The early morning spring light was veiled by the heavy mist that lingered across the green gallops forming the backdrop for a location photography shoot John and I attended a few days ago. Regular readers will know how much I love being in the countryside spending time with nature, so you can imagine how excited I was to get up close and personal with some of the fastest and highest prized horses in the world. We were attending a course that took place in Newmarket (apparently the ‘headquarters’ of horse racing) with dinner and an overnight hotel stay included.
The food was delicious and the other photographers were friendly, although there’s always one who thinks he knows it all and kept flashing his equipment at the table. I managed to exchange a couple of surreptitious eyebrow raises with the silver-haired guy opposite me and remembered an old Chinese proverb which, in my words, goes something like this – “he who brags loudest, shoots daftest”! I noticed a man with thinning light brown hair and a quiff look sternly at me. Apparently he didn’t think a cat should be at the dinner table. But I soon impressed him with my impeccable manners, being sure not to slouch, put my paws on the table or lick anything below the waist!
Now I do like my peace and quiet at night and that’s exactly what I got when I went to sleep on a soft pillow at the bottom of the bed John slept in. I woke to the joyful sound of birdsong while it was still dark. I do like the birds and being a domesticated and sophisticated feline photographer, my instincts to chase them are well controlled thanks to my keen cognitive abilities, pursuit of photography and John’s exemplary care (he makes sure I have plenty of games to keep my mind occupied). When we went down to breakfast, the staff remembered me from the night before and gave me some extra salmon and scrambled eggs to keep my fur silky and prepare me for the busy day ahead.
Nothing had prepared me for strolling across the gallops just after dawn with hundreds of racehorses gathering around to do their morning workouts. They were so tall and muscular, their short shining coats glistening with sweat and hot air blasting out of their nostrils as they snorted and whinnied their way past me. I must admit I was slightly nervous when one of them stopped directly in front of me and lowered his head, but he gently pushed his big soft nose against my cheek as though he knew I needed some encouragement and from that moment on, I was well away!
He introduced me to the stable cat – a striped tabby boy who sat proudly on the ground watching the riders and trainers head out with the horses while the staff and grooms stayed behind to work in the yard. And did they work! Heavy wheelbarrows and water buckets were used to clear up the copious amounts of dust, dirt and manure that get caught in the most unattractive of places. The bedding is changed in the barns every day, the tack must be cleaned down and the horses feet must be picked to remove all the muck I presume. Apparently I’m not the only animal that needs to clean the toe jam from between my tootsies. But unlike some animals, I don’t do it in public! After a day at the stables I didn’t exactly smell delicious, so I packed up early to begin my washing routine and let John mingle with the rest of the photographers, smiling at the ladies and admiring the gee-gees