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Kick the Latch review: A unique insight into the secret world of equestrian sport

A fictionalised account of the real-life goings-on in horse racing, Kick the Latch lifts the curtain on a world of brutality, competitiveness and compassion from the perspective of a trainer

Fictionalised from transcribed interviews with a horse trainer called Sonia, Kathryn Scanlan’s Kick the Latch is an engrossing peek into the world of equestrian sport. For most of us, when we think of horses, we imagine rich breeders and the upper classes spending a day at the races. But Scanlan’s novel offers a lesser-known perspective – that of the trainers who spend long days tending to the racehorses with more knowledge than those who own them. Scanlan is the medium through which Sonia’s honest voice shares tales of debauchery, arduous shifts, athletic strength and exploitation of these highly skilled horse trainers.

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Kick the Latch reveals a harsh world portrayed through the many obscure phrases of jockeys. A world where flipping refers to the problematic eating habits of the jockeys, while slang terms tell of hazing rituals that rival the patriarchal horrors of fraternities. Through all this we can see Sonia’s love for the job, the pull of a unique role where her working days are spent tending to such mighty creatures and where intense connections are formed between trainers and the horses they care for. 

Kick the Latch book cover

Scanlan offers a unique insight into a world so often closed to us. This slim, punchy novel, told in fragments, delivers a blunt account divulging the brutality and compassion of an extreme sport. Scanlan does not shy away from the exploitation of trainer and horse alike. The treatment of both depending, like any other job, on the boss you have and the colleagues you work with – in Sonia’s case whether that be human or beast.

Billie Walker is a freelance writer

Kick the Latch by Kathryn Scanlan is out now (Daunt, £9.99). You can buy it from The Big Issue shop on Bookshop.org, which helps to support The Big Issue and independent bookshops.

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This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine, which exists to give homeless, long-term unemployed and marginalised people the opportunity to earn an income.To support our work buy a copy! If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

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