Although it is correct to say that every foot of the way is important to each race, it's a fact that nine times out of 10 the money is waiting for the horse and jock who get the best job done from the eighth pole to the wire. It is during these last 200 yards that I prefer to forget my whip and give my horse, instead, the benefit of what we call the hand ride. Now, basically what a rider does in the hand ride is to tune himself completely with the motion and rhythm of his horse. Thus, when the horse is on his hind feet, you must be in position to shove with your hands. And, as he pushes off on his jump, you go with him with your hands.
I think you will see from the three drawings on this page what I mean when I say that you must be "one" with your horse in the proper hand ride. First of all, on the opposite page we see the horse coming off his hind feet into his jump or big stride. As he makes his jump I'm going forward with my hands, as seen at left. Notice two things about my "seat" in this sequence: I'm well forward, where I'm getting better leverage, and my short right iron is responsible for giving me the very strongest pushing action.
Naturally you must push as hard as your power will permit you to. The harder you push the more you feel you're urging your horse—and helping him. On the right, you see the horse coming back from the jump, and consequently my hands are also coming down. One aspect to the hand ride is that I notice that I get more power with my head down in an all-out drive. Of course, if you're driving in the middle of a pack you absolutely must (unlike this drawing) keep your head up to see where you're going.
Even with your head buried in your horse's neck and mane, as your posture becomes more streamlined you should be capable of maintaining the proper hand ride without breaking the rhythm which you've established between you and the horse. At left, for example, I've already completed one full forward jump, and my hands now come back to the neutral position after recoiling, and we're about to start another in the strenuous series of push-and-thrust actions which make up the complete hand ride.
RIDING THE NECK
RELATIONSHIP WITH THE HORSE
Hand riding, of course, is riding with complete disregard of the whip. On these pages, above and below, is another complete hand-riding cycle. The hand ride, properly executed, is really just an all-out concentration of pushing along the horse's neck. There's only one way to hand-ride: get down and really shove at the thing. When you do it right it's everything your body can give. You're straining every muscle in your body, and the key to the whole business is that you must have that absolute relationship with the horse. For instance, if he's on his hind feet and I go forward before he takes off, then I'm riding faster than he's going—and we're not in motion together. The logical result of this will be that I'll completely confuse the horse. And a confused horse—no matter how potentially good a runner he may be—can't possibly give you his best effort. In fact, he's liable to quit on you.
HEAD-AND-HEAD IN THE STRETCH
In hand riding, with the great push and thrust going for you so that you feel "one" with your horse and he's running for you, you almost never hit him. To let go and break your rhythm to hit him is the worst thing you can do, and it's also the one thing the horse least expects. There's no doubt in my mind that when horses get head-and-head they really know it's a race. And if they're any account they'll give you all the run they have in them, so this would be the worst time to use a whip. Now to the final phase of our theoretical mile race, in which, at the close of last week's article, my 2-horse was leaving the quarter pole ready to duel the 8-horse down the stretch. (Whereas my horse was previously on the rail—for the purpose of showing the right-to lefthanded whip switch—above we take the liberty of moving him to the outside in order better to illustrate the proper hand ride.)
To use maximum effort for any length of time is quite impossible. If you have to hand-ride a horse in the middle of the backstretch (to put him to running), you're not going to have strength in reserve to get back down on your belly and push again the last eighth of a mile. And if you get sloppy in a hand ride, you'll only lose rhythm and it'll send you into a slump quicker than anything I know of.
A QUICK LOOK
With the horse I've got to beat on the inside of me, I turn my head ever so slightly and look under my left arm as I begin another forward thrust. If I lifted my head now I'd break the streamlining effect of the proper hand ride. I can get much more power up through my back—and greater forward motion—when my head is kept down than if I threw my neck back when I wanted to see what was going on.