Saturday, 14 November 2009


I heard him before I ever saw him
I heard him screaming, I heard the scrambling in the horse transport as it pulled up.
I was helping a "friend" (Gordon) run his Thoroughbred stable near the beach.
I heard him scramble down the tailgate of the transport and heard him skidding on the bitumen road----I heard him squealing like he was in pain.

I ran out of the stable to see this unruly little beast rearing and backing away from a man who held his lead rope
I saw the fire in his eyes, but it was the fire of fear.

There was an argument going on----"I don't want him, take him home"---"But you said you would take him and I've driven 150 miles to get here"----"He looks like a fucking pit pony, you told me that he would make a jumper"---"He can jump, he's qualified to race in hurdles"-----"I don't care, I don't want the little shit, he's a brumby, take him home"
All of the time this poor little beast was running around on the end of the rope and screaming his lungs out.

I walked up and grabbed the rope and said to the two blokes "look, you argue it out, I'm taking him inside for a drink and a feed"

The little horse looked at me like Satan had taken him by the tail but I grabbed him close and said to him "Come on son, we can give you something for your trouble"
He snorted and pulled back, the fire of fear in his eyes, but with me talking to him all of the way, we wrestled our way to the water trough----I think he nearly drank it dry---I let him loose in the sand roll yard and he was playing hard and rearing when I came back with an armful of lucerne hay"
I thought he was going to eat me as he pushed me out of the way and tore into the hay in front of him"
He was quieter but kept his eye on me---the fear was still there---there was no trust----he was small for a thoroughbred and those feet---they looked the size of dinner plates.
I left him to his feast and joined in on the argument still raging in the street.

"Look, Gordon, I know that you don't want him, but there is something about him that I like, so if you won't take him, I will"
Gordon looked at me like I had betrayed him to the enemy---"Clyde, you don't know what you are talking about---I told you that I would get you a horse, but not this little fucking pit pony"
I looked at his owner and said "Will you lease him to me and one of the stable riders---I'll give him a chance"
The war was over----it was agreed that he could stay and that I would pay his keep along with one of the stable riders.

My first horse---I went back to him, and he turned his rump on me and lashed out---"Hey Hey, little fella, come on, we have to get along or you might be going home"--he looked at me and snorted---his eyes were still full of fear----I stood there til he approached and stroked his face---he tried to savage the fingers that soothed him---I clipped a long lunging rein to his head collar and walked him out to the street.

"Changed your mind Clyde"----"no no, if he's gonna work on the beach he had better see it first"
No one rode him for a week---I led him to the beach every day and lunged him on the end of the rein on the sand and walked him up to his chest in the water---he was getting to trust me and I needed him to.

At the end of the week I put a bit in his mouth with a light bridle and took him deeper into the sea---he wasn't sure and pulled back but I kept encouraging him and talking to him til he finally kicked off and was swimming----I slipped onto his back and rode him back out of the water----we walked and talked for a good five miles, in and out of the water----he was starting to relax----there was another week of this and all of the time filling him with as much as he would eat.

My partner, the stable rider (Gary) came back from his holiday to the news of his new horse----he took one look at him and wanted out----it took some time but I talked him into giving the little bloke 12 weeks and if he showed nothing in ability, we would send him home.
The next morning I saddled him and sent him off with Gary to slow gallop him for five miles to the breakwater and plunge and rush him though the water on the way home.----he dumped Gary in the water and came home himself----I caught him on the beach and he seemed very pleased with himself----he acted like a naughty little boy.
Next morning it was the same work and he tried to get rid of Gary again but they came home together.
He developed a trust in Gary and I was his best friend but he would try to savage anyone else who went into his yard----oh, he hated Gordon (my mate the trainer)---the poor woman who owned the stables was on the end of some of his tantrums.
His 12 weeks was up and Gary wanted to see some results for his money---
Gordon had a good staying mare going to the track for a good searching training gallop----I borrowed another horse float and took the little bloke to the track

Gary had to ride Gordon's mare so I grabbed a jumping jockey friend of mine and sent the little bloke out to work with the mare.
Gordon had arranged a gallop with another horse from another stable----was not happy, but as long as the little bloke didn't get in their way, he could tag along.
They all warmed up just bowling along for a mile up to the 12 furlong start---they jumped out and warmed into their work---the little bloke tagging on behind---5 furlongs from home they started to get serious---the mare and her work partner side by side into the straight and two furlongs from home they really turned it on and sprinted to the post----both trainers very happy with their charges and oblivious to the fact that the little bloke had finished right on their tails.

I had unsaddled the little bloke and was hosing him down when Gary appeared and said that he didn't think that we should go on with the little bloke---before I could answer the jumping jockey said "what are you talking about son, I could have pulled out around both of you but Clyde told me to just let him run to the line"
Gary changed his mind and we went on.

We had a problem---the trainer only held an owner trainers licence, so if the little bloke was to race from his stable, Gordon had to be a part owner and had to sign the lease papers as a part owner and as the trainer.
I got the papers from the jockey club, filled in my part and Gary's part and gave them to Gordon with the registration fees to complete his part and register them with the Jockey Club.
I looked though the racing program and saw a race that I thought would suit the little bloke----he was qualified as a jumping horse and there was a jumpers flat race (a flat race for qualified jumpers with jumps jockeys to ride) in two weeks.
I got Gordon to nominate him with my friend the jumps jockey as his rider.

I checked the nominations on the Monday and there we were----but there was a lot of horses nominated---we probably wouldn't get a run---Thursday morning came and there it was---we were in-----I could not have been more excited----I grabbed my brother and my best friend and told them to be there because I thought that the little bloke had a good show.
Saturday morning I got to the stable at 5am---I gave the little bloke some breakfast and took him for a walk in the water------hosed him down and had him brushed out and tidied up ready to go
I transported him to the track myself and walked the stable parade ring for 30 minutes with him to calm down---he hadn't raced for two years so had to go through an inspection that upset him and had him very much on the toe-----
I was walking the parade ring with him when my brother caught my eye---he told me that the opening betting had him at 40/1---I told him not to worry til late and to have $100 each way on him just before the jump.
The saddle arrived from the weight room so I stabled the little bloke and saddled him up----they were ready---he was due in the mounting enclosure parade ring----he was snorting, he broke out in a sweat, he reared like his old brumby self---the others scattered away from him.
My jockey came out to mount up and said "Christ Clyde, will he get to the barrier or am I going for a rodeo ride"----I said to him "Hey, he knows you, just stand with me and talk to him til the stewards get shitty and make you mount up, then talk to him all the way to the barrier----and then he's yours---and remember how he worked that morning with the mare---well ride him like that but make him run home from the two furlongs and we will be in this"
He mounted up and I led my little bloke onto the track---I talked to him, I patted his neck, I walked him for 100 yards til they told me that I had to let him go and left him to the jockey.

I met my brother in the grandstand and he told me that he had my bet on at 60/1---but then he said "Look in the race book----look at the owner of the horse"
I looked and there it was---the only owner in the book was Gordon the trainer---Gary came over and asked what was going on---I said that we would sort it out after the race, that it must have something to do with Gordon's owner/trainers licence.

The fairy tale came true---Club Spirit (the little bloke) sprinted past the leaders to win by three lengths running away
In all of the excitement, the ownership issue didn't get raised til we were back home at the stables----Gordon explained that the horses owner wanted to lease it to him only but the prize money would be handed over to Us when it arrived.

It never happened and there was nothing that we could do about it----everyone involved except Gary and I, thought that he was Gordon's horse.

The little bloke hated Gordon and I stayed at the stables for the horses sake.
Club Spirit won the three biggest Steeplechase races in South Australia and ran second in the two biggest chases in Australia, getting an invitation to race in Japan and England----he never went.
He made Gordon into a public trainer with horses sent to him from wealthy owners.

I had to leave---I just couldn't stay with a man like that anymore.
He retired Club Spirit to what I thought would be a good home----the little bloke had made him a trainer and had won him a lot of money.

Gordon's daughter rang me and told me that the little bloke had been sent to Anna Creek Station---it was like a salt bush desert----just enough food to survive but Gordon didn't have to pay for him.
I rang the station owners who told me that Gordon had given them the horse---I bought him from them and sent him to a friends irrigated farm and paid for his keep for the rest of his life---of course he lived for another 12 years

Club Spirit---thank you for the trust---I'm sorry that I left you with that bastard but I'm glad that you enjoyed retirement----and you will be glad to know that Gordon actually has a heart---well had one, because he had a heart attack and died 10 years before you.
You were a champion


Anonymous said...

Poor wee horse.

A least he lived a good life to his end.


Jimmy Bastard said...

Nice story... I love horses myself. Especially with a nice crispy salad.

savannah said...

great story, sugar! i've enjoyed watching horse races, but i have to admit, all the backstory i know come from dick francis' mystery novels! xoxoxo

Ponita in Real Life said...

Clyde, you're an angel! I'm so glad you bought Spirit back and gave him a good retirement... and that he outlasted Gordon.

I am a horseowner myself, not racing, just pleasure riding and some local showing in Western shows, but am so with you on how they should be treated. People who mistreat them raise my ire to unbelievable levels!!

So many people just don't realize the sensitivity they have, the emotions they are capable of, the the devastation harsh treatment can have on them.

You have my eternal respect, Clyde. Thank you. xoxoxo

Ponita in Real Life said...

@Jimmy: You are soooo bad!!!

Macy said...

Clyde - great story. Gordon only got the money, you got the karma

Clyde said...


He was a funny little bugger
In the end he was turned out on great pasture with other horses yet stood alone watching cows in the next paddock---we put him in with the cows and he loved it

Clyde said...


He liked a good crispy salad himself---and a finger or two
Very much like your boys--it was trust he craved.
Even at the age of 18, I was his only human friend

Clyde said...


There are some awful stories behind the racing of horses--In the end, I could only associate with people who had a love and respect for the horse

Clyde said...


My greatest regret in life is losing my balance to ride and fast drive harness racing horses.
It shouldn't matter what the animal is--human, horse, dog--if you don't respect them, then don't be with them.
Horses are not toys that you can put away at the end of the day and forget about them.
You get out of a horse, only what you put in

Clyde said...


Oh, Gordon got his---used the money to build his own big stable complex but lost it all on too many slow horses.
I heard that the little bloke got his revenge many times with Gordon.
Good boy

Anonymous said...

I liked the ending the best.

Clyde said...


I'm glad it could end that way for him
He taught me a lot about horses and people
Sometimes I like horses better


I Loved this story, Clyde.
How people treat animals sometimes is awful. Thank God for kind hearted horse whisperers like you.

Clyde said...


I'll swear that sometimes they understand me.
But I know that they feel my heart and I see theie pain
I love the trust that they give me

Jimmy Bastard said...

Clyde, I cannae think of a better friend he could have had. Nicely told, and the ending spoke volumes about the bitterness you felt inside.

Clyde said...

Sometimes it is the beasts we think so helpless that bring the best out in us.
Sometimes it is the people who others think are so hopeless that bring the best
The money that he won would have been good but the trust that he showed me meant more than money could buy
He gave me an ability among troubled beasts and men

Shelly Rayedeane said...

What a beautiful story Clyde.

Venom said...

Clyde - you're after my own heart, as you know.

p.s. I told you others besides you & I would like the horse stories...

Dutch donut girl said...

Anyone who truly cares about animals -domestic or wild- is a hero in my book. Riding a racing horse sounds/looks scary, though.

p.s. you deserve a donut! Go buy one ;)

Clyde said...


He was a life worth talking about

Clyde said...

A life spent around horses gives you plenty to talk about.
Like other animals, their lives are far too short.
I would love to be taking him to the beach again

Clyde said...


Unfortunately I lost my balance somewhere in my life, so I dont ride anymore
But who wouldn't care for animals--they are willing to trust us, so why betray that.
I'll only have the donut when I can share it with you

phishez said...

Lovely story Clyde. Truly. He sounded like an awful horse, but the kind you really could love.

Clyde said...


It is almost like children---a product of environment.
He was a sweetheart compared to some that I have taken on and the trust and respect that we had for each other in the end was like having a girlfriend.
I would never hit a girl and have never hit an animal.
Geez, he did give me a love bite or two.
Maybe thats why people have given me so many problem horses over the years

Sister Christian said...

Aaaww! Such a sweet story, but sad because of the injustice done. Club Spirit definitely sounds like a one of a kind.
Also, I should know better than to read a story about animals before I go somewhere. I'm gonna be a little teary eyed for the next hour or so with this story in my head.
Do you have anymore stories about horses? You should definitely write more.

Spiky Zora Jones said...

dang...i was reading and I get a call to a last minute meeting.

i'll be

Clyde said...

Sister Deb

The only injustice was done to a very gallant little horse.
To gain his trust was something very special
I loved it when I forgot and took him for granted and he would remind me very quickly---he would bite but only gently or kick something very close to me

Clyde said...

Miss Jones

I'll be waiting for your return
Should I pour the champagne, dice the cheese and slice the strawberries ?

*s* said...

The racing game is fucking cruel. My old man is heavily involved in it and it would break your heart...if you had one after working in that industry long enough.

Nicely told hun.

Clyde said...

My greatest problem is that I have a love for the horses and if I can give them the best then I cant be with them----kinda like women.
That's why I changed to harness racing because I could work with an old trainer who had a love of the horse and great knowledge of horses-----something called respect.