Horse racing and I go back a long way.

I come from a place horse racing was a things to stay away from at all cost. The image around horses racing, if you were to picture this, were all grey and dark, and nothing but desperate men walking from the train station to the race track with those racing papers in one hand and cigarette in the other, none of them lifted their eyes to acknowledge another, only to walk back even more sad. I was brought up close to my grandparents who were the most dedicated school teachers. And I am sure, to them, that was the saddest form of human they so wished never to see their former students fall to. They loathes gambling, and horse racing belonged to that category. They used to hide news paper from me if there were any mention of horses. And I used to play cat and mouse with my grandparents over that. I always wondered why my grandparents appeared out of nowhere every time I turned on the television to watch horse racing. Every Saturday at 12:45pm. I did not care about television much, but I planed to watch this program until my grandparents entered the room with that look on their face. They did not have to say much. I usually left the room quickly leaving the races behind, however only to crawl back into the room 5 minutes later. I grew up as a most honest, obedient, and “good” child. I understood the reasons and knew how to behave appropriately in all situations. But not this one. Grandparents hated horses more because, to them, horses were like the demons casting spells on those who could have done much better.

I already knew how to ride a horse because of my mother. To my mother, horse riding was a noble sport, and she dreamed of seeing me ride around the ring wearing those custom made jackets. She wanted me to look top notch and jump over the biggest obstacles while the onlookers rooting for me. So she took me to a local horse farm and that’s where I learned to sit on a horse and stay on. I was jumping over 1 metre by the time I was a 10 years old. I did not know how to hold the reins correctly. I just learned to point the horse in one direction and go; and stay on providing that the horse allowed me. I fell off a lot, but that did not deter any of my madness. One day I hit the wing of a jump as I fell, got winded for the first time in my life, and could not get up without a help. I knew I was alive, I just did not know what to do with the situation. Somebody assisted me promptly and I recovered well, but here is a side story. Just as I hit the ground, a car pulled up at the car park; that was my mother driving my grandmother to my “riding lesson,” hoping to convince her that the horse riding was a noble sport. All it was seen by the grandmother was her beloved grandchild being thrown into an obstacle, followed by that terrifying seconds of seeing her lying motionless on the ground. She hated horses more. In the meantime, I had no idea how to understand my grandmother’s perspective, yet I had proven my boldness by then, and I was small built.

Then I wanted to become a jockey, no matter how strange that might sound. In the few years leading to this, I had studied extremely hard to be accepted into a reputable private school. It was one of those schools you pay $30,000 a year, plus boarding fees if you lived in a dormitory like I did. The school was known for educating children using their unique individual qualities while their mission was to raise international elites like many other school in the same league. I was given permission to continue my horse riding lessons outside of my school days. By then, I had joined an established riding school, and I had entered the world of equestrian sports. I learned to hold the reins correctly, and I learned that I was not supposed to yank on horses mouth. They taught me to respect horses, even though it took me many more years before I begun to understand what respect had meant. There were many backwards steps in this process of learning the correct ways. To my surprise, I did not mind hard work associated with this. I discovered that I had a very different attitude towards horse riding compared to, say, learning to play music. I was humble around horses and I just wanted to practice more. And I expressed my interest to apply for the jockey school- Japan Racing Association opened application to female applicant the year before to my thrill. ” I want to be a jockey.” And I saw the world around me erupted in all kinds of ways in response to what I had said. I had never experienced anything like that.

Adults started playing games with me. My dorm teacher quickly offered career counselling and took my application kit away from me in process. People tried to scare me off racing. They tried to encourage me in another direction. Some thought I was struggling at school and racing was just an early indication. They tried to talk me through whatever they thought I was going through at the time. But this was just a child who liked horses and wanted to learn to go fast. They should have let me do it. I was very young for my age, and I would not have lasted the first 6 months had I tried. They should have let me hit the wall and let me make my own decision not to pursue in that direction. But the adults rightly won this war. I stayed in this elite school for 6 years all together. Horse racing did not happen but something else did; my reputation declined for what I wanted to do. School flagged me as handle with care. To the teachers and everybody else it seemed, I had an effect of a roadside bomb to a PTSD patient returning from a war zone; bomb didn’t exist on the street of a peaceful nation, but just the imagined idea of its potential existence made people suffer. In any case, people are often placed in psychiatric care if their imagination got better of their worldly decisions. But these people were functioning as school teachers, and I was only a teenager.

I didn’t go to university though it was expected. I met some wise adults along the way whom suggested to make my own decisions for the future. They told me to go somewhere I could speak my mind freely. I went overseas as soon as I secured graduation from my school. My school teacher was demoted for failing to convince me for the higher education; and that was the end of elitism in my world. I worked for a racing stable while overseas. I lived onsite and soon discovered that a family of thieves lived on the ground. I saw people with money misbehave. I learned the consequence of riding race horses in environment where I could not communicate properly because of my language barriers. It was not easy. But I loved the fact I was exposed to all those intolerable things those silly adults tried to guard me away from. My first experience with race horses were disastrous. But it was like watching a movie, and I moved on because I didn’t like it. I thought I had seen enough, but clearly I had not given up yet.

Some while later, I went back to Japan for 5 years or so. I trained to work professionally as a stunt actor and I did far better than anybody expected from me. I was ridiculously fit. I went back to riding horses during this period, and I met this thoroughbred horse. He was an ex-race horse who was re-trained to become a riding horse. We got on well. We competed in Eventing, and I felt his power. I loved it. I wanted to go faster. I looked to overseas again, and found a job in a racing stable. First job did not work out well. I used a registered migration agent who was fraudulent in many ways, and she obviously did not scan those perspective employers well. So I found another job. I said to myself, I feel like I meet bad people every time I try to do what I want to do. But I always managed to break away before things became dangerous and I always found people who helped me. I had planed to spend 2 or 3 years overseas and return to my stunt work. It prolonged however. I was offered apprenticeships ( for jockey) wherever I went, and the only thing stopping me was my nationality; apprenticeship was supported by the government, and the funding was not granted to the foreigners. Fair enough. So I considered permanent residency. In the meantime, I had an experience on a horse while we were galloping. I am very light, so horses ran fast with me. It can be an exhilarating experience. And in the middle of all that, this thought arrived that I would likely live into my eighties, yet this horse would not likely be alive the following year. It stopped me from riding forward, and I couldn’t do it anymore. I knew that horse racing produced a lot of “wastage” as well as 1 or 2 champions a year. But I was conveniently blinded by the fun of it all. I was with horses, I was finally making living out of it, It felt like I was meant for it, and I didn’t need to see what happened out of sight. Once I became aware of the future of those horses I worked with, it was no longer about fun. I started looking for reason to leave, and so I found it.

I still wonder why I didn’t go back to stunt work. I was still fit, and I was only stronger as a person. There were demands for me in the industry. But somehow I decided to stay for a permanent residency. There was a purpose and reasonings, and I recon I went the wrong way after this careful planning. I did everything to the book, it was bloody hard work becoming qualified to apply for a permanent residency in another country. It took 8 and half years but I achieved what I wanted. And I gradually realised that I didn’t know why I did that. Didn’t I give up on horse racing? So what was I going to do on this foreign land? I worked in different horse disciplines since. I worked with all those horse people who spoke the same language with me. It was enjoyable and I learned a lot. But all those things I worked for, I was fully aware, could have easily been executed by any other hardworking persons. It did not have to be me. Horse racing was different. You only had a blink of a moment. You had to be there. The fact that I was light on a horseback mattered. Nobody cared if I wore make up or what sort of background you originated from. It was forever just you and me, knowing that this “you” would not try to follow me home and try to get into my bed. Come to think of it, the same principles applied to stunt work; and the sometimes life and death situations. I craved for those intense intimacy that, I swear by it, can be achieved fully clothed. Why can’t we look after horses better, because then I can finally justify riding for the racing industry. I want to race. That’s what I’ve wanted to do from way before I begun to understand about human ego. And with that, I can just see myself searching for another options, just the better option to be involved as if there is an integrified way of being involved in horse racing. Well dammit. Here, I suppose, we go again.

4 thoughts on “

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  1. Maiko, I’m inspired by your determination and grit. With all the changes, you have conserved your soul. Whoever wrote “Follow your bliss” [you’re doing that] later added “Follow your blisters” [you’re doing that]. Let the experience continue. Thank you for being you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a moving life you have had Maiko. It has made you the sensitive, caring and wise person, you are today. Someone I am honored to know.
    My likes are also not staying. I have liked all the posts from this to the end and come back and see they are all gone……Please know how much I like and admire you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It has been doing the same with me. I could comment but not like the post. I did not take much notice until now, because I could still comment, but it is a little strange isn’t it. And thank you very much for your generous comment. I always love it when you visit my blog, Cindy!

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