Breaking Stride

The Checklist

April 22, 2016

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by Trebor (Trey) Nosrac

Helen Schrump has several obstacles to overcome in her quest to become a top tier harness horse trainer. I am one of them.

Helen is a perky, personable young woman with a passing resemblance to Rachel Maddow, the anti Fox News lady. With a three-horse stable of harness race horses, all of which she owns, she has had very few problems with owners. She needs to increase her racing stock and add an owner, which is where my pacing gelding and I entered the scene.

When Helen saw me roll up to her barn in a 12-year old car with the front bumper fastened with duct tape, I doubt if she saw the answer to her prayers. However, I was alive and brought along a feasible young racehorse.

Last week, in spite of the fact that I am always fiscally challenged, I just could not pass up purchasing Not So Great Expectations, a 3YO NW1, for a thousand bucks. The horse fell into my lap from an acquaintance named Slick Davis, a fellow with several bad habits that led him to money problems so dire that he makes me look like Warren Buffett.

I needed a trainer. Helen needed an owner. Negotiations began.

Helen took the stance that, “I could not train and race a goldfish for that kind of money.”

I countered with, “That’s all I can afford, at the moment. I barely have enough disposable income to buy my daily lottery ticket.”

Helen asked, “I’m not sure you should own a racehorse.”

“I’m sure that I shouldn’t. Owning one is sort of therapy. I need a break from losing money betting on horses. One more thing Helen, no vets or vet bills within one hundred yards of this horse, even if it takes a restraining order.”

Desperation makes strange bedfellows. Helen took over Expectations and guided him in his first three starts which were, oddly enough, all sixth-place finishes. Sixth place is not fun; it is like driving to the beach on a sunny morning and discovering they ran out of sand and ocean.

Still, Helen proved to be very nice, very organized, and keeps my spirits up after each race with helpful insights like, “Expectations is starting to grow up,” “He’s learning some valuable lessons” and “He might just have a bit of a cold.”

Finally, on his fourth start, Not So Great Expectations lumbered home for a third-place finish. I was so happy that I offered to spring for a celebratory pizza. Helen mentioned that she had a menu with the telephone number of The Pie is the Limit Pizza Emporium on the front seat of her truck. I scurried out to retrieve the menu and stumbled across a troubling sheet of paper attached to a clipboard on the floor of the truck.

Not So Great Expectations

Useful Post-Race Quotes (poor performance)

I think the horse may _________
Have come into heat
x  Have a cold 

Have picked up a stone in the hoof
Be allergic to straw
Be allergic to money
Have a reading disability
Have tied up
Have tied down
Have Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome
Have the gripe
Have the sniffles
Be a mild hypochondriac
Be apathetic

After a race without purse money, the horse is ________
Showing improvement that only a true horseman can see
Just about ready to pop
x  Learning some valuable lessons

Tightening up
x  Growing up

Stretching out
Firming up
Getting dizzy
Getting comfortable out there
Figuring things out
Possibly a llama

Your horse does not like to race _______
From behind
In front
In the middle
On the outside
On the inside
Above ground
 In circles
On weekdays
On weekends
Under the lights
In front of people
In the mud
With other horses

I think we need to change the _________

I think we need to have the horse _________
Blood drawn
Freeze dried

At first I was a tad miffed when I found the checklist. Upon further reflection, the idea that Helen was using a list as a tool to try and keep an owner on board doesn’t bother me. She is just being proactive. Nobody likes to make the same mistake twice. Keeping track of excuses shows initiative. Gloom and doom doesn’t help anybody. The sport is all about hope.

I just hope she has another checklist somewhere on that clipboard for Useful Post-Race Quotes (good performance). And I hope that very soon, Helen will have reason to refer to it frequently.

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