Endless summer

The storms were circling Maisons-Laffitte just as I went over to feed breakfast; by the time we would normally take out first lot the lightening and thunder had moved in and rain hung over the yard. We waited, and in about 45 minutes the storm had moved through. It wasn’t enough. The air was still thick and heavy, but it would be further scrubbed by afternoon showers. This summer in France reminds me of those we used to have growing up in Wisconsin. Hot and heavy, punctuated by thunderstorms. Afternoons that seemed to last forever and yet speed by. The horses aren’t happy with it, but this summer has made me feel like I’m 16 again – OK, maybe not quite. I certainly don’t have the energy level – or the alcohol tolerance – of those days. But still. I could use at least another six months of this.

But the horses wouldn’t appreciate it. I am having to choose our entries wisely, because some horses are tolerating this better than others. Rapsodie is a little gray mare who is very light and has almost an Arabian head. Not surprisingly, she is standing up to the weather the best. The heavier horses are struggling. Big Brazil (now her formal name of Little Brazilien is quite comical) sweats like a fat girl, even though she really isn’t fat, just huge in every other way. Rose of Egypte would wilt if she lived in the country for which she was named. She’s a huge filly, and she is still too fat, although getting slimmer. Hard Way and Turfani are taking it stoically, and Timelord and George don’t seem too bothered, either. Skid hates it, and has been clearly much happier since we moved him to a cooler box about 10 days ago. Shuffles is too busy worrying about where his second testicle is to worry about the heat. I’m watching for it, too, because the minute it shows itself I’m going to have it removed, along with its partner. If there’s no sign by this winter I’m afraid we’ll have to go looking for it. Piccolo doesn’t care too much about the weather, either, because she’s still busy scoping out the place and deciding on a restaurant rating.

Despite the heat, the dogs still want their grand tour of the gallops every evening. Coco plays in the sprinklers and Prof knows the two strategically placed water holes that are just his size for wallowing. While Coco has youth on her side, Prof spends all day resting up for his big moment. The biggest decision of the day for him is whether to sleep on the couch or the bed. When I leave the fan on, the bed wins, especially since Coco is strangely afraid of the fan and refuses to go into the bedroom when it’s on. Instead, she goes outside and lays in what used to be the tomato bed before she dug it up. That way, she can bark at people, cars or horses passing in the street without having to actually get up. She will still make the effort to charge the fence at passing dogs, though. She is as afraid of other dogs as she is of the fan, but the fence gives her courage.

This lazy rhythm continues through Thursday; on Friday, Timelord goes to Chantilly. Next week, Turfani is entered in Chateaubriant on Monday, Hard Way in Vichy on Tuesday and Brazil in Dieppe on Wednesday. I’m not sure I’ll take Hard Way down to Vichy, because I think the trip may take too much out of him in the heat. But Brazil and Turfani are more likely to run. It all depends on the weather.

6 Replies to “Endless summer”

  1. Can I borrow your fan? The shops have sold out of them and Poppy is really suffering in the heat – I think she’s lost the ability to regulate her body-temperature and has stopped eating, not good for a 21-year-old cat.

  2. i was having lunch with someone who had tears in his eyes telling me about your blog today… it is very beauriful, well written and full of yesteryear good felings… i believe he loves you. May you find him!!!!

  3. There’s not enough writing about horse racing like this. If there was, the sport would be choked by the number of people who wanted to live such a life. Summer heat has overwhelmed Saratoga, too, but nothing changes. The grooms gather at Oklahoma in the mornings. Try to sleep in the afternoons. And then drink in the bars until they are close to being unable to ride their broken down bicycles home to the dorms. Racing begins in a little more than a week – the earliest in July since anyone remembers.

  4. Greetigs & bon chance!

    I am new to your Blog–& Web site, & just watched the video of you tacking up Hard Way for his race at Longchamp.

    I could not help but focus on the piece of tack hanging aorund Hard Way’s neck (like a collar of some sort)–looks like part of a Martingale.

    Would you be so kind as to tell me what the piece of tack is or is called & what purpose it serves?

    I sometimes improvise & use a stirrup strap in a similar manner when I am working with a young or “green”/unschooled horse who may balk (i.e., buck or jig-jog or otherwsie attempt to evade) at training/schooling/provision of the aids.

    However, the piece of tack you have on Hard Way looks rather more elegant & comfortable than a stirrup strap/leather & I would love to find one to purchase for my own use.

    Can/would you also suggest a retlair (preferably Internet-based) where I could purchase the piece of tack.

    Thank you for your Blog & your apparent gentleness with the horses in your care. Your handling (of them) is quite different from what we see–by & large, at reacetracks (& the back–stretch) in the USA.

    Regards,
    Shoshin

  5. I’m with Vic – I love catching up with developments on your blog, Gina. There is far too little wonderful writing about racing, especially training, out there – perhaps because most trainers are men (sorry, Vic) and very few, if any, have great writing skills or the time or inclination to chronicle their operations as terrificly as Gina does. Some, I recall, are/were quite eloquent speakers, though – I am especially reminded of the late, wonderful, Frank Wright, who trained for many years and hosted TV broadcasts in NY (primarily) in the 70s. Sigh. His voice and sound commentary about the sport are very much missed.

    Your blog, and your world of racing in France, is always a treat to read about, Gina. It reminds me routinely of why I love horses and racing and even inspired me to start writing about (or reminisce, at least) for publication, as well.

    And, yes, indeed, Vic, it will be an early start for Saratoga this year, with a bonus of four more days added to this schedule making it longer a longer season than ever before at 40 days. For a native upstate New Yorker just south of currently hot, humid Saratoga, that makes the summer of racing even better!

  6. Thank you all for the kind words. Louise, my fan is your fan. Vic, thanks for reading! At least your lads at Saratoga are on bicycles; ours are usually armed with cars. We lost our beloved Nissan Micra a few years back when a lad on his way to ride first lot careened into it – he hadn’t nearly recovered from the previous evenings festivities, which ended about an hour before he was to report for duty.

    Shoshin, the piece of tack in question is a simple neck strap. I put them on all of my runners (and we all ride morning work with them) to give the jockey something to stick a finger through in the gate so they don’t have to be on the mouth with the reins. An old stirrup leather works; mine are actual neck collars, usually stripped from a Howlett, which is a type of martingale that I use for certain horses. There is a half-decent picture of one here: http://www.le-site-cheval.com/materiel/enrenement2.php

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