a close call in the paddock

I always knew being around horses could be dangerous.  Horses are bigger and stronger than we are.  I had seen horses toss and even trample jockeys, the toughest athletes in sports.  I had seen horses get loose on the racetrack.  I had even seen horses get loose in the paddock a couple of times, but bolt away from the bystanders.

Yesterday, I experienced this danger firsthand.

Sunday’s Arlington opener was a maiden claimer with several lightly-raced horses.  A lot of what I do when I am at the track involves going down to the paddock, making notes on how horses are looking and acting, and sharing notable findings on Twitter.   Rarely is paddock observation more useful than in races like Sunday’s opener.  Maidens, particularly lightly-raced ones, can act out.  Knowing who may be running their race in the paddock is useful information, particularly when the bad actor sits at a short price.

I fired up my Periscope, blathered about my pick Rojo Rising (a well-behaved first-timer), and then started talking about my second pick.  That was Socksbdancing, on the rail.  He was in his saddling stall, a bit feisty.   I started talking about him.

Suddenly the horse next to him, He’s a Council, shook the grasp of his grooms.  He did not turn right, toward the fence.  He did not turn left, toward the other stalls.

He began to run straight at me.

I had two choices.  I could run, or I could duck.  Time slowed down enough to make me feel like I had time enough to assess these options.

At the time, running away felt like certain doom.  I can’t outrun a horse, and the last thing I wanted was to attract his attention and have him follow me.  Instead, I took a dive into the grass and braced myself to get stepped on.  If I got lucky, I wouldn’t be, and he would run right past me.  If not, I would be bruised or broken.

I peeped up, and saw that I was no longer directly in front of a loose horse.

Mr. D walked up to me, hand outstretched.  I shook the chairman’s hand, and assured him I was okay.  As dangerous as it could have been, it turned out as well as it could have.  He’s a Council didn’t touch me.  I was back on my feet.  No one else looked hurt, and the horse was back under control to the extent that his grooms could hold him.

I realised my Periscope stream was still running.  So, the show had to go on.  I tried to catch my breath.  I picked up where I left off about Socksbdancing, said a few words about my defensive third choice Scitech, and ended the stream.

Ironically, my issue with taking Scitech at a short price was the fact that he always seemed to act out in the paddock and the post parade.  On Sunday Scitech was once again no angel in the paddock, but he was not quite bad enough to shake off his groom and threaten my life.  Thank you, Scitech!

I expected He’s a Council to be scratched after he got loose in the paddock.  They instead gave him a few minutes, got the rider up, and let him hit the track.  Less than surprisingly, he acted up again closer to the gate and had to scratch anyway.  He will have to wait to make his racing debut.

Hopefully, he behaves a little better next time.  If no one has to take a dive into the grass, I’ll call that a win.

4 thoughts on “a close call in the paddock

  1. wow, that was scary, the vid looks like he kinda grazed you with his shoulder and knocked you down, glad to read that wasn’t the case :)
    …isn’t it ‘horse protocol’ when one gets loose to stay still, since, if they can see you, they can (and usually want to, stepping on/tripping over a human can mean falling/injury/death, and they instinctively know that) avoid you, but if you move, you may go in and out of their field of vision (especially if they have blinkers on)?

    • yes, i’ve heard it’s good to stay still. that said — i was far too close to the horse for that to be a viable option. by the time i took that dive into the grass, the horse was so close to me that he didn’t have time or space to change course.

  2. Hi Nicolle, I think this has happened at least once to just about everybody I know who is around racehorses a lot. Happened to me this past spring at Keeneland, in the morning while I was minding my own business in a very safe spot outside the barn. A horse – with a rider – refused to go in the barn and started running out of control straight at me, rider powerless to do anything. I also thought it best to just dive and the horse also barely missed me. So I think we both made the right move! Some time you must ask Jere about the horse that ran over him a few years ago – I think when they’re scared they run straight at the people who they feel are most spiritually connected to horses, the people who really feel them.

    • i hadn’t known that happened to you at Keeneland — glad you got out safely! i’m definitely not surprised that it has happened to so many people you know…i guess being around them a lot, it’s bound to at some point. clearly, it hasn’t kept me from coming back to be around them some more! :)

      and, i’ll have to ask Jere about that when i see him again. i’d love to hear that story.

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