One of our first horses was a retired Standardbred race horse by the name of BJ Frisco. She was a tall, leggy chestnut, whose coat shone a fiery red on a nice sunny day. Even though she was retired, she loved to run, or should I say trot, because Standardbreds are trained to never break into a canter. If they go any faster then a trot, they are disqualified. During the time we had that horse, I never remember her breaking out of a trot. But, that was fine with me, because boy could she trot.
I guess it was inevitable that we started racing each other, me on BJ, and Zenya on Ebony, our old Quarter Horse. I am not sure why it was that I always got to ride the fast horse, except for the fact that I liked it that way. Yeah, that was probably it. Not that Ebony couldn't keep up, it was just that she wasn't a race horse, and didn't have the same drive to win that BJ, (and apparently I) had. Towards the end of our racing days, however, Ebony started to really get into it, and there was one day I truly thought they were going to beat us.
It was a warm, breezy spring day, and as is common in the spring, the horses were sassy, and acting out, snorting and jumping at things that weren't there. Zenya and I quickly came to the decision that a quick trip around the field would tire them out a bit, and besides, I didn't think my Uncle Billy was home. He used to make a practice of taking off in his truck when he would look down across the field and spy us headed toward the barn. Had he stayed home, he would have been a nervous wreck, alternately watching out the window, and then not watching out the window, and swearing in between. He hated to see us get on the horses and ride.
On this particular day, I knew he was headed to town to buy some grain for his cows, and I figured that would give us enough time to saddle up and get around our "race track", which went right by their house, while he was gone.
We headed down to our "starting post", a big pine along the fence line. As we drew near, our excitement grew, and the horses picked up on it, tossing their heads and snorting in anticipation of the big event. I rode BJ with a halter and two lead ropes, as I didn't own any english equipment at the time. Our racing gear also included a curb bit for Ebony and we each sat in a heavy western saddle. Jockeys, we weren't.
As we drew our horses to a standstill, the tension was so thick you could cut it with a knife. We tightened our reins, and hunkered down in our saddles. With no official gun to start us, it was a "GO!!" from my lips that set us off and down the pine spill covered "straightaway".
We took off, with BJ in the lead, trotting as fast as she could, and Ebony galloping along side. The wind in our hair and the pounding of the horses hooves below us set our pulses racing as we turned the corner and headed down the back stretch, toward my grandparents house.
I glanced back over my shoulder, to see how much we were going to win by THIS time, when my heart stopped. Zenya and Ebony were catching us! I looked ahead, to see how much longer we had to hold the lead, and then glanced back again. Let me tell you, I had never seen Ebony go that fast before, nor did I ever see her go that fast again. Zenya was laying low over her neck, her long blonde hair mixing in with Ebonys coal black mane. Ebony had her ears pinned back against her head, and looked like she was hell bent on winning. For a moment, I felt a bit like Ichabod Crane, with the blonde horseman after me! And to my amazement, they were gaining on us!
First, they were at BJ's flank, and then were running almost neck and neck. I knew then that if I was going to win, I was going to have to pull out all the stops. I was going to have to let BJ go. See, I always had to keep BJ pulled in a little, because she was so powerful and strong, that I had a heck of a hard time stopping her once she got going, seeing as I only had a halter and a couple lead ropes.
However, the idea of victory being snatched from my grasp made me a little crazy, and throwing caution to the wind, I let the reins go loose. BJ lunged forward, her legs pounding like ramrods into the tender spring ground. Ebony slid back a little, then alot as BJ and I crossed over the patch of dirt that was our finish line.
"YAHOO!", I yelled, as I realized victory was mine. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Zenya and Ebony start to slow down, and I pulled back on the reins, kind of hoping BJ would as well. Well, it was not meant to be. Apparently, she thought the race was still on, as she had no intention of stopping. Fear clenched my heart as I quickly analyzed the situation.
Number one, I was on a big, rugged race horse who was going very fast and didn't seem to recall she had a pitiful, tiny (ok, not so tiny) human on her back. Next, and what chilled my heart the most, was the fact I was rapidly headed toward my grandparents house, and I knew my Uncle should be getting back from town, very soon.
"Whoa! Whoa, BJ!" I yelled, as I tried to swing her around and stop at the same time. Suddenly, we were at the back of my grandparents lawn, and in a quick moment shot past the house. Sure enough, my fears were realized. My Uncle Billy was just turning in the driveway.
One moment he as looking down across the lush green field, and then suddenly a chestnut hurricane with a sweaty yelling rider blasted into view, snorting and pounding the tender spring turf. In his surprise, he let loose a blast of the horn, dropped his "stoggie" from his fingers to his lap, yelled a couple silent obsenities ( his window was up..) and stepped on the gas, tearing up the driveway.
I was in the process of waving a casual hello, when he blatted the horn, and by the time I had regained my seat in the saddle, we were half way down the field, headed toward the barn at a frightening rate of speed.
As we neared the house, I saw my mother's head pop up in the bathroom window, mouth shaped like a big "O", her eyes doing a sort of bulging trick, similar to a frog. You've seen that look? Anyway, we were coming in fast, and I knew I had no choice but to let BJ handle things from there.
We started sliding about half way across the back lawn from the corral, and slid on our haunches (she on hers, me on mine) the rest of the way in. I closed my eyes and waited for the crash. I could feel the breeze as clods of mud flew past my head. Suddenly, it was over.
We were standing, neat as a pin, in front of the corral fence. I started to laugh, and was pretty proud of myself for not only winning the race, but for having stayed on the horse's back. Then, I turned around.
There were two troughs running parralel across half the back lawn, each several inches deep, where BJ's feet had dug in during her magnificent sliding stop. I quickly looked up to see if I had been caught, and sure enough, there were those two bulging eyes still watching from the bathroom window.
Just then, Zenya and Ebony walked around the end of the house, the horse carefully picking her way over the torn ground. Zenya gave me an odd sort of grin, and then took Ebony into the barn to unsaddle her. As I unsaddled BJ, I heard Zenya say "well, my mother wanted me home early tonight, I gotta go." I thought yeah, right, sure she did.
There was nothing I could bribe her with to make her stay and help fill in the holes in the lawn. Not the offer of the biggest bottle of homemade rootbeer, nor what I thought was sure to get her..the offer to ride BJ during the next race. Nope, she just hopped merrily onto her ten speed, and peddled over the road. I on the other hand, spent the next hour filling in the damaged lawn, while BJ stood and watched me from over the fence. I'm not sure, but I think that horse was laughing.
|Liam on his race horse OLD BILL|