Sunday, 4 March 2007
What do you want to be when you grow up?
My dad was a jockey. How cool is that? I used to be embarassed by this because it meant we were all short. But then I learned that short was cute and cute was good. My dad is short and cute.
Then someone once told me that him being a jockey also meant that he used to be a professional athlete. Now that is seriously cool. Especially to a child. This boast brought me lots of street cred.
He was a good jockey. He was the leading apprentice jockey and I've seen some of his trophies and awards. I've read the newspaper articles out of the sports sections extolling his genius. (I already know that - don't need a newspaper to point out my father is a genius.) I've seen the photographs of him in the winner's circle. I'm even in a couple of those photos usually wearing matching outfits with my proud mom (complete with hats, gloves and matching shoes). This was the 60s.
I once asked my dad if he ever got hurt riding. He said yeah. Then I asked if he had ever broken any bones. He said yeah. Then I asked which one. He said "Pretty much all of them."
That's when I realised this is a dangerous sport. Not like football, basketball, or baseball. I mean really dangerous. A very small person (the smallest you can find) gets up on a large powerful beast. This person then encourages this beast to run as fast as it possibly can around a whole bunch of other people encouraging their beast to do the same. This is madness.
He once fell off the leading horse and just rolled up into a ball hoping that none of the horses behind him run on top of him. Luckily, he escaped without any serious, permanent injuries.
Riding was a good living. Dad was real proud of the fact that he bought a brand new car with cash at 21 years old.
He stopped riding when I was about 6, I think. Riding is a hard life. You have to travel from race course to race course. Not an easy thing to do and still raise a family. He had friends who stayed in the business. One of his best friends, Brad Rollins, just recently passed away. He had stopped riding but was still training horses.
When asked if he had always wanted to be a jockey he would tell you "No, it's just that I was good at it and I was so small no one would hire me to do anything else."
Dad decided to try his hand at owning and training once. We bought a horse called Tommy Rock. He was a bum horse but he was beautiful. Couldn't run to save his life. Dad did try real hard. We sold him on and I think he became a successful show horse (like I said - he was beautiful).
My son Sebastian is a natural in the saddle and today if you ask him what he wants to be he'll tell you a jockey. We watched a film called "Dreamer" about "Sonador" a filly with a broken leg who went on to win the Breeder's Cup. Here is the true story. At the end of the film, Sebastian announced "That was a fabulous film. I bet I'll ride like that some day." I know his popa did!