The beautiful ranch, in sunny Mexico, spread before her eyes. Samantha Crump, let out a phlegm filled cough, and walked towards the stables.
She cast her eyes on Storm, her 5 year old, Thoroughbred mare. Standing tall, the ebony black mare, nuzzled her shoulder. “I am sorry Storm, I cannot accompany you to the races today. The doctor has advised complete bed rest because of my chest congestion. It will have to be Jack, for you today.”
Sam, aka Samantha Crump was the only person capable of handling the spirited Storm, aptly named. Her father had a sizeable cattle ranch, and apart from that he raised a few Appaloosas and Thoroughbreds for racing purposes. Samantha had been a quiet child, tiny, timid and reserved. She never did well in school, nor was she into sports.
But amongst the farm animals she found her calling. She was an adept hand on the ranch. Most of all she turned out to be the horse whisperer for the new filly, Storm, 5 years ago. Storm was only peaceful around Samantha. This was when Sam found her calling, and decided to become a jockey, much to her parents chagrin. She was small made, lightweight and fit the description of a jockey.
“ Sam, hardly any girls race horses competitively,” they said, trying to dissuade her. But Sam pursed her pink lips, tied her blonde hair and put on her spurs. And that was it!
She was a competent jockey, and could beat most of her male counterparts. She had even won the Kentucky Derby last year. She proudly hung the winning medal in Storm’s stall.
“C’mon sweetheart let’s get you ready for good old Jack”, coughed Sam.
“What are you doing out of bed Sam? You are not going to the races today. You are housebound for 2 weeks!,” exclaimed Lillian Crump, her mother.
“No way mom, I am going to the Derby. I have to be there when Storm crosses the finish line!”
The race began with Storm racing past all but one horse, Crowning Glory.
“Go Storm!,” cheered the crowd. And then the unthinkable happened. The beautiful mare, fell forward, plummeting Jack into the guard rails, head on. The rest was a blur for Sam and her family.
The screeches of sirens and ambulances broke Sam’s reverie. She was sitting beside Storm, who had broken both her front ankles. Storm was in tremendous pain. Jack Bailey was badly hurt and put into a medically induced coma.
“ I shall nurse you back to health, my love,” she cried into her horse’s mane of long hair. But Storm was laying prone, on the floor. She was on pain killers but nothing helped!
“Sometimes there is no happy choice, Sam, only one less grievous than the others”, said her father. Sam bit her lips till blood poured out, while she braced herself for the gun shot that would give Storm, her rest.
The average lifespan of a horse is 25 to 30 years. However, the lifespan of a horse bred for racing is drastically reduced. It is about 8 years maximum. They suffer due to serious injuries and face an untimely death. Additionally, the Thoroughbreds are particularly modified so that their legs are skinnier and lighter. It makes them run faster. The downside is that any fall makes the brittle bones crumble and cut through the skin. The damage is irreversible and horses are killed.
Racehorses are at the centre of a multi million dollar industry, fraught with race fixing, injuries and drug abuse. PETA has repeatedly called for reforms in the racing industry.
Thoroughbreds: A breed of horses specially produced for racing.
Appaloosas: another famous racing breed.
Horse whisperer: someone who can magically calm distressed horses.
The above story is an entry into #TheChoice a Five00 entry.
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Photo by Kirsten LaChance