Category or Genre: Young Adult – Coming of Age
Word Count: 62,00
For 17 year-old Jessie Reilly, life moves very fast – in perfect ovals. She’s an apprentice jockey at the local racetrack. To Jessie, nothing beats the feeling of tearing around the track on a fiery horse, an experience she describes as “flying, only very close to the ground”.
But, as any pilot will tell you, flying close to the ground is a dangerous business. You have no margin for error and little chance of recovering if you make a mistake. And Jessie’s certainly under a lot of pressure. Her rivalry with an aggressive fellow apprentice, her efforts to maintain the sport’s low weight requirements, and the dangerous nature of horse racing challenge her at the track. Away from the track, Jessie dodges the concerns of her friends and family, tries to establish a relationship with her distant father, and struggles to balance school and racing.
Will Jessie be able to find her stride and stay in balance or will she lose control?
First 250 Words:
What’s the secret to being a good jockey? It’s control – both of the horse and of yourself. Even though you’re racing around at 40 miles an hour, you want your body to be the picture of serenity. You want to be completely still, back flat and steady enough to carry a wine glass. You want a good rhythm, your hands moving with the motion of the horse’s head. Most of all, you want perfect balance, your center of gravity holding you in place as you fly around the track.
We get through a mile of cantering and then I goad Miz into a gallop. She doesn’t need a lot of urging. I feel her gait change from a 3-beat to a 4-beat. I saw a photograph once that showed a racing horse at that split-second when all four of its feet are off the ground. It confirmed my belief that what we do is flying, just very close to the ground.
The galloping goes by quickly and then I pull out the crop and ask her for all she’s got for the last stretch. It doesn’t feel appreciably different to me. When we finish, I pull her back to a trot and we have a cool-down lap. Patch didn’t ask for this, but I’ve been working with him long enough to know that he always wants one cool-down and that he might want another. When I’ve completed one, I look at him and when he doesn’t nod, I bring