When my alarm beeped at 4:30 am I remembered why I don’t work at the racetrack! I was the first to arrive at the barn for the morning feed shift, and I let myself in and walked slowly through the dim light. Horses down both alleys were softly nickering, and there was a gentle murmur amongst them as they moved about their stalls. It was a moment filled with absolute peace and I stood still to breathe in the smell of warm barn. It was a moment that filled me with joy, and will become a touchstone forever of one of my ‘happy places’. That’s why people get up at 4:30 am to go to work at the race track!
We had our first Fitness Class today. Olds College Broncos coach Mark has a reputation as a tough task master, but he gets excellent results. His version of a pep talk was slightly reminiscent of a drill sergeant in a real Boot Camp! His reputation was confirmed mid-way through the first class when we did conditioning exercises I’d never seen, for muscles I’d never heard of (let alone used!) After a warm up and some strengthening we did 3 sets of 4 exercises that he timed to use as our baseline for the rest of the course. My baseline has a lot of room for improvement, especially because I had to take a short break to double over and drip sweat onto the floor, which seemed a better alternative than throwing up on a mat in the corner!
A jockey/driver has to be mentally and physically strong to ride/drive high performance equine athletes, and this training will at least allow us to appreciate what it takes for a jockey/driver to train in the morning and ride/drive several horses on race days. It’s also going to give us a good idea of the steps it takes to get a horse into peak condition for a race. A good rider needs both physical and mental strength, especially at the track and Mark is there to help us achieve our maximum physical potential. After the first day of riding and my first workout, I had decidedly less than maximum anything, but again I can only improve from here! And if anyone from the College is reading this, I would like to have a word with the architect who decided that a gym at the top of two flights of stairs was a good idea!
At some point during the Fitness hour I may have mentally cursed Theresa for inviting me to participate this week. In fact, I might have used some strong language when I saw her after Fitness! As I nurse my aching everything tonight I’ve decided to take some of Mark’s admonitions to heart. I won’t ever be a ‘real’ exercise rider, and this week I have to work hard to find the perfect 2 point, but it’s such a blessing to have this opportunity. I have a body that is capable of riding a race horse in an exercise saddle, which is a gift even if it’s only on Bender in an arena. There is a saying in the horse world that “a bad day in the saddle in better than a good day in the office”, so tomorrow I’ll try to remember that and not curse Theresa after Fitness Class!
We continued our balance exercises on the mechanical horses in the classroom, and then moved over to the barn to work on our position and softness on live horses. My leg up was just as lousy, but I only had one aborted attempt before I was able to successfully mount. And I remembered to do a girth check and tying on went much better - I’ll take improvement anywhere I can get it right now! Instructor Mara read my blog post from Day 1 and while there’s not much she can do about my gasping for air (that’s over to Mark’s fitness class!), she did work with getting me to an energy neutral 2 point. Apparently, I should be able to ride for hours standing up, as long as I’m soft and flexible. By the end of the second session it was getting easier. I ride with Treazure and she was so thrilled when she ‘got it’ that her whoop of delight alerted everyone within several blocks. Poor dear old Bender thought the banshees were after him, but she was so happy that I think all of us, 2 legged and 4 were happy for her!
All in all, a good day. Except for the part where I tried to cross my legs and had to use both hands to help pick my leg up! On to Day 3, where I will try to remember that I should not only count my (numerous) blessings, but to make my blessings count! Even when I’m on number 8 of 3 sets of 20 squats…