Saturday, June 20, 2009

Stone Dust And A Garden Hose

As I write this I’m cooling off after working up a sweat over an incredibly silly thing. Chris, my partner, and I had gone to get our morning coffee and when we returned one of the wheelchair vans was being washed in front of “Door 1”, the vehicle entrance to the building. We drove around him, not realizing he had the hose in the back of his van, and some of the hose was up against the corner of his vehicle. Because of this, there was no strain relief. Therefore, when we ran over the hose (not knowing he had it out on the ground) we broke it.

Minor transgression, right? One would think so. But the van driver got rather upset and called my boss at home. He proceeded to call me to find out what happened. Bear in mind that up to that point I didn’t know anything had gone awry, so I was a little surprised to be getting a call of that sort. Needless to say, when I went to check it out, I found a broken hose... This required a trip to the hardware store (in this case, the Home Depot in West Roxbury – closest to us that was open and had what we needed) to replace it.

As I said, not a big deal. Just an annoyance I didn’t really need to deal with this morning. But it’s over and done with. So now I can move along, hopefully on to bigger and better things.

Yesterday I worked live racing during the continuous rain we had here. It is a fact of life that gambling goes on even when the weather is bad, and the same is true when it comes down to racing. You wouldn’t necessarily think so, but it’s true. About the only time racing stops is if there is lightning.

If you’ve never been to a track where Harness Racing happens, the surface is about 4-5 inches of stone dust that is constantly groomed. After every race there are two 3,500 gallon tanker trucks that mist down the track, and they are usually followed by tractors that have harrowers attached to them. The harrowers turn the stone dust over so as to keep the surface consistent. On days like yesterday, however, neither is necessary; a couple of small trucks (Ford F-250-type vehicles) with 10’ X 10’ screens dragged behind them drive the track to smooth out the rough spots.

Even with the work being done between races, the drivers looked like they’d been playing in the mud. It got so there was no way to tell the drivers apart by their colors because they all looked the same: slate gray.

I’m sure there will be more of that sort of thing as the meet continues. Hopefully it won’t be like yesterday, though. I didn’t get any photos of yesterday’s activities, but I do have some photos in better weather.

Spit Box

The above photo is of the State of NH’s testing barn, otherwise known as “The Spit Box”. I don’t know the origin of that term, but I have to guess it has something to do with ways horses were tested for banned substances at one time. These days the most common ways that substances are looked for are through blood and urine testing. Specifically they look for performance enhancers, but some of those sort of things won’t necessarily show up in body fluids. The one substance I know of that is extremely difficult to test for is Sodium Bicarbonate – Baking Soda to the rest of us. An unscrupulous trainer will use that on a horse to work on increasing the ability of blood to carry Oxygen and reducing the incidence of lactic acid buildup in muscle tissue. It is against racing rules to do this as it can give a particular horse an unfair advantage against others, but it is also very difficult to prove unless a trainer is caught outright. And if the Racing Commission inspectors find a bucket and short length of hose in the stable (horses don’t have a strong gag reflex so a hose can be put into the stomach without much effort) that is a good indication that this sort of activity is going on.

There are other banned substances. I don’t know what most of them are, but if I can find the information I will talk about it more in another post. If nothing else, working there has been extremely educational. Too bad I couldn’t use some of what I’ve learned as EMS Continuing Education...

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