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A poem about horses: Colours in Joy, Racing Silks

image courtesy of Wiki commons

image courtesy of Wiki commons

Colours in Joy - Racing Silks

I went to Goodwood races once. It was a glorious day, and the sights and sounds of the racetrack generated an intoxicating mix of nervous energy, anticipation, and pent-up, hold-your-breath excitement. I'm not a big gambler, but I can see how some people get addicted. Horse-racing inspires people to part with money on the off-chance that they might see a substantial return, and in the meantime, they get the opportunity to cheer, and scream, and shout for the horse and rider that take their fancy. We're talking about risks and chances, dreams and nightmares, hopes and fears. A slice of life.

Racing Silks

At the track the money’s changing hands
‘Black Knight, a tenner on the nose,’
‘Even Stevens, a ton each way’
‘Five pounds on the favourite’
Crumpled notes are flattened, folded, pocketed
Honest Mac chalks the odds on a board

The horses line up, flanks gleaming
Flared nostrils steaming, dragon breaths
In the January air.
Hooves paw the ground impatiently
Jockeys poised in a riot of colour
Carnival colours in a wintry world

Punters huddle together for warmth
Wrapped up snugly against the chill
They stamp their feet and pull up their collars
Their ears are pink. Cheeks are aglow.
Will there be champagne later? Or will
They scatter their losing tickets like confetti?

And they’re off! Flying down the track
Hooves thundering! Jockeys crouched low
Clattering past as the crowd roars encouragement!
‘Even Stevens!’ ‘Move it Black Knight!’
‘Come on, come on!’ as the mist engulfs them
Honest Mac smiles as the favourite comes last.

Pulled Up

Galloping down the track
He suddenly saw the jump
With appalling clarity
As though for the first time

So high, so solid
And coming up so fast
He felt the grip of unaccustomed fear
Knotting in his belly

His mouth as dry as a desert,
Sweat trickiling down his spine
Horse and rider
Communicating silently

This unspoken fear
A memory of unhorsed riders
Covering their faces against an onslaught of flailing hooves
Their empty mounts cantering across the finish line
Steaming and snorting in puzzlement

Eyes closed, and a prayer on his lips
It came as no surprise
When his horse refused to jump.

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Photo Credit

 Memorial Day, Arlington Park 2007, by Slooby. Posted to Flickr, and sourced via WikCommons


Amanda Severn (author) from UK on February 05, 2009:

Hi Chris

That sounds like a really fun job. I also had an early brush with the racing world, working as a telephonist in the credit office of a large betting chain. My job was to take down the bets placed by credit clients. That was a real eye-opener. I had no previous knowledge of the racing world, and the amounts that would be wagered were fantasy sums to me. Gambling can be addictive and destructive, but horse-racing itself is great entertainment.

Thanks for stopping by and for your kind comments.

Christoph Reilly from St. Louis on February 04, 2009:

Scroll to Continue

Hi Amanda! Great work! Although I'm not that big of a Horseracing fan any longer, it was a major part of my life for many years. In New York, I was the voice of OTB (Off-Track Betting) Result Line. There were OTB parlors all over the city where you could place bets, then later call a number to hear the results of the race and the payouts, and I was the voice. Not exactly calling the race (I don't know how those guys do that!) but fun never-the-less, and literally hundreds of thousands of people calling up my voice every day. We mostly covered Belmont and Aqueduct, but also some evening "Trotters" and some out of town stuff too.

Anyway, I heard the live calls of every race, every day, for several years and had to know a lot, plus the company would send me to the track sometimes with $50 just to have fun, so as I said, it was a major part of my life.

You've done a superb job of capturing the feel, texture, and exitement of it. There is nothing like the atmosphere of the track on a big race day, and you have brought it to life.

Well done!

Amanda Severn (author) from UK on February 02, 2009:

Hi Ajcor and Lita,

Racing is always a fantastic spectacle. Although I'm not a gambler, the excitement, the speed and the drama make for great entertainment. Thanks for stopping by and for your kind comments.

Leta S on February 01, 2009:

Very original take on the prompt, 'Colors in Joy.' I love the name of race horses. There should be a poem with those in there & I don't think I've read one until yours. Cool! Thank you...

ajcor from NSW. Australia on February 01, 2009:

You have a really colourful and light touch with poetic words Amanda - I was there with you - enjoying the colours, Honest mac's relief, and of courses the drama of the horses....

"Flared nostrils steaming dragon breaths

In the January air."

look forward to more ....cheers

Amanda Severn (author) from UK on February 01, 2009:


I live near Brighton where the race track crosses one of the public roads, and it is easy to stand and watch the horses thunder past without paying to go to the track. They're a fine sight on a clear fresh day with the hills dropping down to the sea behind them

ColdWarBaby on January 31, 2009:

Slice of life. Very nice Amanda. A vivid picture.

Amanda Severn (author) from UK on January 30, 2009:

Thanks Shalini - I'm glad you enjoyed it.

Shalini Kagal from India on January 30, 2009:

Amanda - you are amazing! Your poem brings to life those horses, chests heaving, heavy breathing, flanks bathed in sweat. It's captured all the excitement of a race - thumbs up!!

Amanda Severn (author) from UK on January 30, 2009:

I'm not a gambler myself, Poetryman, but I love to watch horses racing. I'm also a great fan of the artist Alfred Munnings because of his ability to capture the fleeting images of horses in motion.

poetryman69 from Orlando on January 30, 2009:

I have been working on something that has that winter canival colors feel to it also! Great minds think alike. It was also a poem that I was first inspired to work on when I lived in horse country--Louisville Kentucky. Alas, I have never been particularly inspired by the sport of kings but I admire your efforts nonetheless.

In in closing let me note: I do not dream actuarial dreams. I have been told that I am not focused enough in my poetry and my thoughts...Oh look the word Arial is the in the word Actuarial. Now was Arial a fairy or a woodland nymph...I know I will look in my dictionary of fairies, sprites and woodland nymphs...

Amanda Severn (author) from UK on January 30, 2009:

Thanks Teresa, I love that word, too. Do they even use 'punter' in the States? it suddenly occurs to me that it's largely an American audience here on hub-pages, and I've written a poem full of English slang! (LOL!) 

Sheila from The Other Bangor on January 30, 2009:

Great voice! I don't know why, but I just love the word "punter". The conversational tone here makes the poem immediate and engaging, and dramatic, too.

Amanda Severn (author) from UK on January 30, 2009:

Thanks Melissa. I was reading your poem, as you were reading mine. I'm in awe of people who can rhyme as aptly and accurately as you do. Whenever I try it I end up with silly lines that are only there to serve the rhyme scheme!

Melissa G from Tempe, AZ on January 30, 2009:

Wow, Amanda! You have such an amazing gift for poetry! I find that without the confines of rhyme, my poems end up like a bowl of sludge, but yours just dance along the page. Nicely done!

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