. . . by the way they give you a leg-up on a horse. For some reason, when I’ve asked family or friends for a leg-up, I’m immediately met with a smirk or a nervous giggle. That usually puts me in my “Uh-Oh” mode as I stand facing my horse with my left leg bent back, dangling my foot waiting for someone to take hold.
At the track, you’re never going to find a mounting block to climb on or a rider sticking their toe in the stirrup and hoisting themselves up. First of all, a young Thoroughbred is unlikely to stand still next to a plastic step and for an exercise rider to try to put their foot in the stirrup of a jock’s saddle from the ground up will be impossible. You need to have a ground person who knows how to give you a leg-up on the horse, and you need to trust that person isn’t going to screw things up.
When I first started galloping race horses, all eyes were on me – judging me and dissecting me from the clothing I wore, to the type of whip I carried. They knew I was green and what better way to stick-it-to-her, was to play a joke on me when I was handed my first horse of the morning.
Louie was the trainer’s best groom. He was short, stocky, silver-haired with a thick South American accent and always seemed to be in a bad mood. He took care of the famous gray colt El Senor and flew to Japan with the horse when he was sold into stud. He scared the crap out of me and I did my best to never make eye contact or be caught in a situation where I’d have to make conversation. When I was handed a horse, I knew it was going to be all business and a serious atmosphere as I stood with my leg cocked. That morning, Louie bent over, grabbed my ankle and tries lifting me. He lets out a huge moan as I’m dropped into the withers face-first of an impatient 2 year old.
What? Am I so weak that I don’t have any upper body strength to raise me up on a horse? I slide to the ground and look at him wide-eyed. Rolling his eyes, he impatiently motions me back up to the horse to try again and this time I am slung over onto my belly as Louie drops his grip from my leg and lets out another loud moan. “What the hell man!” I yelled, looking back at the hot walker and Louie smirking at each other. “Oh! So sorry! You heavy!” he said.
I guess you could call that morning my ‘initiation’. I was never dropped or slung onto the back of a horse again. But I must admit because of Louie’s practical joke, I immediately went on a strict diet.