Official Birthday for Thoroughbred Racehorses!
This is our home-bred thoroughbred racehorse, I'm Dashing. This photograph was taken on Christmas Day by a very dear friend.
I'm Dashing is on winter break at our home, and enjoying his vacation.
I'm Dashing was born on May 15, 2018. So, he's 3 years old, right? Wrong!
His official birthday is January 1st. So, he's 4.
This common birthday for racehorses makes it easier to keep track of ages for the purpose of eligibility for races. There are races for 2-year-olds only, 3-year-olds only, and for 3-year-olds and up.
The primary ramification of this rule is that breeders attempt to have foals born early in the year. These horses are then more mature and closer to their real age on their official birthday.
I'm Dashing was born later in the year. So, he was not as mature as a 2-year-old as most others of the same official age at the racetrack. And he wasn't asked to do much until he turned 3. In the meantime, he matured physically and mentally and proved he was ready by winning two races in the 2021 racing season!
While I'm on the subject of horses, I'll add a short short story I wrote (another of the word challenge pieces I've mentioned before - required words are in italics).
This was written in June 2020. Racing was scheduled to start in April but the lock-down caused a delay.
The chestnut thoroughbred hung his head over the mesh door and turned to watch his trainer stride along the shedrow towards him. The horse’s white blaze caught rays of sunshine that fought their way through millions of dust particles to light up his face. His large, dark eyes sparkled. Moxie anticipated a treat, at least a mint, as the busy man walked past.
He wasn’t disappointed. As the man talked to him, he held out a mint for the aspiring racehorse to grab with his warm, soft lips. It crunched and tingled in Moxie’s mouth.
The horse was puzzled why humans now had white blazes added to their faces. He didn’t know that there was a pandemic, that Covid-19 was rocking the human world.
But he did know that, in a barn on the other side of the backstretch, there was a deadly outbreak of Equine Herpes Virus 1. He’d heard that some horses had died, others were in the clinic at the Ontario Veterinary College in Guelph, and several were in quarantine.
Because of this, Moxie had to train with barn-mates, and he didn’t approve of the arrangement.
Phantom, a huge grey horse, was the opposite of inspirational. He lolloped behind Moxie like an elongated shadow, his head low and with his brain turned off. At least, that’s what Moxie believed. What’s more, Phantom smelled of liniments and saddle soap, and had straw in his tail.
Despite all this, Moxie must have trained well because he deciphered from the trainer that he was fit enough to race. Although he didn’t understand the encrypted language that humans used and could not interpret their thoughts as he would those of his equine pals, he’d got the gist of what was being said about the current situation. One morning, his trainer was particularly loud and yelled that there must be a full moon permanently pasted in the sky above, because the world had gone stark raving mad.
Moxie knew he owed a lot to the man since he’d not been well-behaved when he first came to the backstretch. He hadn’t stood quietly in his stall while being groomed; he’d kicked the farrier three times, bitten the hotwalker, and chewed through two leather lead-shanks while being bathed. And, worst of all, he wouldn’t listen to the rider’s cues, and even reared up and dumped one of them onto the sandy training track and had then taken off, headed for the barn.
Moxie didn’t regret his behaviour, however, because some good came out of it. The trainer changed grooms to someone Moxie liked, hired a more experienced exercise rider, and talked to Moxie every day. The horse loved all the attention. His confidence in himself, as well as his trust in the people around him, grew stronger each day. His dappled coat gleamed, and his eyes shone.
When Moxie was ready for an official timed work-out, a jockey was selected to ride him. The petite, but strong, woman was patient and talked to him. Moxie enjoyed their partnership. He understood her signals and liked the pats and words of praise for his work. Moxie would get excited when he heard the jockey’s voice. It meant he’d be galloping, and with kind hands on the reins.
Moxie had been ready for a while, but viruses were outwitting the people who grew more and more frustrated. It took everyone working together, following all kinds of protocols, to move the mountains necessary to give horses the chance to race.
Eventually, the work paid off.
And Moxie knew. The eyes above the white masks smiled and the air around him had changed. Races were to start soon.
Finally, he would show the stark raving mad world what he could do. His owners wouldn’t be in the grandstand, nor his fans. Just the trainer and the groom, and of course the jockey, would watch him race. And the photographer would see him in the winner’s circle, since Moxie had decided that’s where he deserved to be.