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Part 3

11 September 2017
Part 3

Bridleless

03 September 2017
Bridleless

Trimming

08 August 2017
Trimming

Maverick

01 August 2017
Maverick

Page 2: Ebony

13 July 2017
Page 2: Ebony

Part 1: Echo

13 July 2017
Part 1: Echo

Part 3

 From the age of thirteen, I was into harness racing. I followed racehorses through the paper, cut out all the pictures and kept them in scrap books with race results recorded as well. In the late 70's and through the 80's it was a glamour time in racing. The cup races were televised with extended coverage and I was well and truly hooked into it. I pestered Mum to take me to Forbury Park which was hard work as she found it boring. Master Mood and Tussle were real favourates back then, real champions.

When I was 15 I decided to do my weeks work experience in a racing stable at Waikouaiti. I was so nervous ringing the trainer to ask, that I had to write down my lines and rehearse them with mum first! It was just as I thought, I loved it!! My first drive was a horse called Just Dee (Joe), and he became the first Standardbred I took off the track when he was sacked. He was a neat horse old Joe.

After that week I went up every weekend for a few months, and before long I was offered a job. I jumped at the chance, and left school.

They were a staunch lot, it was not the fluffy world of ponies that I was used to. I had to harden up to fit in. There was the roping of horses and a lot of extremely harsh and dominating treatment. I had absolutely no idea of any other method for working with horses and just went along with it. I'd often question myself as to whether I could make it in the industry, because these methods generated some extreme reactions from some of the horses. With me not being a gutsy kid, it scared me at times.

One day a big yearling arrived for training, he looked like a quarter horse rather than a racehorse. Andy became my bosses pride and joy, he was sure he was destined to be a winner. I arrived back in with some horses I'd been jogging one day and noticed my boss and several other guys were putting ropes on Andy. They dropped him to the ground, and tied his legs up so he couldn't move an inch, then pulled one of his hind legs right forward. "What are you doing?" I asked my boss.

"We're gelding him" he replied. And with that one of the men whipped out a big scalpel blade and proceeded to cut the skin around his testicles. Andy was squealing and groaning, and the squealing became more like a scream as clamps and other bits and pieces were applied. It seemed to take ages, the guys talked and laughed about the fuss he was making. I felt really sorry for Andy, I had no idea that this was illegal or that he should have had pain relief etc.. I'll never forget the noise he made, I've never heard it again. It was awful to hear him in such agony. Andy recovered and ended up winning 2 races. He had the potential to win many races, but his anxiety let him down at the start. He had severe emotional problems, he couldn't cope very well with life and when I think back now, it's no wonder.

It was hard work and long hours. There wasn't time for fussing over horses, but me being me I still had my favourates. I loved the racing game and was happy to be doing what I loved. At some point everyone working horses long enough gets tipped out of the cart. My first one happened to be a doozie! I was jogging a big old horse called The Shiek in what we called "The Chariot". It was a solid cart and was used for jogging multiple horses. On either side of Shiek we had a horse tied to each shaft and I was leading a horse called Vinny behind me. Vinny was a pain because he dragged along and it made the 40 minute jog an nightmare. It was tempting to just wrap his rope around the bar by my seat so he was putting his weight on that and not me. I had been told never to do this, but this particular day I was over it so I wrapped the rope around the bar. For 20 mins it worked brilliantly, until Vinny spooked at something, pulled back and it flipped one side of the cart up and out I went! I was dragging along on my front holding the reins still, but the noise spooked The Sheike and he took off so I had to let go. They careered around the track, turned off the track, out onto the road and were heading towards the beach at a flat out gallop. I could hardly breath while running the 400m back to the stables. My boss grabbed the truck and we took off down the road. I was so scared, I knew I was in huge trouble and was terrified at what sort of wreck we might find. As we got along the road we came upon one of the wheels off the chariot, we followed the scrape marks to the end of the road and round the bend. We could see the end of the road was marked with a cattle stop going into a property. My heart sank, what were the odds of The Sheike with the chariot on, minus a wheel and the two horses tied on each side having gotten over the cattle stop in one piece. We couldn't see them so knew they must have gone over. We drove up the steep hill to find the horses at the top. We caught The Shieke and checking them all over, it was a miracle that they were all in one piece! I think my boss was so relieved at the outcome that he didn't actually ask me too many questions, so I managed to learn an important lesson and still keep my job!!

I did have another beauty during fast work one day where a bit of the running rail popped off, dropped down and went through the spokes of my wheel which instantly catapulted me through the air and a long way up the track where I bit the dust. Fortunately I wasn't seriously injured!

I worked for several trainers over the years. In hindsight, some were not particularly good horsemen and lacked stock sense. They hadn't spent a lifetime around horses, rather were attracted to the glamour of the industry and horses were part of it. Horses were treated more like machines rather than as an individual with their own mind. This was all I knew so I never really questioned it, but I personally didn't think of the horses as machines. It was definitely very regimented, there were no allowances made for different types of horses.

From a small child I've always loved animals and have huge empathy for them. I can't handle them suffering. Even my Granny squashing slaters when gardening was too much for me! I always went ahead and tried to scoop them up putting them somewhere else before Granny came along. :D For all animals their number one priority is to survive and they fight hard to survive. I've never had the heart to kill anything, and I don't think I ever will. I struggled with the number of horses who went to "Gore" (Abattoir) Young horses, most under 5, their lives gone for not being fast enough to race. In those days Standardbreds were not valued at all as riding horses, no one wanted them. It was heartbreaking to see many of my favourate characters head down the road without getting a real chance at life.

 

I learnt a lot in those years. I saw pretty much every leg injury known to horses... from splints and curbed hocks to fractures and numerous types of tendon injuries, hoof abscesses and so on. I also saw many colics, viruses and infectious diseases such as strangles and wind/ respiratory problems. I learned to detect problems early, how to treat and manage those various ailments and injuries, and over the years since, that knowledge has served me well in my work with horses and saved me a fortune with my own! I learned to tack on shoes, break in horses to harness and went on to break close to 150 horses over those 6 years. I gained the NZ Certificate of Equine Practice and in my final year of my Cadetship I finished second top. I drove workouts and trials and later gained my licence to train. I worked for trainers in NZ and Australia, I was very committed and worked hard. I made some great mates and had really good times, they were raucous and fun :D Great memories.... One in particular was Mum putting $1000 on the nose of a horse my boss and I were certain would win her race. She had to win for Mum to collect so it was a nervous watch. To everyone's delight Rosie did win and Mum got a return of almost $5000 :)

In my 6th year in the industry, I was beginning to lose my passion and drive. I couldn't really explain why but I began feeling that perhaps racing wasn't for me anymore.

There was one situation with a horse that I was struggling with internally. It was a stallion at the stable I was working for. He had been (and still would be regarded as) one of NZ's greatest ever racehorses. He was an absolute machine. He won all the big races, had incredibly fast times, and a record that stood for decades. His owner had turned down huge money at the time to keep him here. As a kid I was in awe of him. Sadly after his racing career, he had been a flop at stud, so after a few years he was getting no mares. I came to know him in is twilight years and was shocked to see how he lived. His owner had passed on and part of the condition of my boss using the facility was to look after him as well. I was told as I was shown around to stay well away from him...he was very aggressive. He lived in a small yard, and was scrawny and rough looking. When the guys went in to feed him, they darted under the rail waving a whip to keep him away. He would go out to a paddock sometimes, and getting him the 100m to it from his yard was a two man job. One to run leading him, and another ready with a whip in case he attacked his leader. I saw him attack a few times and it was scary, and the whip came out to get him off the leader. He would then go back into his dingy yard, and hide in his box for days. He was a miserable horse, and would self mutilate, tearing hunks of flesh out of his own shoulders. I asked my boss why he wasn't put to sleep, as surely it would be more humane. There was no way his owner would do that, he said. The stallions situation really affected me. It was so tragic that this magnificent horse, a legend of his time, was living out his final years this way.

I realise this is not what happens in all cases, but this was my experience.

The dream was coming to an end for me, the joy was gone. I loved horses, but in the end it wasn't what I was looking for anymore. I handed in my notice and went home to regroup and to decide to where to from here. Before long the decision was made, a complete change. I packed up and headed for England...

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Louisa Andrew
Phone: 0274 300 875
Email: louisa@manestreamequine.co.nz

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