Race of the Week 2017

Decisive Moment: A Girl's Reunion With Her Favorite Horse

Decisive Moment at Churchill Downs.

If anybody ever asked me what the best day of my life was, I already have my answer picked out for, what I guess will be the same for the next ten years or so. “The day I met my hero,” I’ll say. “The day I met the most beautiful and characteristic horse I could have ever imagined. That was the best day.” And, since I will probably grow into one of those people who can talk about something forever, I will probably continue in saying, “Hey, let me tell you a story.”

I sat in the back seat of car looking out the window of the bleak, flat area surrounding me. I felt like somebody in a movie who is being driven somewhere where something great is destined to happen to them. The characters, they stare out the window, almost as if so deep in thought that they don’t show any emotion. Well, I had a similar experience. Only, mine went something like this.

“Are we there yet?”

“How much sooner?” 

“I see a sign, look! 76 miles left to go!”

“DAD hurry up, you’re driving the speed limit! Go faster! Cops allow up to 7 miles over it!”


The entrance to the not-so-widely-known-and-rightly-so track named Indiana Downs was clearly marked, and I suppose that is why we got confused within our first minute of being there. We had no instructions on what we were supposed to do, so we were winging it.

“We’re supposed to enter here! It says parking!” -My dad.

“Dad, we’re not GOING to the parking, we’re going to the barns!” -Me. 

And it was true. We paraded ourselves in a U-turn, got ourselves back on the road, and drove to the entry way of the 5 or 6 large horse barns to the east side of the track. You see, we were invited to go meet the horse of MY dreams, and we were not about to pass up an opportunity like that. Even if it meant sitting in a car for 3 hours each way. 

        “Can I help you?” A woman asked us as we pulled up to the small little stand guarding the entrance to the barns. We told her that we were here to see Mr. Juan Arias and his horse Decisive Moment. Five minutes and a paged Juan later, the trainer arrived in a little (rented, I was later told) white Prius. The lady at the gate told us that he would show us the way to the barn. “No touching the horses,” she made sure to note as we went to leave. 

         I was the first to get out of our car, which was parked right by the little miniature Prius. And then Mr. Arias got out, and then my parents. Glad greetings and smiles were everywhere; we talked for a few minutes. My first impression of the trainer was that he had probably been in the racing game for a while and knew what he was talking about. I wasn’t wrong. I smiled, and offered my hand. He shook it, and I think it may have been shock that crossed his face for a milisecond. I mean, most 13 year olds don’t shake hands, but still. Be proper. But then, after that, Juan led me and my parents to the barn and showed me the horse. 

         I walked in the barn and immediately knew which horse he was taking us to. The extremely large Decisive Moment was the second horse on the left, the one that was towering over us while casually eating his hay from his stall. I went to stand in front of him and just take it in. I had been around plenty of thoroughbreds before, since my neighbor trains them, but I had never seen a racer that large before. I didn’t ask how tall he actually was, but his withers were much taller than the top of my head, which is a respectable 5’ 4”.

       First impressions are everything; everybody knows that. Well, from what I had gathered in my two years of loving this horse, my first impression was that from Hoosier Park in ‘11. I was wrong. My first real impression was during the rest of the time between the Indiana Derby of 2011 and now. I had thought that he would be a smaller, black, somewhat relaxed horse. I laugh at that now.

        “Can I touch him?” I asked the trainer, who seemed to be staring in awe at the horse with me. At this point, DM was still pulling hay from its holder, bringing it into his stall, chewing it, and then returning for more.

        “Ummmmm,” Mr. Arias said, deeply in thought, and I knew why. The owner, Mr. Ruben Sierra, had earlier told me that DM liked to bite, but I figured ‘What’s life without some risks? Besides, if he even does bite me, I can say I’ve been bitten by Decisive Moment. Is that really SO bad?’ 



 “Yeah, you can touch him, but be careful, if you try to,” the trainer supplied. At this point I must stop and point something out. Mr. Arias has to be one of the kindest people I have ever met, if not the most. I went up to try and pet DM, but then the little, (Well, I guess I can’t call him little anymore) or, rather, large, horse took a playful little nip at my hand. I smiled, but I don’t think my parents had anything under a heart attack. A few tries later, I gave up and took to just staring at the rascal. His midnight-colored ears flipped every which way, and sometimes flattened against his head if he couldn’t find the piece of hay he wanted. Sometimes that hay was from the very top of the bundle, or at the very bottom; it was a very indecisive moment. 

Mr. Arias saw all of this, and then he devised a plan. He quickly sputtered out a ramble of words in another language (presumably Spanish, if I’m guessing correctly) to the groom, who then went and grabbed a leather lead, a halter similar to the one I received from Mr. Sierra, the owner, and a golden-colored mouth chain. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Was I actually about to see Decisive Moment walk right out in front of me, within touching distance? The lady at the gate’s warning came to mind: I didn’t despair, though. I was about ready to see my hero in full beauty of the warm 10:45 AM light.

My parents and I stepped back, and then DM was led out. I couldn’t believe it, he was even taller when you could see him all the way! His huge shoulders moved with every stride, and then I knew this was going to be the best moment of my life up until that point. 

I noticed that the groom had a tight hold of DM’s halter, and that the chain in his mouth was like any other horse’s: there for a purpose. I saw, though, that he was tractable in the most easiest of sense, and that probably knew that he wasn’t out to do any running. 

“There, now you can pet him if you’d like,” Mr. Arias said with a smile. He and my parents started conversing, but I didn’t have time for that then. Decisive Moment, the horse I had loved for two years, was standing right in front of me and ready to be pet. I was not going to pass up an opportunity to defy the gate lady, either. 

I ran my hand on his shoulders, up his neck, and onto his jaw. He didn’t seem to mind this; he stood, head down, almost as if he was thinking about sleeping. I’ll never forget, though, what such power felt like. His shoulders were hard, but with muscle and strength, unlike any thoroughbred I had yet to see up close. Then the groom motioned me to look at DM’s mouth, where his tongue was lazily hanging out. I laughed and offered a smile at the groom, who politely returned it. 

Well, that’s all I can put in one article without annoying people and giving them a bunch to read, which they might not enjoy doing anyway, especially if it is the writing of a 13 year old. But my story is not over. There’s still two more parts.

-Written by Madison Jackson



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Older Comments about Decisive Moment: A Girl's Reunion With Her Favorite Horse...

The love you have for Decisive Moment is quite evident. It makes my heart so happy that you were able to meet and pet your hero.
"Oh, he bites," Saying that, without telling me DIRECTLY to not touch him, is almost exactly like telling me to "Go ahead and touch him!"
This is great, Maddie. I'm so happy for you that you had this visit and were able to pet Decisive Moment. Aren't their coats wonderfully soft? So different to see them "at home". "No touching the horses"? I broke any such rule so many times, loving and hugging all over many, but do heed the warnings on which ones bite. I didn't approach those. No reason to upset them either. Very nice groom and very nice trainer that you met!
beautifully written maddie! can't wait to read the others:)
This is 1 of 3!

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