And so, it has begun.
When I first arrived at the powerhouse known as Godolphin on a Sunday afternoon, for the first time in a long time I was quite intimidated. Having the honour of spending the next 4.5 months at Osborne Park is nothing short of a privilege.
My first day at Godolphin was filling out paperwork, trying on the uniforms and getting a tour of the facility in detail followed by my afternoon shift of sweeping and mucking out the stables.
Tuesday was quite honestly, challenging. Not from a physical aspect, but a mental one. Due to renovations and maintenance being undertaken at one end of the barn, the job of emptying out as many stables as possible was mine to tackle. I am proud to say, with sawdust up to my shins I emptied 8 extra-large stables – it was a big job.
Wednesday saw me lying in bed willing myself to get up on a very chilly morning to start my early shift, but once I arrived at my barn, I was given the news that I would be moving barns.
Upon arriving at the new barn, the beginning of my horse handling began and I was immediately thrown into the craze of a gallop morning. I was handed horse after horse to give a sand roll, hose, place on the walker and then groom after their morning exercise. Did I feel the pressure of being competent and doing the job well and properly? Yes! But did I love the challenge? ABSOLUTELY!
Wednesday afternoon saw me heading down to the quarantine stables and spelling paddocks, where the likes of Hartnell, Alizee, Flit and Kementari are happily enjoying their well-deserved holiday. My favourite horse to handle in the spelling paddocks was Hartnell, who although he is an amazing athlete, is the sweetest and most gentle horse you could ever meet …. Even though he hates rugs!
Thursday was spent entirely in the barn, handling horses and doing the usual jobs but with a difference. When executing a task, I was met with the gentle teachings of my foreman, who not only showed me how to do something in more than one way, but whose feedback and advice boosted my confidence and allowed me upon reflection to learn my first big lesson: ‘doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will’.
Friday morning was where I learnt my other job description, designated freelance stable hand. When other barns need help, the call over the radio of “is Soph free for a minute” comes and off to the job I go. What I really like about being a floater around the property is it allows me to learn something different from each foreman or office person every time I enter the premises. It also allows for the inner racing fan to come out and quietly be in awe of horses such as Osborne Bulls and Home of the Brave, who are a few of the superstars calling Osborne Park home. Friday afternoon was spent being the designated Aqua Treadmill watcher to which was quite tricky when you had a naughty colt who either didn’t want to get off or who was to busy attempting to paw all the water out of the aqua treadmill before he was in.
Saturday morning was busy! Thirty-five horses galloping on the track, multiple horses leaving for races and barn cats who were causing horses to go sideways gave me the opportunity to observe how people handle horses so well when they are simply walking them. I was lucky to be able to practice what I had observed as the rain caused all the colts (and the filly I was handling) to carry on when walking from the day yards to their stables. The biggest thing I took from that walk was to stay calm and go with the horse as best as I could.
Finally, Sunday came around and I must say it was a quiet day at the stables. This quiet day allowed me to ask the questions I had been curious about all week e.g. why some horses spend more time on the aqua treadmill than the walker during the week and does diet play more of a part in conditioning than the exercise does.
Looking forward to the next several months, I am excited to see how my horsemanship skills can continue to advance. Hopefully one race day in the near future I’ll be walking around the mounting yard, proud to be presenting a top horse at the races. This first week has caused me to look at all the possibilities out there, and in the wise words of Dr Suess “it’s not about what is, it’s about what it can become.”