Archive for the ‘animals’ Category

A Day at the Races with Gina Rarick – Part V

Sunday, May 6th, 2012
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The 2€ Guichet

The 2€ Guichet
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

Feeling heady with the possibility of placing a winning bet, I got in line at the 2€ guichet.

Placing a Bet

Placing a Bet
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

The gentleman behind the window recognized that I was a novice gambler, and asked me which horse I wanted to bet on. Since I was standing at a 2€ guichet, I decided to place the bet on horse number 2.

He then asked me whether I wanted to bet that the horse would win or place. I figured that since I was placing a 2€ bet on horse number 2, then I should wager that it would come in second, or “place.” It’s as good a system as any for placing a bet!

Will This Be the Winning Ticket?

Will This Be the Winning Ticket?
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

With the ticket in hand, we went off to watch the race on a monitor.

The Winning Race Number 2 Places Second

The Winning Race!
Number 2 Places Second!
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

The Winning Ticket

The Winning Ticket
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

Number 2 places second! Hooray! Let’s go back to the window and collect our winnings.

I Won All That!!!

I Won All That!!!
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

I handed the ticket to the gentleman and he prepared a wad of 100€ bills. He told us to get our camera ready and brought them up to show me. I watched, mouth agape, as he withdrew them after Monique took the photograph.

It was a good joke! “The hard reality, sir, is that you won six euros…”

Well, six euros is, at least, three times my wager! What a deal!

Entry to the Hippodrome

Entry to the Hippodrome
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

I pocketed my winnings and we left the racecourse. It had been a great day at the races!

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A Day at the Races with Gina Rarick – Part IV

Saturday, May 5th, 2012
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Jockey Coming Back from Race

Jockey Coming Back from Race on Her Nervous Horse
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

After the horses left the starting gate, we left too, and walked over to the gate where the horses would return after the race. From our position on the racecourse, we were unable to determine which horse had won that particular race, but we did take a picture of the returning jockey whose horse had been so nervous at the start (see Part III for a photo of the nervous horse).

Winning Horse in Winner's Circle

Winning Horse in Winner's Circle
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

After each race, the jockey rides the winning horse into the winner’s circle where photographers and admirers gather around to take pictures. In the picture above, the jockey had already dismounted and walked away before we got a chance to photograph him. He didn’t stay to bask in the glory of victory!

Gina Demonstes the Hand Ride

Gina Demonstes the Hand Ride
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

Gina had been telling us about a technique, called the “hand ride,” that jockeys use to get their horses to run faster, especially in the home stretch. Using a harness, she showed Monique how tightening the reins helps the jockey stay in harmony with the movement of the animal. At that point, the jockey shoves the horse’s neck forward with each forward movement of the neck during the gallop, giving extra impetus to the horse’s rhythm, making it run faster. For a video demonstration of the hand ride, follow this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QVHEoy1o_BY.

After watching a couple of thrilling races and feeling the excitement in the air, I decided to put my money down on a horse. I sensed that Lady Luck would smile on me that day.

Tomorrow: I win big at the racetrack!

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A Day at the Races with Gina Rarick – Part III

Friday, May 4th, 2012
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Gina Shows Us the Starting Gate

Gina Shows Us the Starting Gate
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

After taking us on a tour of the area where the horses warm up, Gina took us over to the starting gate.

What a Racehorse Sees

What a Racehorse Sees
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

Gina told us that sometimes horses don’t want to go into the starting gate, in which case the jockey, sitting in the saddle, will pull on the horse’s tail to get it to move forward into the gate. We witnessed this a number of times. On one occasion, we saw a jockey pulling on the tail of his horse and somehow the horse made a movement, throwing the jockey off. The horse fell, rolling onto the jockey. Ouch! An ambulance pulled up immediately and the jockey was put on a stretcher and taken off the track. And so the race continues! No time to pause to mourn the wounded.

Recalcitrant Racehorse

Recalcitrant Racehorse
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

Jockey Waiting for Her Horse

Jockey Waiting for Her Horse
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

Standing behind and to the side the starting gate (but separated from the racetrack by a hedge) we could watch the horses and their jockeys prepare for the race. One jockey’s horse was nervous, so the handler walked the horse to calm it. The jockey waited, trying to keep warm in the cold air.

Jockey and Racehorse Move into the Starting Gate

Jockey and Racehorse Move into the Starting Gate
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

Finally, her horse was ready. She mounted it and moved into the starting gate. Just in time, because everyone else was lining up.

Seconds before the Gates Open

Seconds before the Gates Open
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

There was a tense moment before the gates opened. And then suddenly…

The Start

The Start
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

Out of the Gate

Out of the Gate
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

…they were off!

Tomorrow: Gina shows Monique how to make the horse go faster!

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A Day at the Races with Gina Rarick – Part II

Sunday, April 29th, 2012
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First Race of the Day

Before we left the grandstand for our tour of the racecourse with Gina, we watched the first race.

There weren’t very many spectators sitting in the grandstand, but just before the first race a group of people filed in and sat down in front of us. They were a well-dressed and lively crowd, and when the race started the kids among them began cheering wildly. After the race, they all got up and left, leaving the grandstand empty except for our group. I imagine that they were a family that had invested in one of the horses, and that they came that day to see how well it would run.

Races were spaced out throughout the day, so there was no incentive to remain in the grandstand until the start of the next race.

The Weighing Room

The Weighing Room
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

Gina took us downstairs and showed us the weighing room, where the jockeys weigh in before hopping on their horses. She explained the importance of monitoring each jockey’s weight and the weight of the jockey’s saddle.

Pound for pound, Gina said, jockeys are the greatest athletes in the world. After a few years, most jockeys get weary of the strict diet that they have to follow. At that point, they have to decide whether they want to continue in that career.

Gina and Ultralight Saddle

Gina and Ultralight Saddle
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

Gina showed us an ultralight saddle that some jockeys like to use. It doesn’t provide any comfort during the high speed, bumpy horseback ride. Ow!

Out of the Stable

Out of the Stable
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

Walking the Horses

Walking the Horses
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

Before a jockey gets on a horse, the animal is brought out of its stable and walked. Gina took us into a restricted area where we saw horse trainers and their assistants walking the horses around in circles.

On the Way to the Track

On the Way to the Track
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

The jockey in this picture has been weighed and his horse is ready. On to the racetrack!

Coming up: A stageside view of the starting gate.

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A Day at the Races with Gina Rarick – Part I

Saturday, April 28th, 2012
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Out of the Gate!

Out of the Gate!
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

On Sunday, April 15, Monique and I went to the Longchamp racetrack for a guided tour of the hippodrome with Gina Rarick, the only American professional racehorse trainer in France and the first American woman granted a license here. The event was organized by Mark Tronco for the members of the Paris Alumnae/i Network. We met Mark at the entrance to the racecourse and he escorted us into the grandstand, where Gina gave an opening presentation.

Gina Rarick, Racehorse Trainer

Gina Rarick, Racehorse Trainer
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

Gina was raised on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. She began a career in journalism at the Milwaukee Journal in 1984. She moved on to the Milwaukee Sentinel and then to Knight-Ridder Financial News in Chicago. Her interest in horses was rekindled in Chicago, where she took riding lessons at a downtown carriage-horse stable. She moved on to the International Herald Tribune in Paris, where she covered major race meetings around the world.

In Paris, her passion for horses continued to grow and she joined riding clubs in the region. She learned to ride racehorses and rode (and won) her first race at the age of 38! She is now a professional thoroughbred racehorse trainer.

Enjoying the Good Life at the Racetrack

Enjoying the Good Life at the Racetrack
Photo by www.DiscoverParis.net

While listening to Gina’s presentation, the members of the group brought out their picnic lunches. Monique and I had packed two pâtés (duck and pork), Comté cheese, fig bread, and…champagne. In spite of the brisk, overcast weather, the day was starting out well!

Next: Gina takes us on a tour.

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Parisians and Their Dogs: Jane and Rita

Thursday, June 17th, 2010
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Jane and Rita Enjoy the Good Life
Photograph courtesy of Jane

Jane and Rita enjoy a pause-café during a morning stroll around their neighborhood. Rita, a cross between a poodle and Tibetan terrier, is an extremely affectionate dog.

I wrote about Jane and Rita, as well as other dog owners and their dogs, in the chapter entitled “La Vie Parisienne” in my book, Paris Insights – An Anthology. The book is available as both a paperback and an electronic Kindle edition on Amazon.