Cup of Coffee: Walking Around

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Robert Fulghum wrote “All I Really Need to Know I learned in Kindergarten” in 1986. A classic international bestseller, it has sold more than 7 million copies. Remember Fulghum’s words of wisdom?

Share everything, play fair, don’t hit people…

Well, I don’t remember a lot from kindergarten, other than falling in love with Kimberly (she tied my shoes for me), worrying about flunking because I couldn’t skip (thank you, Sheila), adoring my teacher Mrs. Broyles and begging my mother to not make me wear blue sandals (a logical solution to not being able to tie my shoes).

Kindergarten? I must have learned something but all I really need to know I learned as a hotwalker.

Working for Dad, making $2.50 per horse in Henry Clark’s old barn at Delaware Park, walking the likes of In Due Time, Balkan Chief, Money By Orleans and taking orders from Joey, Lonnie, Trish, Toinette, Spivey, Fee and a bunch of other militants.

The endless summer.

Meet the hot horse at his stall door, halter and shank ready, slide up as the bit slides out, don’t force it, gentle. Take a turn, offer them water, if they galloped, go for a bath. If they worked, keep walking. Walk them until they stop drinking, take them in for a pee if they worked, a graze if they didn’t. Graze for 10-15 minutes, depending on the heat of the day. Walk back to the stall, turn them around, snap the rubber runner across the open door, unbuckle the cooler (belly straps first), unsnap the shank, duck under webbing, snap webbing, hang shank.

Next, next, next, next, next. Five a day, sometimes six depending on the set list.  

Yes, all I really need to know I learned as a hotwalker.

Be on time.

Wear comfortable shoes.

With every promotion comes more responsibility. With more responsibility comes more stress.

Life can be divided into 30-minute intervals.

Sometimes you have to shank on them.

Layer. And always bring a jacket.

Don’t push, but don’t get pushed around.

When you go through an opening, always continue straight, then make your turn (Money By Orleans’ cooler still hangs from the screw eye on the right).

Use sunscreen.

Drinking is good…in moderation. As Dad would say, “Eight gulps, that’s it. Pull his head up after eight gulps -not seven, not nine ­- eight.”

Your family will be harder on you than anybody, but it doesn’t mean they don’t love you.

If you get behind, you will get kicked.

Always have lunch money.

If you keep turning the same direction, you won’t get anywhere.

Dirty sneakers – dirty anything – should stay outside.

Flies, gnats and little things will bother you, don’t let them.

Whistling ultimately doesn’t accomplish anything, but it will make you feel better.

It’s all about the cool down.

Warning people behind you – “whoa back” – is courteous and might save your life.

Respond, don’t react.

Watch your toes.

Always scrape off the excess water – excess anything.

Colts and fillies – just like boys and girls, men and women – are very different. You better treat them that way.

Horses won’t run faster because you like them.

Respect.

If offered a betting tip, be wary. If offered a monetary tip, take it.

Tie a knot in case you get to the end quicker than you expected.

Watch for cheap shots from the side.

Keep track of your hours, your wages. Nobody else will.

Save your money. I remember Dad opening a bank account at Fidelity Bank in Avondale, Pa., for me at the end of the summer. I deposited $500. I still have that $500.

It’s easier to stay in the rut than climb out of the rut.

Buckle your buckles and snap your snaps.

Don’t drop your shank or your guard.

Seek shade.

Every horse, every person, has their own pace. Try to adjust.