Keep Wav­ing

A sweet-na­tured geld­ing once taught me that the im­pact of kind words and a gen­tle touch can last a life­time.

EQUUS - - Eq Truetale - By Martha Craw­ford Can­tarini

In 1965, I swept aside my own horse ca­reer---as a stunt rider and horse trainer in Hol­ly­wood movies ---and mar­ried a jockey. My new hus­band had just been con­tracted to ride for an 18-horse sta­ble at Ar­ling­ton Park race­track in Chicago, and so we aimed our new green Buick east­ward for the com­ing race meet.

Shortly af­ter we ar­rived, we were in­vited to a press event. By then, ther­apy swim­ming pools for horses were the norm at race­tracks back in Cal­i­for­nia, but the first was about to open in Chicago. This was such a nov­elty that re­porters and pho­tog­ra­phers from the Chicago Tri­bune and other pa­pers were there to cover it. A lead­ing trainer from Cal­i­for­nia had been se­lected to bring a horse to be used to demon­strate the new pool. The barn’s gen­tlest race­horse was se­lected to take the first swim, ac­com­pa­nied by an ex­er­cise boy who was a very good swim­mer. When the big mo­ment came, a groom led the horse for­ward. But when they reached the wa­ter’s edge, the horse balked---he would not go for­ward into the pool!

Af­ter many awk­ward mo­ments, the horse’s trainer grabbed the shank from the groom. He put the shank chain in the horse’s mouth and be­gan to fight with the fright­ened geld­ing. The man jerked so hard that the Thor­ough­bred reared and fell over back­ward: Blood ran from his mouth pro­fusely as he scraped his head back and forth in the dirt try­ing to get up.

I cringed as I watched. Men of the Mad Men gen­er­a­tion were pretty sure that if they could not do some­thing, it could not be done! And a woman cer­tainly didn’t in­ter­rupt a man of any sta­tus. I re­set my tor­toise­shell glasses and brushed imag­i­nary dirt from my new dress and penny loafers while I stood in the hot sun and watched in mis­ery un­til the trainer ran out of ideas. Even­tu­ally, he was so red-faced from anger and ex­er­tion that I feared he would have a heart attack. In time he plopped down on a nearby rock wall swear­ing freely through the ragged gasps of his breath.

Then and only then could I step for­ward. “Would you like me to put the horse in the pool for you?” I asked qui­etly. Com­pletely at


The au­thor was once a stunt rider and horse trainer for the movie in­dus­try.

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