup to make it look like I actually tried to get ready this morning.
“Now what to wear,” I said to myself quietly and headed to my closet. Rummaging through the hangers at least five times, I finally picked out one of my favorite shirts and a pair of pants and then found my boots underneath a pile of clothes on the floor.
Opening my bedroom door sounds and smells from the kitchen took over me. I walked down the hall to the kitchen and spied my dad multitasking cooking breakfast and cleaning his racing gear. A normal Saturday breakfast of eggs, bacon and toast was cooking away, and smell extra delicious. My dad finally looks up at me from his hard work and smiles.
“Finally you’re up and going. I thought I was going to have to leave you here!”
“Dad you wouldn’t dare leave me home and go to the horse races without me!”
“I would never leave my Skippy behind.”
“Good, or else you would be in big trouble!”
“Serve yourself a plate and eat. By then your mom should be done getting ready so then we can leave.”
I got a plate and filled it with the wonderful food awaiting me and went to the table to sit down. I took my time as I ate and watched the morning news. Dad was finally getting finished cleaning his gear and was taking it out to the truck. That way everything was ready to go when mom finally got ready so that we wouldn’t be late. That’s when mom stumbled up the stairs done with getting ready.
“I got up before you and you’re still ready before me?”
“Yes mom, because I don’t take 3 hours to get ready in the morning.”
“I do not!”
“Mom, just face the fact that you do take a long time to get ready.”
Me and dad both started giggling like little school girls while she started loading up her stuff. After dad and I finally contained ourselves I glances out the window to where our two horses were slowly munching on their hay. My poor horse JJ didn’t get to go to the races with us today and I was kind of sad about it. Dad said that since he was only riding a few races and that Parowan was further away than some of the other racetracks I couldn’t bring JJ to pony on. It was pretty much the only way I even made money in the summer. Anytime I had JJ at the races everyone asked me to pony their race horses. I was the only one that knew how to handle the horses on the track and to make sure they were warmed up besides the jockey’s. Even though I didn’t like the idea of leaving my JJ behind, I was sure JJ was very much ok with it since he would be lounging around the corral eating on stray pieces of hay. As we got in our truck and headed out of the driveway I took one last long look at JJ and we sped off to get to the races on time.
The hour and a half long drive to Parowan was mostly passed by me listening to my iPod and texting friends while my parents talked on and on about life and drama at work. Sometimes I would even look out the window and day dream of me and JJ running through the fields and jumping everything that got in our way. The day dreams stopped when we hit the off ramp at Parowan and my excitement started to grow. It only took a few minutes to get to the racetrack, which was already full of people. While my dad was looking for a parking spot I giggled and said, “Dad you might as well make your own parking spot!”
“No kidding right Skip?” He laughed and then finally found a parking spot close to the jock’s room.
We then started unloading dad’s stuff and took it to the jock’s room. When we stepped inside there were already a few of the jockey’s there including two of my favorites. One of them was Amanda Casey or A.J. for short. She was the only girl jockey that I knew of in Utah at the time. She was my best friend at the races, because she told me of all the places she had raced throughout the United States. The other jockey was Kale Hatch, but everyone called him “Hoot.” I had known him since I was little and I had even watched him get married. All of them were pretty much trying to relax before the race day started. Most of them were flipping through the day’s program seeing what horses they were riding and how many races they would be riding. A.J. then looked up at me and smiled.
“I almost thought that you guys wouldn’t make it today.”
“Yeah, we made it finally since mom got done getting ready for three hours.”
“Well she is a girl and us girls do have to look good don’t we?”
“Well I guess, but I mean I look good and it only took me twenty minutes, not three hours.”
“I don’t know what to say about your mom,” she laughed and stood up so we could both walk outside, because the boys had to get changed and ready for the first race.
When A.J. and I walked outside the paddock fence was crowded with people wanting to get a good look at the race horses that were parading around. They were all trying to see which horse would be the best to bet on to make money. There were still a few horses not there, but were coming down from the barns to wait to be saddled by their jockey’s. By the time all the horses were in the paddock the jockey’s came out fully dressed and with their saddles in hand. A.J. didn’t have a horse to ride in the first race so she went into the jock’s room to get changed herself.
By that time the horses were all tacked up and ready to go, and the crowd of people around the paddock fence was even larger than before. The paddock judge had gone around and inspected every horse to make sure they were the right horse for that race. When he was done he called for riders up. All of the jockey’s then got thrown up onto their mounts and got led to the racetrack to their assigned pony horses. Once the race horses were in the hands of the pony horses they started up the straight away in front of the grandstands to be given information on. Once that was done they would start to warm up around the track. Once they were done they headed for the gates to be loaded in. They started with the number one horse and ended with the last horse. As soon as every horse was loaded the gate operator waited for all to be still. The bell rang and the gates flew open. 1,200 pounds of horse flesh flew out of the gates down the straight away. The pounding hooves getting closer sounded like thunder of an approaching storm. Since it was only a Quarter horse race, they didn’t go all the way around the track just to the finish line. The winner got to stay on the track with their jockey and get a win picture taken and the losers got unsaddled and went back to the barn to be bathed and put on the walker to be cooled out. That’s how the day rolled by winners getting their picture taken and losers off to the barn to be cooled out.
The last race of the day came and it was a very interesting race. All but two of the horses were scratched for being lame or not showing up. The two horses were in the paddock being saddled up by their jockey’s. The funniest thing about this race was because both horse and rider were same gender. A.J. was riding a three year-old mare and Hoot was riding a three year-old gelding. To me it was like the battle of the sexes. Who would win, the boys or the girls? We would only find out once they crossed the finish line. A.J. and Hoot were finished saddling their horses and were ready to go.
The paddock judge then called for riders up and they were on their way to the track. It was the same as any other race, but just with two horses. They went past the grandstands as the announcer gave out the horses’ information. As soon as that was done they started warming up. When they came back past the grandstands the microphone made a crackling noise which spooked Hoot’s horse and made him jump which in turn threw Hoot to the ground. Hoot got back up and shook off the dirt. Hoot didn't need to have someone come leg him on to his mount this time. He just vaulted back on with his extra long legs. They both got down to the gates without further disruption and were ready to load. A.J. loaded in first followed closely behind by Hoot. A.J.’s horse started throwing a fit, but she was able to settle herself down. All was quiet and the horses stood still and focus towards the track in front of them.
The bell rang and both horses took off. The two horses pounding hooves didn’t sound like the thunder created by a full field of horses, but you could still hear it. They came down under the wire the first time and were neck and neck. Around the club house turn they went galloping full speed trying to get a nose in front of the other. Entering the backstretch both horses were still stride for stride, but one was starting to tire. It was Hoot’s horse and he could feel it. Hoot then glanced over at A.J. and shouted out, “I think you’re going to be winning this race. I don’t have much horse left under me!”
A.J quickly spied over at him and could tell he was the telling the truth. She looked up at Hoot then and nodded her head that she understood. She knew her horse had a lot left in her tank so A.J. told the little horse to go. She pushed the mare on and a gap formed between the two horses. As the gap started to get wider they came to the final turn. A.J. and the mare were galloping at a pretty good click and came out of the turn fast. A.J. then flung her right hand back with her whip in firm grip, but as soon as it touched the mare’s hide it was over.
The ground wasn’t beneath them anymore and was replaced by the hard inside rail. The horse had darted to the inside so hard that the horse hit the rail with such impact it pushed the mare up onto the rail and was sliding along it on her ribcage. They both slide for ten feet or so and then plummeted to the ground on the other side. A cloud of dust plumed up around them as Hoot took over the lead and crossed the finish line at a slow pulled up lope. Everyone then got into action and was running down to the cloud of dust. Even I was running down there with thoughts flying through my head. Was she OK? Was the horse OK? What’s going to happen now? There was already people there when I finally arrived and crawled over the treacherous inside rail. It was then that I noticed A.J.’s whip lying on the ground and picked it up. I knew I shouldn’t get too close, because the paramedics were doing their jobs, but I couldn’t help myself, I wanted to help as much as I could for A.J. The horse had already gotten up and was running around on the infield with the owners trying to catch her. There appeared to be nothing wrong with the horse, but she appeared very sore by the way it moved. The ragged breathing of A.J. made me look over at her lifeless body at that moment.
She shouldn’t be breathing like that. Then I saw that it was her helmet strap that was choking her and causing it. A simple safety device was choking her and she didn’t even know it. People then started calling out for a knife and finally got one to the paramedics. As soon as they cut it the screaming began. With every one of A.J.’s screams I flinched, for I didn’t know how much pain was causing them. It pained me to stand there and watch. Both of us had tears streaming down our faces, mine was of sadness and hers of agony. The paramedics began lifting her onto a body board and loaded her up in the ambulance. I then noticed her helmet lying on the ground from where she used to lie. I walked over to it and grabbed it. I knew all I could do was get what little equipment of hers I had back to the jock’s room to be put with the rest of her stuff. The walk back was more terrible than it should have been, and felt like hours. Everyone that lined the outside rail called over to me to ask how A.J. was doing. All I could do was shake my head. When I stepped into the jock’s room my dad was waiting for me. I handed him A.J.’s gear and he put them away in her bag while a sat down.
“Skip, you know she’ll be just fine, don’t worry about it.”
“How can I not be worried about it? I just watched my best friend get plowed into the ground!”
“I know Skip, but she’ll just be a little sore and bruised tomorrow unless something is broken. Most likely she got thrown a little bit away from where the horse landed so there is a chance that nothing is broken. She’ll be OK.”
“I know dad, it just scared me that’s all.”
With that the race day was over and it was time to go home. We packed up dad’s stuff and hauled it to the truck. Before we started the drive home we went to grab a bite to eat since it was already so late. When we started the long drive home, but I couldn’t help replay what had happened at the races over and over again in my mind. These were the kinds of things and moments in horse racing that scared me to death, and kept my mind thinking if I should really follow in my dad’s footsteps of being a jockey. Seeing one of my close friends in such a bad accident like that made me rethink my career options to something safer like an inside job that kept me out of harms way. Later that night we found out that my dad was right and A.J. was just fine other than being sore and other minor injuries. With other races coming around I was wondering if anything like could happen again, or worse. Knowing that A.J. was fine I was able to peacefully fall asleep without a worry to bother me.