Training race horses is no easy task. It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, intense love of horses and a little bit of luck! Early mornings at the track, a buzz of activity back at the yard, with farriers, vets and grooms all doing what they do best! Deliveries of feed and bedding, nominations and scratchings, piles of admin and sorting through passports (yes, each horse has a passport with all its markings and details!) – lots of banter and laughing, but also lots of stress on race days, getting the horses ready for their ride in the float to the course in the hopes that they will run as well as they've worked, adding excitement and butterflies in your tummy!
"Come along! Hurry, hurry! I'm ready for work." He knows that once he's done there'll be a manger filled with tasty bits to eat, and eragrostis to nibble at! But work first as everyone knows!
"Clip, clop, clip, clop"- the walk up to the track is beautiful with fields all lined with old oak and poplar trees! The air is cold and the warm breath of the horses clouds the air like the mist that often creeps up on them. To the right of the road are fields of sugar cane ready to be burnt before harvest - sweet and green!
Walks in the ring before their turn to gallop on the track, riders chat to one another, and hooves clop quietly in the soft sand -"let's get going guys, we're keen to let go and run with the air rushing through our manes!""
And here they come, trainers eyes watching carefully, timing their gallops, that beautiful sound of horses galloping up the straight - you hear it long before you see them coming around the turn - it's one of my favourite sounds, strong and steady, and bringing with it the thrill of seeing this majestic animal sweeping past!
With work done, the tractors come to grade the track and get it ready for another day - now their work starts, prepping the track and doing maintenance. The slow back to stable begin, but now their is an excitement of a different kind - it's time for breakfast!
In the mean time, "Mkulu"( Siswati word for Grandfather), is back at the yard, preparing and supervising feed time! It's a big job, and a responsible one. The right quantities have to be carefully mixed, cubes, oats, lucerne, salt - all kinds of ingredients that make up a manger of tasty bits to eat. Tasty bits that are healthy and just what a thoroughbred race horse needs to give him the energy and stamina necessary to do his work!
Mmmmmmmm - looking good! Once they've eaten it's time for grooming and resting until their next feed later in the afternoon. Pop (affectionately know as Mkulu by the grooms) walks around and checks each stable, making sure the doors a properly latched and that the horses are eating up, that their water buckets are full and that each horse is happy and content. One of the grooms walks silently behind him, picking up erigrostis that might have been dropped over the stable door by eager eaters, ready to help Pop if there are any problems.
And then it's back to the office, where the walls bear testimony to the many success stories, winners and trophies. Time for a strong cup of tea - discussions on how the work went and which horses to nominate for which race. Calls from owners to find out how their horses are. Stories of the old days, and how racing has changed! Stories about old punters and jockeys and horses that made hearts swell with pride!
"Thank you for coming by! Do come again!"