“The three men walk to the stable tents just shy of four in the morning. The blackness of the sky starts to erode but their vision is still obscured by the fog curling up between the green mountains. When they reach their barn’s aisles of horses, the horses whinny and snort; their new company surprises them from their sleep. The three men begin emptying, scrubbing, and refilling the horses’ water buckets. One man tosses each horse four thick flakes of grassy hay, still a lively green from its time in the hay fields twenty miles away from the horse show.
“‘¡Eh! ¡Francisco! ¿Dónde están las tijeras?’ calls Carlos. Francisco grabs the scissors from inside the tack room and tosses them over the stall wall to Carlos. Carlos cuts the baling twine on a new bale of hay and continues handing out the morning ration. Manuel starts giving out the pre-measured grain to each horse, complete with joint supplements and cherry-flavored electrolytes.
“At 4:15 the three of them begin prepping four of the horses for the 5 a.m. lesson that the barn trainer has scheduled for some of the teenage girls showing later that day. They groom each horse to a brilliant sheen with curry mitts and soft horse-hair brushes, and put on their saddles. They check that all of the leather attachments are clean and in good condition and then walk the horses a mile down to the warm-up rings. They talk to each other and watch the pink diffuse across the sky.” —from “The Invisible Workers” by Lauren Duffy (http://college.holycross.edu, 2010)
“Seven a.m. The sun is cresting over the hills, filling the stable yard with soft light. The green grass in the quaintly fenced pastures is idyllic and inviting. Sparrows trill noisily from the eaves, but inside the barn the horses are quiet. Felipe*, a short but solidly built Hispanic man with close-cropped hair and kind eyes, glances briefly toward the grass as he crosses the gravel parking lot. He smiles, crows’ feet furrowing as he reveals crooked but bright white teeth. Felipe doesn’t stop walking; there’s no time to fully appreciate the perfect spring morning. He is focused on the seemingly endless list of chores he must squeeze into the ten-hour workday ahead. The prospect doesn’t faze him. While the work is challenging, Felipe loves the horses.
“’You need a lot of discipline, and I enjoy that,’ he says in rapid-fire Spanish. ‘Sometimes they don’t want to do what you ask. I like to try to figure out what they’re thinking.’” —from “El Poder del Immigrant” by Katy George (http://ethosmagonline.com, 2010)
“The fidgety thoroughbreds stick out their tongues and flap their lips as Pedro Esquibias squirts tubes of goopy medicine into their mouths.
“‘It tastes really bad,’ he says, wiping horse drool on his long-sleeved sweatshirt after Position A, a 3-year-old colt, gets a dose.
“Esquibias administers the medication each morning at 4:30 a.m. and again about six hours later, day after day. Days off come only once every couple of weeks in his role as stable foreman on the 35-person crew that works for trainer Richard Mandella and cares for 33 horses during a six-week stint at the Del Mar racetrack.
“All but a few of the workers have names like Jose, Pedro, Felipe and Margarita. The assistant trainer shouts instructions in Spanish. Latin tunes emanate from the overhead speakers.
“From Del Mar to Delaware and Kentucky to western Washington, racetrack backstretches are populated by workers from Mexico and Central and South American countries. The jobs range from the hotwalkers who lead horses around in a monotonous circle to the more experienced exercise riders who take the thoroughbreds for a spin on the track.” —from “A Fine Fit: Horsemen and Thoroughbreds” by Paula Lavigne, (http://sports.espn.go.com, 2009)
The Ultimate English/Spanish Dictionary for Horsemen/El Mejor Diccionario Para Equitadores Ingles/Espanol by Maria Belknap is now available from the TSB online bookstore, where shipping in the US is always FREE.