I’ll never admit it to my Dad, but one of my favorite parts of being at home is the “obligation” to go see our horses train on Saturday mornings. I’ve always been a morning person, though, so I only act like it’s a burden to wake up early on a weekend. (I think Mom and Dad have caught on.) But it’s been a few months since I’ve taken the windy road out to Skylight Training Center, so I wasn’t going to miss it on my first Saturday back.
People may have their preconceived notions, but there are dozens of things I love about Kentucky, many of which make an appearance on the ride to the training center. Just this morning, Dad and I saw a field full of Thoroughbred babies and their mothers — basking in the sun or chasing each other around in circles. We witnessed part of a road bike race and imagined what the people burning it up the hills of Sleepy Hollow were thinking: “I got this, I got this,” or “Why am I here? Why am I here?” We saw a four-horse buggy trotting around a field of the greenest grass in the country — despite our reputation for “bluegrass,” I’ve always marveled at the deep emerald of Kentucky’s rolling hills. Open fields and old southern houses, black barns with red accented windows, lush pastures linking farm after farm: my old Kentucky home.
I haven’t yet mentioned that we always bring Rufio on our Saturday visits. (I mean, “always” since we got him as a puppy a year ago.) He’s a real star at the barn and makes fast friends with most of the horses as well as their handlers. And he’s always on his best behavior, until he sees the barn mascot, a tiny little rooster that prances around like he owns the place and by now isn’t afraid to walk right in front of Rufio, knowing full well he is on a leash.
Today Rufio made a new friend. One of the grooms had brought his son over to the farm on his day off and little Carlos Mario came cautiously up to Rufus to say hi. “This dog must eat too much,” he said in Spanish. “He’s too big!” My dad and I laughed. The boy was just at eye-level with Rufio, and I didn’t blame him for being a little wary at first. “He won’t hurt you,” I said in English, frustrated that I didn’t know how to reassure him. I squatted down and started petting the dog to show he was friendly. Carlos said, something about a “caballo” and Dad laughed and said, “He is like a horse, for you!”
We watched the horses train, and I kept my eye especially on Lily, our little home-bred chestnut filly with enough charisma to take on the big horses. She hasn’t raced yet, but we are eagerly anticipating her debut!
Carlos stayed near, growing more confident around Rufio as the morning passed. Dad pointed out the strip of hair that grows in the wrong direction on his back (Rufus is a Rhodesian Ridgeback) and, pointing, asked Carlos’ dad, “Como se dice ‘Ridgeback?” Before he could respond, Carlos pointed to the ridge and said matter-of-factly, “pelo” — hair. All of us laughed.
When it was time to go, I said the only other word I know in Spanish — Adios — to Carlos Mario and his father. Heading toward the car, we waved over our shoulders. Standing beside the barn, leaning against his daddy’s legs, Carlos yelled, “Adios Perro Loco!” Obviously a dog that big had to have eaten too much.