So you’ve been around the horse block a few times. You’ve taken lessons for years, been to shows, ridden a few greenies, heck, maybe even gone fox hunting. But there’s one thing on your equestrian bucket list you haven’t ticked off that’s been there since you first saw The Black Stallion when you were eight years old…
You need to gallop a racehorse. On a track. Preferably against another racehorse.
I finally got that chance last year. Here’s what I learned:
1. No matter what your horse experience, thoroughbred trainers will automatically assume you suck.
They will smirk when you try to regale them with tales of equestrian glory – then counter with their own story about the time they broke their back, but got back on to gallop one more horse anyway.
2. Racehorses quickly morph from puppy dogs to grenades.
You can love on 'em all you want at the barn, but as soon as you swing a leg over their back and take them out on the track, they're all business. Imagine riding a tightly-coiled spring that could unwind at the slightest provocation – a bird that decides to land on the track; some tree branches blowing in the breeze; someone scratching their nose on the rail. Now just take a deep breath, because horses can sense when you’re nervous, ya know?
3. Unless you ride racehorses, you aren't fit enough to ride racehorses.
When I first galloped a racehorse, I was riding 2-3 horses a day, flat work and jumping. I galloped one mile on a track and the lactic acid build up in my legs made it impossible to walk properly for the next three days. I was also breathing so hard I couldn’t speak. I may have been breathing so hard I tasted blood. I can't remember clearly because I was also dizzy and felt like I was going to faint.
4. You eat dirt.
Horses galloping next to you kick up dirt. A lot of dirt. Dirt will be in your mouth and all over your face. Goggles are essential. They’re not just for looking badass.
5. I am afraid.
I am afraid. I am afraid of falling. I am afraid of going faster than 28 miles/hr on the back of a horse. That is my limit. I am comfortable admitting that now. When we reached 32 mph I almost started crying. I would’ve started crying, but I couldn’t breathe (refer to #3). I thought I was going to die. I stared at my own mortality. It was edifying. But not something I want to experience again.
I would still recommend galloping a race horse if you get the chance. It’s all about the experience.