Monday, 23 November 2009


I had a love for horses and a love for competition but I couldn't stay in thoroughbred racing after my experience with a cruel man.
Knowing my of love and how I handled horses, a friend took me to a little hobby farm just out of town---I say hobby but they ran a herd of Jersey milking cows and trained Harness racing horses.

I was introduced to the trainer---an 87 yo woman who had brought a thoroughbred stallion from England to Australia, trained a polo string for the rich and famous and knew more than I could ever learn. Her "foreman", a WW11 veteran who shook hands with his left because his right arm had been nearly shot away during the war--he had worked Clydesdales on the wharves of the local Port, had ridden buck jumpers and could read a horse from first sight. And the trainers daughter, a very plain woman, divorced and bitter from a war time marriage to a US soldier---and accomplished track rider and show ring competitor.

We spent the day talking about horses and watching the foreman, virtually one handed, harness up and work the racing horses.
By the third, I helped him unharness, cool down, clean up rug, water and turn the horse out in a yard to play----he said "You learn fast"

His name was John, they called him Jim---I still don't know why----I asked if he was working another----I would get it out and help him harness up.
He looked at me and said "Son, you will learn a lot and you could be of great help around here but you don't need to touch this next one"
My friend knew what Jim was talking about but said "Let Clyde bring her out---he will be OK"

I went to the stall and looked over the door and ducked as a wide open mouth full of horse teeth lunged at me---her ears were flat back on her neck, her eyes were glazed and her head shook daring me to try to touch her.
Jim laughed and said "her name is Granite Rose---we have her and two full brothers and they are all like that---she's the best behaved"
I opened the door and she charged as I waved her off---I spoke softly to her and told her that if she bit me that I would bite back---Jim laughed---I stroked her neck and waved away her flashing teeth, she stomped her feet as I scratched her behind the ear and patted her chest (girls like that)---and slipped a halter (head collar) over her nose and buckled it up-----Jim yelled that she would try to knock me down coming through the door, so as I opened the door and she charged, I side stepped, let her out the door and led her back in.
I stood with her---she was quivering----I held her close by the rope and collar and said "right, we are going out but you are going with me at my pace"----we walked forward, talking every inch of the way, her chest hard against me ready to knock me down but we talked, we stopped, we talked, we stopped and then we walked out of the door together----
But then I had to let her win---I gave her enough rope, flicked it at her and let her rear up over me----told her she was a good girl and walked her to the harness tie up rail.

I helped Jim harness her up with the warning that "she kicks with every leg"---and she did---he was like me---don't raise your hand, raise your voice.
Once in the cart, she was a professional----worked like a machine----it was like watching a butterfly float----I had seen many harness races but she was different.
Old Jim told me that she could be a good horse but she was a barrier rogue and only got away well at the starts one out of twenty.

That weekend we took Granite Rose to the official race trials----she had been banned because of her barrier manners so she had to qualify to race again.
She played up very badly at the barrier and missed the start by a long way----every one was so down in the mouth---she was working so well but she just would not go away with them----the stewards would not lift the ban.
I asked if she could try again later that morning----the stewards re entered her for the last trial----old Jim looked at me like the new boy is mad but said we might as well try again.

She was in the parade ring with old Jim driving her as a warm up when they called for the horses to come to the track-----I grabbed her by the bridle as the driver took over from Jim but before I let go, I threw a hand full of dirt in her mouth.
Jim looked at me and said "What the fuck was that"
I had just thought that if she was so worried about trying to clear the shit out of her mouth, she wouldn't be thinking about the barrier-----and she didn't----she charged out as they said go and they never saw which way she went----she won the trial and the stewards lifted the ban.

One week later she was at the races---Jim said to me not to get caught throwing dirt in her mouth----he was down in the mouth himself when she left the parade ring with no dirt----"she will gallop away and get banned again" he said----I laughed and told him to have faith----she stepped away and won as she liked.
When she returned to the stall with a very jubilant crowd around her I said to Jim "take that rubber band off her ear before it cuts of the circulation"----he looked and realised that it was just another way to take her mind off the barrier.
Granite Rose retired two years later winning 13 of her next 21 starts

She was a bitch but we respected each other-----of course she had the last laugh---I still have the scar of the biggest love bite a guy has ever had--oh, and as promised, I did bite her back

Jim and I never told anyone what we did----It was different nearly every time and we used the ideas over and over with barrier rogues


mapstew said...

Aren't you the crafty fecker now?!
well done.

(The Irish Connection? I like the sound of that!)


Dutch Sugar Babe said...

"I scratched her behind the ear and patted her chest" (GIRLS like that)

Hmmm, I don't know how I feel about this ;)

Granite Rose, what a great name for a strong willed horse who loves to give love bites.

savannah said...

if only it was that easy with people, sugar! ;~D xoxox

Anonymous said...

An 87 yr old trainer knows her horses.


Ponita in Real Life said...

The patting of chest I wouldn't mind, but I think I would prefer a kiss behind the ear rather than a scratch... ;-)

Clyde said...


Crafty, I'm not sure----it's like everything else in life---think outside the square and get the job done
There are not fixed rules with horses or children

Clyde said...


It was more the patting and massaging her chest---but of course it is not the breast of a horse.
Oh she was strong willed and I love that in a horse---ha, and a woman

Clyde said...


It is not a lot harder
You just have to establish what part you can take in their life---you have to work on it----establish the trust

Clyde said...


Indeed an 87yo knows---but if they know horses as the individuals that they are, then they are still prepared to learn from others.
A fine lady she was

Clyde said...


A little gentle scratch behing the ear can be a fine thing---it's all in the touch

Macy said...

Loving the horse stories Clyde! too bad there's no to see what that world looked like.

Clyde said...


Ha, horse people can be very superstitious----don't take photos before they win a race, don't jinx after the race, we might not win another one----
I have some photos---just have to figure out how to use my scanner in the printer

-eve- said...

Oh, this was interesting! Ingenious :-)

Clyde said...

There are a lot of ways to get things done----some very simple---you just have to think outside the square

Barlinnie said...

I'm with the Map man on this one Clyde.

Clyde said...

Something to do with the Scottish upbringing from my Grandfather.
Very canny old man----there is always a way and it is usually simple

Sister Christian said...

That's a pretty cool story. How did she take being bitten back? But anyway, that was smart to get her thinking about other stuff. The more I read about horses, the more I actually start to see the similarity with children. Not in a bad way, but there is the occasional child that is a bit more challenging than the others. It's all in your approach and showing no fear. Not only that, but you gotta have the patience for it and love what you're doing and you my dear Clyde, very obviously love working with horses.
13 out of 21 is pretty awesome.

Clyde said...

Sister Deb
Ah, she took it the same as every other horse that I've bitted---pure scock---but Rosie never gave up---she kept on trying me out---I loved her for that----never beaten.
You are exactly right---treat them like a child who is willing to learn and they can---treat them with care and respect----hey, I love kids too but today that seems to be a crime for men---

Shelly Rayedeane said...

Hmmm. My dad is irish.

Clyde said...

Hmm----And I'm not sure what to do with that

Spiky Zora Jones said...

Clyde're a clever one, aren't you?

You tell a story like a true bard. You hade me from the beigining. And released me at the very end.

I only have one request sweetheart...

More please.

ciao honey. xx

Clyde said...

Ah Miss Jones
I always wanted to have you from the beginning----but I'm not sure that I could release you in the end.
My life with horses is a never ending story--love and hate
Maybe some more