Melissa Kite Melissa Kite

Real life | 10 March 2016

Whichever bit of a horse you worry about going wrong, another bit goes wronger. As Darcy just reminded me

‘Racing is 99.9 per cent disappointment,’ said the trainer philosophically, as I sat in the yard sipping coffee, waiting for the vet. She arrived in her pick-up a few minutes later and wound down her window.

‘Am I in the right place?’

‘I don’t know,’ he said, still in sardonic mode. ‘It depends what you’re looking for.’

I leapt up and showed her the way to the far stable, where Darcy was standing on only three good legs. The foot that trod on the screw was now fine and she was sound on it. But then, during a short hack on the common, she had gone suddenly very lame in front.

Imagine a large high-performance car poised on an axle not designed for its weight and four capricious tyres apt to blow on every outing, and then you’re some way to understanding a thoroughbred horse.

The buggeration of it all was that I was about to bring her home for the summer. Darcy had been enjoying her first season in training. She was the happiest she has ever been in the routine of the point-to-point yard, going out every morning with a jockey on top, who was sometimes me, to hack round the woods then gallop a circuit of the all-weather track.

But the attitude of the horse is only one element. Their deceptively strong-looking and yet endlessly fragile bodies have to stand up to the work.

A few weeks ago, the trainer had felt something so slight in her left foreleg that it was undetectable to anyone but him. ‘Maybe I’m imagining it,’ he said.

We rested her just in case and then as she was coming back into work she trod on a screw. So we rested her again. And then, as she came sound, we walked her back out, and she went lame in front.

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