Some say the world will end with fire.

Others say with ice.

From what I've tasted of desire

I hold with those that favor fire.

But if I had to perish twice,

I think I know enough of hate,

To say that for destruction ice,

Is also great and would suffice.

Robert Frost


"Good things come to those who wait, but, only the things LEFT by those who hustle." - Unknown (at least by me)

"Life is wonderful, without it you are dead." - Hy "Pete" Peterson - Park City and Kenecott Miner

"Don't worry about those people in your past---there is a reason they are not in your present." - Unknown

"Life's tough - it's even tougher if you're stupid." - John Wayne

"The only place success comes before work is in the dictionary!" - Vince Lombardi

"If you aren’t living on the edge, you’re probably taking up too much space.” ~ Attributed to Jim Whittaker by Doug ‘Swani’ Swantner, Alaska Smokejumper and Air Attack Base Manager (Ret.)

About Me

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I am married and have seven children and twenty grandchildren. I retired January 1, 2010 after working 39+ years for the Forest Service...NEW CHAPTER IN MY LIFE HAS BEGUN!

Thursday, June 3, 2010


I always loved race horses, ALWAYS. My grandfather owned some and a lot of my friends parents owned some. I always wanted to be a jockey. I started galloping horses when I was 21 getting them ready to be trained. I loved it. They are so big and strong and the workout you get from riding them is like running a mile for every half mile the horse runs. It is a tough sport. You have to be in really great shape to ride them. Just to give you an example of how hard it is squat on your haunches and bounce up and down for three minutes in a squat that resembles how a jockey sits on the saddle. Remember you are just doing the minor part of riding. In my opinion jockeys are the toughest athletes---bar none.

The very first horse I galloped they put me on to have a little fun at my expense. He was an old horse from the California tracks and he knew what he was doing. I was young and dumb and didn't have a clue. We went out on the track and I let him start galloping, at which point he just took off and ran away as hard as he could for a mile and a half. By the time we got there I was just trying to hang on and keep from passing out from lack of oxygen and had decided I was just going to hang on and hope I stayed in the saddle until the horse got tired, died or quit running.

I had just settled in to catch my breath and ride him out when he stopped, turned to the infield and stopped (saluted the track), and finished his turn and trotted back to where the winners circle is and stopped again. I slid off and thought I was going to die from lack of air. Everyone there was shocked that I had made all three rounds on horse that was in such good shape and was so hard to hold (just for the record---I rode him---I didn't hold him). The second time I rode him I figured out that if I responded faster on the reins pulling him up than he responded coming out of the turns I could hold him down the straight of ways and he just loafed around the turns so I got better at it. After several weeks of that they began to let me ride the better horses. I loved it.

Every week we would blow some of the horses. A blow is a race from a given point on the track to the finish line but without a starting gate and you try to keep your horse fairly close to the horse you are blowing against. That was always fun to let one go full out for a little distance. I can remember after this one of the owners standing by the track fence watching us gallop and yelling "Dee Ice---you get ahold of that colt---get hold of him." I always like to give them just a little faster gallop than everyone else tried to give them. I loved the speed, the wind, and the sounds of the hoof beats and the sound of the movement of the liquids in the horses stomach. All in all I just loved the sport---and I loved the horses---and I loved the adrenaline rush you got riding a turn at full speed on the back of a 1200 pound animal that you (at 115 pounds) were controlling with two little leather reins.

After a few months of this I graduated into competition on the bush tracks (and never graduated to the large tracks) and got to ride in the races. I'm here to tell you that when the open the gates to let the horses out your adrenaline level is higher than when you are riding a bull. You have no idea how the horse will break and if one of the other horses will bump you or knock you out of contention. You know that you have got to ride as fast as you can for the first 200 yards and then get your postion for the run around the turn. There is a lot of bumping and brushing as you do this and that is all in the game. At anytime during this your horse could have the front legs interfered with and you could go down. The back legs are not so critical and if they get interfered with just result in knocking you back a few lengths.

I had many good and bad experiences riding race horses. I am only going to share a couple.

I was riding a horse that was nicknamed big and ugly because he was really tall (over 17 hands) and had a head that was unusually long. He could run with about any horse but he didn't like to pass (and usually wouldn't). I rode him a lot and won a lot of races on him. I would push him up to the lead horse and push him to pass, knowing he wouldn't, and just before the finish wire I would reach down with my bat and bump him on the chin. He would raise his head to avoid the bat and we'd win by a nose. I did this time after time. His owner loved me. The other jockeys never figured out how to do it.

I was riding a really nice quarter horse (he eventually won the All American Futurity) but I hated him. Every time I touched him to do anything he would hurt me. I was treating a cut on his rear hoof once and he kicked the bottle of medicine out of my hand into the wall of the stable---the entire content of the bottle went into the wall in a spot a little smaller than a dime. There were no drips down the wall, all the liquid went into it. That will let you know how hard he kicked my hand. Anyway back to the race. When he broke from the gates his bridle hooked on the right side of the gate and broke the leather strap that runs from the ear to the bit. After we cleared the gate his bridle fell off. The bit was on his neck down by his front legs, I had hold of the reins but had absolutely no control. The horse was running his hardest. I was trying to stay on and not handicap him. He ran a perfect race and won it easily but I had no idea how I was going to stop him on the back side of the track. Not to worry--he stopped himself, saluted the track, and trotted back to the winners circle. I have laughed about this race a hundred times since because all I did was stay on---I didn't help in any way to win the race.

A couple of weeks ago Inklings and I were talking to a guy who has been my friend most of my life and he said "I remember a race with you and (another bush track jockey) were riding down the home stretch just whipping each other and the horses were doing whatever they wanted to do." We all laughed but that happened a lot with me and that other jockey--he unseated me once with a sharp rap to the front of the head with the handle of his racing bat as I was making a pass on the bottom turn--all the other horses in the race jumped over me when they passed. Just after that I forced his horse to jump the rail into the inside of the track for the pay back. Neither of us were called for a foul---BOTH OF US SHOULD HAVE BEEN.

I did this for five years and used it to bolster my financial situation---which wasn't all that good during that time period. I was married and had two kids when I gave it up. But I didn't give up adrenaline highs as you'll see later.


Lindsay Logic said...

I like reading these stories. :)

Dee Ice Hole said...

I gave it up because I moved away for a job and there wasn't a track in Montana near where we lived.