Monday, March 1, 2010

Tuesdays Show and Tail - Harness Racing

It's time for Tuesdays' Show & Tail' over at Angela's West Virginia Treasures! If you have a cute story and picture of a pet, or any furry (or non-furry) friend, you are welcome to join in! Check her blog for the rules, post away - and thanks, Angela, for being our host!Horses have been a life-long passion for me, since early childhood. In 1994 while living in Morrison, Illinois I learned how to train and drive harness racing horses - Pacers, to be exact. The Whiteside County Fairgrounds lets owners of trotting and pacing horses board their animals there year round and they are able to use the track each morning to work their horses and keep them in shape, but the track must be maintained daily as well. A partner and I had 4 pacers, and every morning at 6am I went out to feed and exercise each of them. While the horses ate breakfast, I would hitch a drag to our truck, and drag the track or remove snow and ice so it would be ready for all to use.

Above is a video by the United Sates Trotting Association that shows the difference between Trotting and Pacing horses.
The picture above is the track at Whiteside County being used for a race at fair time. The barn near the center of the picture is where we had our stalls, near the door closest to the track.
I loved training the colts, but on my 40th birthday I took out a new colt for the very first time. His name was Code of Conduct. He was a 2 yr. old and full of himself that first day in October. The wind began to blow the oak leaves on the concrete in between the race barns, and Cody reared up while harnessed to the cart I was seated in! His bridle wasn't adjusted correctly and it slid off his head. I realized I had no control over him, so I started to climb out of the jog cart, but my foot got tangled in the lines - I fell on the concrete, face first.

Cody took off running between the barns. I had the wind knocked out of me and was trying to get up so I could go catch him, but he had turned around and was running straight towards me, cart and all! I had no time to get to my feet, but the first thing I always taught my colts was what WHOA means - and I shouted WHOA at him very sharply! Thankfully he stopped, stock still, and I stood and grabbed hold of him before he could take off again! We proceeded to enter onto the track for our normal exercise routine, no more incidents.
Unexpected things can and do happen often at the track. Once the saddle on my horse's harness broke and she kept running as I held hold of the driving lines. The cart slid back and the horse dragged me forward onto the track as my legs bent backwards when the cart fell. I was bruised for weeks and had a difficult time walking for quite some time. Another time my partner drove a colt into the race barn, but instead of walking up to the cross ties near the stall, the colt ran into his stall, cart still hitched to him and his driver still on board! We had a dickens of a time trying to unhitch that horse and get that cart out of the tiny stall where the horse was wedged in place! We even witnessed another driver try to get his horse and jog cart off the top of a very tall manure pile out behind the "round barn"! I never did ask how it happened - I just shook my head and offered my assistance if needed!!!

Just another adventure in the life of an animal lover! Hope you have a safe day!


Chatty Crone said...

Howdy - I guess after that shark killed that woman recently - it's another lesson that animals can be dangerous - and your horse episode/story reminded me of that again. They can be a blessing and a danger.

Angela said...

I never thought about how dangerous it could be harness racing. I'm glad you didn't get seriously hurt. You sure do have some very interesting stories about your animals!

Thanks for sharing with us again this week!

Tuesdays' Show & Tail!

ocmist said...

This was very interesting... one of the first times I've heard you talking about some of your driving experiences. Chatty Crone is right in saying that animals can be dangerous. Anyone that works around them knows that "stuff" happens and both people and animals can get injured, but those that are very careful and learn to "read" their animals will keep problems to a minimum and, as for me, I'd never trade the joy I've received from working with them!

Thanks for sharing some more of your life with us! Linda

ocmist said...

I forgot to mention that I love your new header! That is SOOO CUTE!!!

Teri said...

That is a LOT of poundage coming at you .... SMART word to teach first. Good thing for you he learned it!
On my eggs ... I wrap in bubble wrap ... I have had only one broken egg in the 4 years ... knock on wood.
Great story and photos.

Sherrie said...

What an awesome story! Horses are so delicate looking, it always amazes me that they can do all that hauling and running without hurting them selves. Have a great day!

A View of My Life

April said...

Wow...I learned something today...THANKS! I, too, am a huge horse lover and would give anything to own one...or two...or three one day! :)

The imPerfect Housewife said...

Animals are so powerful and I think we forget that sometimes - at least I do! Wow, I haven't been on a horse in years ~ ♥

Troy said...

I had an uncle when I was young who had horses.
I couldn't have been more than about 6 or 7 years old when I saw him trying to get one into a trailer to take it somewhere. The horse didn't want to go, and broke away from him. By the time he was done, one side of the trailer was completely destroyed and I was terrified of horses.

It took years for me to get over that, and I still have a healthy respect for the amount of raw power in a horse.

They don't call it "horsepower" for nothing!

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