An Al Duncan musing

17th September 2016 : Saturday morning, Dodlands Steading

Gallop watching

I jump out of bed as the buzz of an alarm warns of the dawning of a new day.

Not just any day of the week, though. I mean, it may be 7 am, but it's Saturday, and for once I'm not cursing the clock as my mind races ahead in anticipation of the morning ahead. I thrust open the bedroom curtain and the room fills instantly with bright sunshine, from a clear blue autumnal sky. I stagger into the bathroom to shave and shower wasting as little time as possible. A glass of orange juice suffices as breakfast as, if I'm lucky, there may be scones, jam and tea on offer mid morning in Helen's Kitchen. My mouth moistens as I anticipate the light baking, tea from a teapot, with conversation focusing on horse racing and hope that Chuck can manage along too.

I've laid out all I needed the night before, so grab my bags, CDs for the journey, and waterproofs just in case…..and make my way downstairs to the awaiting car in the street. And there it is, I'd managed to secure a golddust-like parking space in my street, shaving precious minutes off the journey before I've started. I fumble through my selection of CDs, my mood can change so much overnight (as my acquaintances will testify), but I choose Wire, a post-punk combo who been in existence since ….well, the punk heydays of the late 70s.
The first 10 minutes are the slowest even at this hour on a Saturday, as I make my traffic light interrupted progress through the southern outskirts of the capital, onto the bypass and a few minutes later turn right onto the A68. Now lets get moving and pray there are no articulated lorries on overtime as there are few comfortable passing points on the route.

'…..dugga, dugga, dugga…drill, drill, drill….'

Just over an hour later, the car scales the rise, and Dodlands Steading gallops appear at the foot of the next hill, the white racing railings a focal point in the early morning bright sunshine.
8.20 am, I congratulate myself as I've made first lot, swiftly change into wellington boots, and squeeze into my coat - these mornings can be nippy up that hill.
Donald and the team seem in a good mood, shouting welcomes and waving hands in recognition. Stables are being swept as the morning work riders prepare the first lot. I glance at the rota, 3 lots today of 5 carefully matched racehorses on ability and fitness level, with most doing 2 turns up the Woodchip Up-the-Middle gallop. As the first lot make their way out of the yard, across the road and into the lane for warm up trotting, I walk the short distance down the lane, up through the gate, over the wire fence and up the hill to a good vantage point about 1f from the top of the gallop.

I spot Fozzo already in prime gallop watching position, and a with quick glance behind me acknowledge Donald (Miller), Colin and the Bannermans in full stride. They will soon swell the group of enthusiastic owners on the hill as further ahead Ron & Eileen approach, dog pulling excitedly at the leash. The talk is of all things Hawick - horses, rugby and council matters.
Soon enough, new voices can be heard, faint at first, as the work riders of the first lot make their way across the field and walk steadily down the gallop. Anticipation rises, as the gallop watchers identify the make-up of the lot - both horse and work rider.
A few minutes later, voices are replaced by the thundering of hooves, as the horses canter into view for the last couple of furlongs of the testing uphill gallop. They first pass the Trainer in the bottom field with his faithful, playful companions Alfie and Hamish, and then to the exhilaration of all, stride out on the woodchip, with tight-reining riders carrying out their own specific instruction all the way to the top.

The riders gather themselves and descend for a second spin, pausing briefly to update the owners and trainer as to the well being of their mounts. Some of the watchers return to the yard, and as invariably happens leave Fozzo and myself to view the concluding lots. The later lots will include the young, unraced stock and it is fascinating to gauge progress and pick out a favourite from these promising youngsters.

Back down in the stable yard, I wander round the boxes, greeting each horse with a carrot or two and chat to the lads as the real stable work is undertaken - mucking out, feeding and tidying up.
Saving the best for last, I head over to the trainer's wife's kitchen and join the remnants of the gallop watchers. Helen serves up scones, jam and tea as I catch up with Donald on how the horses are, race plans, stable gossip and setting the (racing) world to rights in general.

Tremendous fun, and topped off on the drive home by tuning into 'The Odd Couple' (Cosgrove and his mate) as they present their irreverent views on football on lunchtime Radio Scotland.


Dodlands Steading


   © a href="../default.html"> 2012  all rights reserved  |   Web Design : Viewforth Consultants Ltd.