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Which Horse to Buy? And 'Dock Spider', a Story

Fortunately, Foxcroft Racing is interested in partnering with us for another horse. As you know, we are partners with Foxcroft Racing in ownership of It's a Fluke (by the way, he came 4th in his first stakes race on August 27!).

But how do we buy a horse? More on that after this short story which is another 'word challenge' for the Uxbridge Writers' Circle (words I had to use are in italics). I hope you enjoy reading it!

Dock Spider

Boyd tells me, three times in quick succession that it’s not a tarantula, as he unties the boat by releasing a series of slip knots with one sharp yank. But I can’t take my eyes off this big, black hairy spider that sits on the dock, motionless.

Boyd is frustrated enough with me, as it is. My lack of knowledge and experience in the world of fishing makes me a near-useless assistant. Catching fish is not the joyful occupation that Boyd believes it to be. He looks forward to his fishing expeditions with eager anticipation and plans for them well in advance. The tackle, the precise locations, the depth, the time of day, the weather, and so on, are part of his considerations for each future outing.

He pulls himself upright as if that’s a position his body isn’t designed for. It’s happiest when sitting in the boat holding onto a fishing rod and casting, or trolling, and waiting, and waiting.

How did I end up fishing on a lake in Ontario with a man like Boyd? He isn’t a romantic, that’s for sure.

I should start by explaining that I’d lived with my father, just the two of us, until he died two years ago. My life was packed with routine and had been ever since my mother left when I was twelve. I’ve not seen her since, but she’s etched into my memory – her caustic remarks and her threats to kill me: her venom and anger, her outright viciousness. She was much more frightening and threatening than this black spider, even though he’s now turned to stare at me.

My father was a man of honour. Even at my young age, I expected that he would be the one to leave, but he explained to me later that he believed in keeping the family together and tried to do his part. I eventually revealed, quite some time later, the innermost fears I’d had about my mother’s violent temper and heated rages. He hadn’t realized how much her behaviour affected me, and he had the decency to apologize.

I struggled to fill the housekeeping gap, although the standards hadn’t been high and my father put no further demands on me. But, despite his gentle disposition, resentment built. I wanted to play with friends, and later I wanted to go to university – I wanted a life. But, although not explicitly stated, it was as if I was enslaved.

My plan started as a kind of joke, or a way of teasing myself, and I would laugh out loud at how preposterous it was. But having this light shine in my head, this glimmer of hope, gave me strength. I suppose it was a bit like Boyd planning for a fishing trip, but I didn’t believe it was real.

It was a Monday evening, dark and rainy. Gusts of wind bent sodden bushes and sent leaves onto the lawn I’d just raked, when – and it came as a shock, even to me – I decided now was the time to act.

Fortunately, my father was a diabetic. All I had to do was give him way too much insulin. And his inability to sleep without his pills meant I had a chance. I could grind up a few and stir them into his cauliflower soup, which I’d made from scratch the way he liked it. And, when he was semi-conscious in his recliner, with the hockey game on, with his cold beer, at the right temperature in the right glass, I could inject him with insulin. I’d seen him do it so many times.

It was easy to forge a suicide note and no one batted an eye. He’d been a loner, isolated, lost his wife several years back, and never been the same since. Absolutely no one considered that I might have played a role.

Now I was free. But I wasn’t used to being alone in this horrible, dark, damp house full of hurt, shame, and degradation. What was I to do?

That’s when Boyd showed up, saying my father owed him money. I was surprised to hear that my father was part of a poker group at work - that played during the lunch hour, concealed behind the boilers in the basement. Boyd came in for a beer and we developed a weird kind of friendship. But that might not be the right word to describe our relationship.

And now, the trouble is, I’ve had to hatch a second plan because Boyd likes his beer just like my father did.

As he pushes the boat away from the dock, the spider scurries off as if to say he wants no part of my scheme.

But I’m confident that my plan will work.

Boating accidents happen all the time.

I snap the clasps on my life jacket.

Boyd’s lies in the bottom of the boat.

Vicky Earle Copyright 2023

Which Horse to Buy?

The Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society holds auctions each year when thoroughbreds are offered for purchase. On August 30 the CTHS is holding its annual sale of yearlings. These are thoroughbreds that were born in 2022 and officially turned one year old on January 1, 2023. However, they are often referred to as 'short yearlings' if they have not yet reached their actual birth date.

Here's the book that lists 252 wonderful horses!!!

How do we choose one?

That's a very good question.

Each page shows the pedigree of a yearling. But pedigree isn't everything. We all know that children from the same parents are quite different from one another!

However, many buyers like to make a science out of it.

I think it's a mixture of science, art, and luck.

When I say 'art' I mean one's judgement of what a horse looks like, how it moves (beyond the x-rays etc.), and its temperament. I like to see a 'kind eye' and a relatively sane demeanour!

I am not an expert in conformation.

However, horses that love to race and are naturally competitive will overcome small conformation issues (such as mild 'paddling out' with their front feet).

Many buyers like large horses. I'm not so keen (Northern Dancer was small, by the way). Large horses have more weight which puts more stress on joints and tendons and they take longer to develop and grow. We've had to be patient and careful with It's a Fluke because he's a big boy with large joints that have to bear a lot of weight.

Some people only want a colt because they dream of entering the King's Plate (however, fillies are permitted to run in this race). And/or they dream of having a stallion for breeding. But it's rare to have a stallion that is of high enough quality to be used for breeding. And, in the meantime, trainers, grooms, and riders must handle the stallion and it can sometimes be dangerous. We always geld our colts for everyone's safety.

So, back to the question 'how to choose a horse?'.

There are some sires we like and we prefer Ontario sires.

We review the mare's record. It's good to find a mare that has a reasonable track record. We don't mind if it's the mare's first foal, but it's preferable to see that she's had previous foals that have raced and done well.

But a big part of the decision-making is 'gut'!!

Wish us luck! We hope we find a happy horse that we all like and that we will have fun with!

Don't forget that the Meg Sheppard Mystery Series is based on horse racing and country life. If you haven't read all five books, you can find them on Amazon and at Blue Heron Books, Uxbridge, as well as in the Uxbridge Library.

Also, any bookstore can order them.

Thank you for your support.

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1 Comment

Aug 29, 2023

Vicky!!! Your stories are starting to worry me 😂

This one was quite unexpected 😱

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