Weblog: The wife of leading all-weather trainer Alan McCabe with her weekly diary.
It's been a season of highs and lows
Well, it appears to be that time of year again. The grass is littered with leaves, there is a distinct chill in the air and ground conditions at the various racecourses range from 'good to soft (soft in places)' to 'heavy (some waterlogging on round course)'.
The yard is at is busiest with horseboxes arriving and departing with such regularity that I fully expect to see a white-gloved Gendarme frantically waving his arms and blowing his whistle on the drive outside, trying to restore some order to the chaos. As far as organising chaos is concerned, I frankly admit to doing a very poor job of it at the moment.
As the year hurtles towards its conclusion we have horses coming into training, horses going out of training, horses going to the sales, yearlings arriving and so on and so on. The staff are trying to cram in their holidays before the January deadline and the usual bout of coughs and colds are laying some of them low as the temperature drops and the germs move in.
Humans aren't the only ones susceptible to the dreaded lurgy and, as such, any new arrivals are quarantined in the bottom barn until they are proven healthy. The yearlings currently reside in splendid isolation, where their many and varied versions of dirty noses, coughs and runny eyes will not impact upon the fit and healthy upon whom we rely for survival.
We have a mixed bag of yearlings this year - six of them so far - including our very own homebreds, Steve and Andy. Steve is going to big a big boy and his bottom currently stands about a hand higher than his front end. Andy is a more compact sort, but his mother (Well Of Echoes) is a walloping big mare, so I'm sure there will be strength contained within that stocky frame.
It's strange to see the horses we have created here in the training yard. It feels like just a few months ago that they were fluffy little foals who wouldn't leave their mothers' sides, standing on long, spindly legs or laying sprawled in the sun. They seem quite happy to be here and still get turned out daily, as do all the other yearlings.
Every one of them has had tack on now, but we will take our time before getting them ridden as it's still early enough in the year. Dawn, who has herself only recently returned to the fold after engaging in her own breeding programme, has the task of making the little monsters into proper racehorses and she is very good (and patient) at it.
While next year's hopes and dreams are being nurtured in the paediatric unit, the established band of inmates are going about their business quite satisfactorily. We had a prolonged spell on the 'cold list', but good old Follow The Flag put an end to that under a superb ride by Simon Walker in the amateur race at Nottingham last week.
His win has been followed by a few good runs by others, so we are hopeful that we may be entering a period of good form. There is no particular reason why a yard should have such pronounced periods of good and bad form - you work the same routines, feed the same food and do everything pretty much the same from one day to the next - why form should change just cannot be easily explained, but it is disappointing when things aren't going well.
Every trainer will, at some point, find themselves at a loss to explain exactly why their horses aren't performing as they should. As training horses already provides enough fodder to ensure the insomniac never enjoys more than a couple of hours sleep per night, this is a further unwelcome burden and you find yourself, in the wee hours, going backwards and forwards over the same information in your head, trying to work out that elusive solution which will miraculously transform your losers into winners.
There is never a Eureka moment though and you realise that you just have to hang in there long enough and wait for things to change. There can be no complaining about our season though. With almost three months still to go until the end of the year, we have had 30 wins from 20 horses in 2012 and these have included some of what will probably be our best ever races.
Getting up in the morning is a whole lot easier when you are having winners, but your mettle is severely tested when you're not. I will admit that my toys have been launched out of the pram several times in the past month or so when frustration gets the better of me.
Though it shames me to say it, I'm not a good loser and my immediate response when things go wrong is along the lines of "why are we even bothering?". I can think of a hundred other jobs I'd rather do and how I'd happily walk away from horseracing and never again darken its door.
But then, when the red mist has subsided, I find myself remembering how I sobbed in a heap on the floor when Caspar won the German Guineas, of trotting up to the winner's podium at Newmarket to collect Capricorn Run's Trophy, of watching Winged Icarus break the 20-year-old track record without coming off the bridle at Southwell and then I know that, however deep my despair may get, I could never walk away from a life that has provided me with more highs than you could ever get legally.
Yes, there are the disappointments and opportunists lining up to kick you when you're down (mainly because they think they may gain from your failure) and it is true that the lows far outnumber the highs, but in the grand scheme of things it's not really that important and something from the wider world will happen to remind you of the fact.
But then the lure of those highs, the knowledge that 'this too will pass' and that one day you will again feel that overwhelming rush of adrenaline keeps you going. I read about Gerald Ham's retirement the other day and could completely understand how he kept putting it off every time he had another winner.
His reasons for calling it a day also resonated, especially his recounting the old adage about racing causing you to 'meet the very best of people and the very worst', but that's a blog for another day. For now, I'm ignoring my head and going with my heart.