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.
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