It has long been a dream of mine to sit in a sulky driven by a qualified driver behind a really fast racehorse and tear up the racetrack. And survive (that last part is kind of crucial).
I can now proudly say I’ve experienced that dream and lived to tell about it.
Last month the Grand River Raceway invited me to take part in a media race and of course, I said yes. Who wouldn’t? Life is too short not to take advantage of that kind of opportunity.
Besides, I knew my Dad would be super proud, so I had to live the dream for both of us.
Also, it was about conquering my fears. I am a chicken in most things that involve speed and a complete lack of control, including large animals with minds of their own.
And while we’re at it, harness racing drivers are intimidating too because those folks have a strange obsession with speed and living on the edge, which counter-balances my love of expected outcomes and you know, not getting hurt.
These competitive athletes have an irrational fearlessness that, although typically a really sexy characteristic, is also a reckless one.
Drivers seem to enjoy that whole life-on-the-edge-of-death thing that really doesn’t bode well for my whole rational desire to live thing.
Having had the honour to interview the likes of Trevor Henry and Carl Jamieson only made me want to do this more. It’s one thing to write about horse racing, it’s another thing altogether to experience it.
Before I knew it, I was in a racing suit, sporting Jody Jamieson’s colours, with big bug-eyed goggles and a giant helmet on my head. I looked like a bizarre cross between Roger Ramjet and Gazoo (Flintstones).
Real drivers can pull this look off. I could not. I didn’t care. This was no time to be fussy.
Before I knew it I was sitting in a cart and this kid jumped in beside me, shook my hand and said he was my driver.
Bobby McClure was almost half my age and had that look in his eye that suggested adrenaline was never quite enough to satisfy his danger quotient. Instinctively, I trusted him. Gulp.
But the real star of the show was Echos Black Dress, a horse on a mission to hit the track running full steam ahead, or at least, it felt like full steam to me.
Did I mention there were no seatbelts?
We took our place on the inside track. This was getting real. The starting car sped up and we were off.
I will never forget the thunder of the hooves, the force of that beautiful horse who was born to run, the feeling my heart was going to pound out of my rib cage and the pure adrenaline rush on every turn, getting to that finish line.
Nothing else mattered but that moment. In a split second, it could all go wrong, yet I never felt more alive.
Sometimes, you have to hold on and let go at the same time.
I won long before we crossed the finish line, because I found the courage to take the ride of a lifetime. So what if I got dirt in my teeth (note to self: don’t smile while racing horses).
That was the taste of victory.
Writing has been my passion since I learned how to hold a pencil (which I still cannot do properly). Despite my father’s insistence that I would starve to death in this career, I remain well fed and eager to write more. They say you should do what you love: I love to write.