August 10, 2012
It's a big arena. The rider leaves the warmup area and walks his horse determinedly toward the ring.
The groom walks by the horse's side. He or she checks and re-checks the tack, unconsciously watching each hoof fall on the path. The girth, the saddle pad, the bit, the martingale, the rider's jacket, breeches, boots, gloves, pass his mental checklist one last time.
Horse and rider canter deliberately through the entry and make a loop waiting for the timer to sound.
The groom steps back into the chute where he's piled a sheet on the wall to throw over the horse. There's his bucket and sponge, a leadline. ?He holds only the spare crop he brought. His eyes are stuck to the horse.
The timer rings and the rider opens up the horse, galloping towards the first fence.
But he'll never ride alone.
The delightful man in this video is Lee McKeever; he and his wife are part of the barn management team for Team USA's McLain Ward. Ward rode the stunning gray Antares F in London...and left some psychological room in the saddle for Lee, who was grooming for him that day, to ride along.
Earlier in the week, Lee had done a stand-in for McLain during the veterinary inspection
. Ward is recovering from a leg injury and Lee presented the horse for him.
It only looks like they're in the ring alone.
This video goes right up on the favorites list along with the amazing finish of the 2010 Breeders Cup Mile. Amazing because French champion mare ran by the top American horses as if they were standing still. She won the race for the third consecutive time.
Racing record books will always carry the name of Goldikova, but for many of us, it's her groom's obvious love and joy we'll never forget. Someone captured it for YouTube so we can live the moment again and again.
Thanks to Susanna Forrest, who lives in Germany, for bringing the video of Lee to our attention. Susanna is the author of If Wishes Were Horses?(Atlantic, 2012). This video is unusual and it's great that someone turned his or her camera away from the ring and filmed what members of the horse's team go through at the gate. Sometimes agony, sometimes ecstasy!