Stable Pair

Another Haydock Park inspired drawing. I worked there over two summer holidays from college as I recall. It was in some ways more of an education than college where I mixed with people who were all about my age, and with limited life experiences. At the racecourse I was with ground staff who’d worked there for years. One man was the speciality jumps builder ( I was the speciality litter picker trying to peel torn up tiny betting slips super glued to the tarmac without mistaking the pieces for bird lime ) We collected wood for the jumps from Lord Derby’s estate, shopping down small birch trees with cleavers in a boggy area, trying not to get stung by horse flies and wasps. One of our number never got stung: George Willie seemed to be completely unaffected. When we asked him his secret he said he sprayed himself with “Flit” fly spray all over before he left for work. Any flies coming within his self administered chemical exclusion zone were simply committing suicide.

Once we’d got the trimmed wood on site by the fences that were to be rebuilt, the fencing specialist started his work, crafting a new fence where the birch saplings were put together in tight bundles within a solid wooden frame and then tightened even more with crow bars and additional heavy wooden struts. The resulting jump was less like a ‘hedge’ and more like a solid wooden wall. Any horse that did not get high enough would certainly come a cropper.

I had the privilege on race days to be stationed next to one of these ‘walls’ to tread in, with my fellow ‘treaders’. Seeing and hearing 25 runners and riders approaching a wall like that is really something. On one occasion we witnessed a small person depart his horse after the jump, flying into the air like a small boy into the galloping feet below.

My immediate reaction was to run towards him as he lay flattened on the course and moaning. I was thankful stopped by one of my fellow ‘treaders’ who advised me that the ambulance would come and peel him out. He then proceeded to tread in the tufts around him and said he would come back and do the bits under him when he’d gone.

I thought the poor boy was a ‘goner’ but apparently he survived to get on another horse.

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