Sloans Early Riding: Youthful Experiences of the Once Great Rider of Horses, Daily Racing Form, 1922-11-16


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SLOANS EARLY RIDING Youthful Experiences of the Once Great Rider of Horses. How He Feared Thoroughbreds But Persevered and Developed His "Monkey Crouch." There is a lot of humor and the pathos of human nature in Tod Sloans book which was published after his English notice not to again apply for a license to ride in that country. One chapter about his discovery of the efficiency of hi3 "monkey crouch" during early riding experience and education is especially good. Here it Is: I hadnt by any means got over my early fear of horses, when my brother Cash put me at odd jobs in his stable and -when we got to St. Louis he made me ride a little and gradually I got used to it. The stable belonged to Tracy and Levy and they had two horses called Surprise and Biddy Bowling. It was a pretty easy job to start with and all I had to do was to lead one of them round after he had done a gallop until he stopped sweating. Then Cash taught me the art of rubbing a horses legs and generally "doing" him; but how tired I got! I dont think: that ever in my life I really knew what weariness spelt until then. I would hunch , myself in a corner with every limb aching. , I suppose I got a few muscles to work which ; had never been asked to come forward and do their bit before. Then they told me that I should have a little bit of exercise jobs, "riding work," as they say in England. It was at Kansas City and, my! how cold it was. I felt frozen, fior I recollect that I was only thirteen and weighed fifty-six pounds. "Up you get on Biddy Bowling and let her walk round the track," someone said, showing me a horse rather like the gray that had given me such a fright. Biddy took a peek at me and I often wondered what she was thinking of when "Shrimp" Sloan was on her back. At all events she must have thought there was an insect worrying her. She made two or three little Wild West movements and after I had picked myself up" and rubbed the bruises I walked back to the stable. She got there long before I did! I still hated the whole business, but, as I had gotten into it, I didnt care to slouch off. In any case, to my reasoning little mind, it seemed better than being jerked out of a balloon, for sometimes when Id eaten too much supper I would dream that I was dropping down from the sky with the parachute just out of clutching distance. I had a chance to go into the stable of Colonel Charlie Johnson, who owned a horse named Jim Douglas. My first ride in public was on this horse, at Pueblo, Colorado. All I had to do was to walk around the ring. Now, Jim stood well over seventeen hands, and was a pretty mean horse, I can tell you. "When they hoisted me up he began to walk, then he trotted, and then ho broke into a canter. I yelled my loudest for help and lay back tugging with my small arms at the bridle reins. Some of the stable boys came running after me, but Jim must have thought that they were other horses, for he stretched himself out and did a furlong inside thirteen seconds. He swung along until he came to a mud bank, where he shot me off, and then turned round and allowed himself to be led quietly back. AVe all know that dogs can smile and that tears come into their eyes. I am not sure to this day whether Jim was laughing at me or whether he pitied me. In any case there was no half-and-half idea about what they thought in the stable yard. One thing was quite certain : I should never make a jockey. They told me so, and I agreed that it wasnt my work; but I was a handy boy, and instead of getting rid of me they put me on to cook. I could hardly reach the top of the stove, but the coffee I made was all right, and I got fine and dandy at frying bacon and cooking eggs for the bunch. I remember that I tried my hand at a few other things, but generally had to smuggle the result away to a corner and eat it up myself, until one day I found I could make hot biscuits like your Scotch scones or small soda cakes, but hot. They were some success, and the neighbors would send the ingredients from miles round for me to make them. So we muddled along. I was always thinking that something would turn up, "for, although cooking can be a fine art, I was not actually qualifying for a chef. SLItE HE COULD 3TEVEU HIDE "WEJL. Now at that time I was quite sure that I should never be a jockey, but all the same I would sometimes sit down and ask myself how it was that I was frightened of a horse when I was not scared at other things. But the talk with myself generally left off where it began. I didnt get rid of the idea at ho back of my mind that I would like to learn to ride. I kept on figuring to myself that I ought to be able to do as well as the next fellow, but somehow it all left me in a bit son, and in the spring we went to Denver, and he got a position with a big fellow, named Hank Combs. Then the desire to ridu again came back to me. But it took mo longer to learn than anyone I ever heard of. I did have another chance of showing what I could do in this stable ; but it was the same old story. They found a little chestnut coit for me to exercise, but he threw up his tail and ran away with me into the woods, getting rid of me against a tree. I nearly broko my neck. I didnt remember anything until I found myself lying in one of the attendants cots. My Denver debut had thus ended in disaster, and I wanted to clear out; but how to get away presented certain difficulties. We of a whirl. Yet I was always coming back to the subject. My brother Cash lost his job with John-had nothing except a little handbag each. Luckily Cash, thinking he was going to be a jockey, had bought about forty dollars worth of saddlery, caps, etc., and had paid for them. They were coming west to him through the American Express, and by showing the receipt and the way-bill to a fellow in the town he got ten dollars. They didnt j put up the bar against youngsters going into 1 poolrooms and gambling saloons in Denver in those days, and with two dollars of the 1 ten I went into one of them and began to win. I ran the two dollars into fifty. "What would have happened next I dont know, but Cash suddenly came to mo saying: "For Gods sake, give it up ; Ive lost all my eight dollars, and we shall have to walk if we Hse what youve got there." I had a little sense and we cleared out. I then found my way to Kansas City and began to work for the trainer Johnny Camp-ImjII whom many may have met in Europe. Campbell had a sort of idea that I was go- ing to be a success. At all events he expected a great deal more from me than I did from myself. He had what he thought a promising colt named "Viking. I fear I may , have ruined the animal, for directly I got i on his back he cleared out with me and ran three miles and a half before he stopped. -i Well, I ask you he was only a two-year-old, and a gallop like that was liable to spoil any young animals career. Johnny Campbell was furious, in fact the maddest man I ever saw in my life. They advised me to keep out of his way, and I was wise to the fact that hed choke me if he caught me. But I owe a great deal to him, and he was really a kindly soul. Once more I had to have little words with myself and wonder whether it was all worth going on with. I I suppose I screwed up a little move courage gradually. At all events, I wasnt thrown quite so often in the next -few gallops I had. At last I actually got a mount in a race at New Orleans, on Lovelace, for the Beverwyck Stable, and I finished third. I rode in four other races at the same meeting, but didnt win any. I hated myself, for I didnt seem to improve at all. I may as well be frank about it; the truth is that I was so bad until 1803 that I was a byword among trainers. They used to say that if a man didnt want his horse to win he neednt have him pulled. All that he had to do was to send for Sloan. His riding would be handicap enough. Of course, I heard about it all, and it didnt upset me as much as it might have done, for I knew I couldnt ride. EXPERIENCE WITH "BT" HOLLY. J One little sentence, however, kept myste-1 ! riously ringing in my ears: "You may be able to ride some day." Still, this was poor consolation, and as I was a thinking sort of kid it hurt me some when the papers made fun of me. I should like to have had a go for two or three of those newspaper men, but I i I bided my time, without much hope, however. I just kept my tongue between my teeth and didnt talk so much then as I do now. But those papers! When "By" Holly signed me on at the Bay District track at San Francisco one race writer said that Holly must have engaged me because of the loud clothes I used to wear instead of for any merit I had as a rider. It was the same old story. I tried and tried and seemed to get worse. I was growing older too although I never grew up and I really began to wonder whether it was worth going on with, and in 1894 I decided it wasnt. In thinking about what I should do after determining to give up riding for ever I made up my mind that Id go on the stage. I looked about and actually had something in view. At that time, however, I had an unknown friend who took a good deal of interest in me. I found out about it afterwards. It was he who told me to stop all the nonsense about the stage and to go on trying to be a jockey. I shall always be grateful to him. Charlie Hanlon and George Rose really shaped my career. Hanlon made me study horses, and I began to stand better with myself and not to wake up in the middle of the night and think I was already a hopeless failure. It wasnt in the stable yard only and on the gallops that I tried to "find out all I could. As a matter of fact I discovered the "monkey-on-the-stick seat" quite by accident at the Bay District track. . HOW THE "3IONKEY CROUCH" CAME. One day, when I and Hughie Penny, who was then a successful jockey, were galloping our horses to the post my horse started to bolt and in trying to pull him up I got up out of the saddle and on to his neck. Penny started laughing at the figure I cut, and I laughed louder than he, but I couldnt help noticing that when I was doing that neck crouch the horses stride seemed to be freer, and that it was easier for me too. Before that I had seen a jockey named Harry Griffin riding with short stirrups and leaning over on the horse. As he was the best jockey of the day I put two-and two to-1 gether and thought there must be something s in it, and I began to think it out, trying all H sorts of experiments on horses at home. The 5 "crouch seat," the "monkey mount," or the thousand and one other ways it has been I described, was the result. Then the time 3 came when I dtermined to put it into prac-1 tice. But I couldnt screw up enough courage S the first time I had a chance. I kept put-3 ting it off. At last, though, I did rcally B spring it on them. Everybody laughed. They y thought I had turned comedian. But I was 3 too cocksure to be discouraged. I was cer-g tain that I was on the right track. Perse-g vered, and at last I began to win races ! jg In the whole of my experience I have found B that a boy with a nervous temperament S makes the best jockey. He is quick and alert B to take in a situation, and he becomes a j human ferret, finding out things for himself. I The Tod Sloan of that day was a bundle of E nerves, and he discovered new things every B day. I will give you an instance. It was at Ej the Ingleside track at San Francisco that I H learned that a horse runs better when "pock-8 cted." Of course it is rough on the nerves of a rider, but the horse breathes in a space H where the air doesnt come to him in a rush, I I and all a rider has to do is to watch his I chance and slip through when he thinks the g time has come for the effort. He will find 1 his mount fresher and quicker to put it all in. j Another thing which I learned about the same time was that however tired a horse jj may be in a race and no matter how hard it g may be for his rider to keep his position I yet the horse will take on new energy if he R gets the chance to go through a gap between two other horses or between a horse and the rails. I have studied horses all my life since the time I have just spoken of, and I am g quite sure that its a kind of compelling in-j stinct.

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