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For Those Who Have Worked at The Track ..

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  • For Those Who Have Worked at The Track ..

    Please tell me stories.

    What is/was your typical daily routine? How do you handle galloping difficult horses? What is considered a difficult horse?

    Your best horses to gallop and your worst ? (nameless, though reference to the horses sire would be nice).

    Quirky horses and their quirks?

    Greatest experiences and worst times?

    Best people and worst that you encountered (nameless of course).

    I'll never have the opportunity to hang around a race track. I would be grateful if you would allow me live vicariously through your experiences.

  • #2
    Well this is a fun post! Be warned, I ramble...

    What is/was your typical daily routine? It varied, I had many jobs-hotwalker, assistant trainer, foreman, groom, pony girl, gallop girl. My foreman job was the most exhausting. We had 20+ horses and a very strict run barn. I was in charge of every little detail, taking every horses temp first thing every morning, having grooms who wouldn't listen to me because I was a girl and gave me twice as much work. I checked their legs, made their feed, did medications, ponied, handled vetwork and tack and farriers and clipping/mane pulling, laundry, paycheck, work assignments, tack cleaning, ordering supplies/feed/shavings/hay, schooling in the paddock, helping get horses ready for races, etc etc etc. It was long days. 4am til 6pm, never a day off, some days I was lucky and could take a couple hour nap in the afternoon. It was pretty exhausting.

    Ponying was probably the funnest, I could make my own hours and I got to spend the day riding my horse, although it could be a very cutthroat business, everybody was always trying steal each others work, and it was very hard on my horses. You were always hustling.

    How do you handle galloping difficult horses? What is considered a difficult horse? I didn't gallop for very long and was usually on just a few babies or easy horses a day, never enough to get fit enough to gallop tough ones. There are a lot of tricks to it through, just depends on the horse.

    Your best horses to gallop and your worst ? (nameless, though reference to the horses sire would be nice). My favorite horse to gallop was a horse named Coaster, because he did just that. He would just set in a perfect frame and then coast along. He could be a handful at times though. He had a habit of walking calmly to the track and then right before stepping on he would let out an enormous, back cracking buck out of nowhere, and then walk on like nothing was wrong.

    My favorite memory at the track was one crisp, cool morning, me and Coaster were the only ones on the training track, at the foot of the mountains that were covered in a thin layer of ice. We were having the most beautiful gallop-strong and forward, yet in control and relaxed, just floating over the ground. The sun was starting to rise and the light hit all the ice and frost and everything was gold and rainbows. It was just one of those perfect moments :-)

    My LEAST favorite was a mare I also groomed named Espirita. She was a smart little grey who could be very mareish. I was still new to galloping and was told I was ready to move up to her. My trainer led me to the training track and she was full of herself. The second we got onto the track and my trainer let go, she bucked and bolted to the inside rail and nearly slammed into it, causing me to loose a stirrup, then she took off at a dead run the wrong way. Luckily there was no other horses on the track. So now I'm at a dead runaway with one stirrup, and they're short, so it's not like I can just sit on her, I still have to stand up, and because I'm putting all my weight on the one stirrup the saddle is sliding to one side. I have nothing to anchor against to pull on her. We go flying around an entire lap and a half. I would catch my stirrup just enough to yank it right again before it would slip. I was pretty much just looking for a soft spot to bail because I knew there was no way I was going to stay on. We got to the backside and Espirita slowed herself down, pulled up and stood there like, "Ok, I did my job!" Definitely the scariest ride I've ever had!

    Quirky horses and their quirks? So many!! They all had such personalities, and when you work with them all day, every day, you really get to know them, I think more than a lot of people know their own horses. My favorite horse who was probably the quirkiest was a grey named Peace Sign. He would start spanish walking when he got bored, and would try to bite all the hotwalkers as they went by but when I went by he would stick his head up, roll his eyes back and wiggle his lips and tongue so I could rub his face. Apparently he had attacked his groom as a yearling and nearly killed him, so they gelded him, and his current groom was terrified of him, but he was a doll for me, he just loved to play. We had a massive stud colt named Seattle Tuesday that I nicknamed Monster (but he was a giant chicken) who would give you high fives when you walked past him. You'd stick your palm up and say High Five! and he'd bob your hand with his nose. He loved to put anything and everything in his mouth and just hold it like a dog. We had a mare named Validain whose tongue was ALWAYS hanging out, she had some kind of deformity in her mouth. Even in her races, she would be coming down the stretch with her tongue flopping like a big dog lol. There was Galloping Gertie, who LOVED to be scratched with the leaf rake or pitchfork. If you were trying to rake the shedrow she would paw and snort until you came over and scratched her face with it.

    Greatest experiences and worst times? The greatest experiences were getting to live the dream I'd had since I was 6 years old. Getting to meet and work with famous trainers and jockeys at famous racetracks. The thrills of having a horse you worked SO hard with winning a race. Just getting to know so many beautiful, intelligent, amazing horses. Watching them work every morning. Getting to gallop a racehorse is the most amazing feeling in the world, there's just no way to truly put it into words. I only got to (intentionally) breeze a few times but that was a whole 'nother experience as well, a moment I'll never forget. I think one of my big moments was when I got to pony Pat Valenzuela, who had been the jockey of the horse who started me into racing, my favorite racehorse of all time, Sunday Silence. I got the nerve to talk to him about Sunday and he was telling me all these great stories about him, it was pretty amazing. Getting to win "my" first race was pretty incredible too. It sure makes all the work worth it!! I got to pony Tempted to Tapit, a Derby hopeful, when he ran in the Sunland Park Derby and having news crews following us around. We had the Arlington Million winner, Jambalaya, staying in our barn when he won and I got to scream for him with his groom/exercise rider, I felt like it was my own horse that had won! Ahh so many good memories!

    The worst experiences were of course the breakdowns or accidents. Especially after I moved to New Mexico, to see all the QH's get drugged up and beat and snap their legs off. Watching my jockey friend get killed when his horse broke it's legs and he got run over. Watching a horse you really liked and were petting him a few minutes before and the next he's dead on the track, and it's the same trainer whose horses are always breaking down. Watching them freak out because off all the drugs in their system. Watching them have a heart attack after winning a race because they couldn't handle the drugs. Lots of shady characters and backstabbers. Always on the move, living out of suitcases, literally.

    Best people and worst that you encountered (nameless of course). See above


    • #3
      I am not nor will I ever be a rider. But I've spent lots of times on backsides since I was 4 or 5 years old so I will take a stab at it.

      Some of the horses that stick out:
      - an Elusive Quality filly, gorgeous as they come...from the knees up. Knees down, she was a mess which was why she was in our trainer's barn. She raced but never won and inexplicably became a broodmare for someone else. She ate frosted donuts, squealed very loudly, and had enough mane that when it was pulled it looked like 5 cats had been skinned.
      - "Flipper," a no-name Oregon bred gelding in our trainer's barn by a Seattle Slew son. He'd just stand there flapping his lips at us the whole time we were in the barn. Once he worked with our then-3YO gelding the week before Emerald Downs opened in '96. Trainer bet us a quarter that Flipper would outwork our boy. She lost, our guy worked in :46 1/5.
      - Olly (Storm Cat grandson)could count how many carrots you had, and he knew exactly how many he was due. If your count didn't match his, and you tried to walk away, he'd snag you till you rectified your mathematical error.
      - our guy now (grandson of Red Ransom, with some Alydar, Secretariat, Seattle Slew thrown in) has a ton of personality. He loves to toss his head. Knows us all, remembers me and goes nuts when I walk in and go "IS THAT MY BOY?" from when he was a baby even though he doesn't winter with us anymore. If we could find us a horse that was more conformationally correct with a bit more class and staying power, we'd really have something because he is FAST and full of nothing but try.

      Greatest experience is when you win, or think you've really got a special horse, or figure out the key to a horse who hasn't been doing well. Cashing tickets is also really nice. When we won our first stakes race (with our one and only stakes horse to date), it was an exciting photo finish with our horse getting the nod over a horse that had beaten him twice before. He ran the fastest time ever at that track by a 2YO to win. (Phone calls from California's big boys started the next day to try to buy him.) I A) lost my voice screaming and freaked out my non-racing friends who had come to the races for the first time; B) couldn't sleep that night...I literally got up at 1AM and just waited for the 6AM race replay show to come on so as to relive it all over again; C) bought my whole family pizza that night to celebrate because I had cashed a $560 ticket from the previous day's races.

      A couple stories I still just about die when I think about them...the horse rescuer who went to visit a trainer friend's barn..an owner of a horse was there complaining about his filly's poor performance. "Little ***** wouldn't try for me." Horse rescuer said "THAT'S FUNNY, she said the same thing about you!"

      Best time to go to a track is in the morning for training.

      Worst times are obviously breakdowns or hurt or hurting horses, and it's an awful feeling when you have a horse running poorly and you can't pin down a reason. (We are currently going through this with our filly. )

      The best and worst people...the funny thing about the track is that even the "worst" people have good qualities. (I was flabbergasted when I was told that the exercise rider who was always so cheerful and smiling and saying hello in passing had done several years for child rape. ) Vice versa for some of the "best" people...got my own ass kicked stacking hay earlier this year because one of my favorite grooms never showed up to help, despite being told there was beer.

      And some of the best people I have or will ever meet are at the track. Everyone has ups, everyone has downs, not all at the same time but they all know it. It's a lifestyle...it isn't something that you DO, it's something that you *are.*

      I could go on and on and on but it's late.

      Skydy, I highly recommend visiting a track, let me know if you are ever in the Pacific Northwest.
      It's a uterus, not a clown car. - Sayyedati


      • Original Poster

        Thank you for the great pictures (in my head) you have given me!
        BansheeBreeze, rambling is exactly what I want to hear! Keep on, when you can spare the time.

        Slewdledo, please do go on and on , when you have the time
        and thank you for the invitation! I have family in Seattle but don't get out there much. When I do get out there again I'll give a shout !

        When a favorite of mine wins a race I am so thrilled. (I'm not a gambler by nature, so don't have a financial stake in races). I just love to watch such great horses and skilled jockeys.

        I can imagine that feeling is magnified by thousands when it's "your" horse , whether groom, galloper, owner or trainer.

        I've always wanted to be the pony rider (in my dreams). I didn't realize it was so competitive. How is it decided who gets to pony?

        Again, thanks and I'll be glad to hear more when you have the time.


        • #5
          My track experience went full circle, started as an exercise rider, went to trainer, back to exercise rider.

          I started getting on young horses outside Charlestown as a teenager. Went to a training center as an 18yo and started galloping babies. Got in a horrible accident when I got dropped and dragged and wasn't wearing a vest. Cracked 3 ribs, partially collapsed both lungs. Definitely my worst wreck ever.

          Ended up galloping off a farm for a family friend, where I did a little bit of everything, rode, stalls, shipped to races, broke babies. Got my assistant's license, then trainers license, had a couple of great owners but was stuck with a loser of a SO/partner. Had a child, decided I couldn't be a great mom and a good trainer, so I went to work for a TB farm. Hunters, babies, broodmares, everything.

          Ended up back at a training facility galloping because the money and hours were so much better. Typical day there had me getting there much later than most, about 6:45 am. I would go get my tack and get to my first horse. Depending on which groom rubbed him, I might run my own polos or trace bandages and maybe set my own saddle. If we were short a rider, the shedrow foreman would set my tack. There were a couple grooms I didn't trust to do it right. Head to track to do whatever trainer said, walk back, jump off, hand horse to groom and get on next one. If things were slow, I would pull my own tack and go to next horse. It depended on the season and how many riders we had. The trainer trusted me to do quite a bit. I was the only other one who could administer shots, saddle at the races, drive a trailer etc.

          We always rode babies last, when the track was quieter and I could spend longer on them. A typical day for me could have me on 3 horses, or 12. I was the work rider for gate cards, and one other trainer would ship horses in for me to get gate cards on.

          Since I was salaried, I wasn't in a hurry to get from barn to barn, and could spend time walking each horse back, or take a little mini hack to cool out. I also did tack, because I like to know everything I use is in good condition.

          My favorite horse to gallop was a gelding by Geri. The horse was a riot. Proper old gentleman that had bad luck. He would do this odd shuffle buck thing, his feet never got off the ground, but he would look back to make sure you were still okay. Seriously classy horse to be on. There was also a Lion Cavern that was amazing. I loved getting on him, he was so smooth that you had to check to make sure he swapped. There was also an amazing War Chant filly that was a joy. Very smart, very sweet. There was also another War Chant I had going great but the dumbass second string rider let her run off and she never came back from it. The horse I hated was a Point Given. He was awful.

          A bad horse to gallop was one that couldn't be steered. Most horses can be buffaloed in to thinking you are stronger. I only had one horse that got by me consistently, but in an odd twist, the boy that came in to get on her couldn't hold one side of my other tough filly at the time, that I had no problem with. When I first started at that barn, the regular boy told me that this one gelding wheeled and dropped everybody after you pulled up, so I dropped my irons 5 holes and sat down ready for it. He tried it once, didn't get me and never tried it again.

          I also galloped at Colonial Downs, and Timonium during the fair meet. That is a scary little bullring! It was worse before they banked it.

          Characters!!! Good Lord. Everybody on the track has a story or a quirk. One that stands out a lot is this guy named Weasel at Penn National, which is a crap hole in Pa. Weasel would be dying, or have broken his leg the day before, or had a heart attack, and be running horses the next night.

          Best experiences were getting a baby going great, or just having a perfect day in perfect weather on perfect horses. Winning was nice, but a lot of it was just figuring out which piece of tack was needed, or what little thing each horse needed to get him right, or what each one liked for a treat. Being around people from all walks of life, most good, a very rare few bad. Getting paid to get on million dollar horses. Basically living a Peter Pan lifestyle, ride, party, sleep, ride, party, sleep. It was awesome, loved every minute of it
          Originally posted by The Saddle
          Perhaps I need my flocking adjusted.


          • Original Poster

            Thanks Rustbreeches!

            Another question about ponying racehorses. What are the important skills to have and what are you "looking out for" while ponying IE; "do's and don'ts" of ponying. I'll never have the opportunity to do it , but would like to know all the same.
            Last edited by skydy; May. 18, 2013, 12:37 AM.


            • #7
              I started at the racetrack right before my 18th birthday, shared a house with Julie Krone that summer in A.C. Learned to gallop that summer and also rubbed a few. I came from a H/J background so this was a totally new experience for me.

              My general routine as an excersise rider was to be at the barn before the track opened. Horses were always tacked up and ready, leg up and off I went. Rinse and repeat about 10 times a morning. I rode races for awhile, had a baby and went back to galloping, at this point we had our own stable, which makes things twice as stressful.

              Some of the best memories were galloping good (stake) horses. Horses with real class are usually a different animal. I had the good fortune to have great box seats at the Derby, and travel some with my good horses. I got to meet some very interesting people at the top of the game on my journies.

              Worst accident happened early on when a horse I was breezing had a bandage unravel on the turn. He stepped on it and we both went down in a heap. When I came to I was already on a backboard being loaded into the ambulance. I managed somehow to not get seriously injured but found out two weeks later that I had "died", according to the man that ran the little store where they sold racing forms. He happen to ask me if I knew "the girl that died"...yep, it was me.

              Tough horses for me could mean anything from a horse that pulled like a frieght train, to those that were super athletic and could come off the ground 10 ft in a blink of an eye and land totally facing the other direction. Or the ones that were rotton, hell bent on getting a rider of with a variety of tricks up their sleeves. Those were the worst, and a few of them were good stake horses, which made my mornings pretty stressful. I've had the chronic rearer, the bolter, and the bucker in no particuliar order.

              I loved breezing horses, had a good clock in my head and usually ended up breezing all of my horses instead of a jock. Breaking from the gate was also a specialty, I really got satisfaction in teaching the young ones how to leave there in a hurry.

              I ended up getting my trainers license back in the 90's, still got on my own horses and was thrilled when I finally convinced my parents (non horsey people) to buy their first racehorse in a partnership with my husband and I. We were thrilled when she won her first race for us and bought everyone a most excellent dinner.

              There is a comradery that exists at the track like no place I have ever seen. You have some of the most down on their luck folks mingling daily with the more succesfull business people, with everyone having at least one thing in common. Most people will always give a helping hand to those that really need it. To me it was a magical place (most of the time) and I wouldnt trade my almost 30 years there for anything.


              • Original Poster

                Thanks acs.


                • #9
                  I am really enjoying this thread - please keep it coming!


                  • #10
                    Agree. Love these stories, and appreciate everyone's sharing.
                    But he thought, "This procession has got to go on." So he walked more proudly than ever, as his noblemen held high the train that wasn't there at all. H.C.Anderson


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Acertainsmile View Post
                      There is a comradery that exists at the track like no place I have ever seen. You have some of the most down on their luck folks mingling daily with the more succesfull business people, with everyone having at least one thing in common. Most people will always give a helping hand to those that really need it. To me it was a magical place (most of the time) and I wouldnt trade my almost 30 years there for anything.
                      As someone who has a foot in the "real world" and one at the track, I've noticed this too.

                      Thanks for the wonderful post. You made my day.


                      • Original Poster

                        I am also curious about the lack of ponies in the UK and in Europe. I know that their horses are trained differently than U.S. horses, in groups on those wonderful gallops.
                        Does the training have anything to do with the lack of ponying in the UK, or are we just to lazy to walk ours in the U.S., and prefer to pony them?

                        Hoping someone will give me a ponying tutorial.


                        • #13
                          Like you, I dreamed of ponying. I knew that galloping wasn't for me. I started as a hotwalker when I was 16 and then a groom. I started ponying when I got a job for a trainer who had his own pony.
                          Freckles was a big speckled appy who wore a gag bit. I learned to pony in Jan in a snowsuit wearing big ole snow boots. The trainer's daughter put me on Freckles and handed me a horse and said " Go Pony" I got around there thinking I would get my guts pulled out. I LOVED it!
                          I went on to become a trainer and owner who also ponied for 8 years until my back got bad.

                          If you want to pony the best way to break into the business is to start out helping someone else using their extra pony to take doubles when they have more than one client in a race. It is competitive and cut throat. I took doubles for years taking less money to pony than the people who secured the clients. Eventually things do change, people move on, stables change help and I was able to get my own clients. I made about $15000 a year from one pony just working the races.
                          Some pony people also pony horses in the morning exercising them without riders. They can make more money but usually need several ponies because the ponies have to gallop more miles than in the races.
                          Some of the do and don'ts are keep the racehorse's head at your hip or in your lap. Be careful not to let the bridle, ring bit or reins get caought on your saddle horn. Don't get bit and watchout for headslingers, they can smash your hand, chest or face. I have "worn" stallions, you have to be quick to keep them from mounting your pony. I practice what I call defensive ponying, stay alert, keep a good feel on your racehorse and watch out for subtle signs of trouble.
                          A good pony person starts with a great pony. Mine saved my butt many times. If a horse would bolt he would be right with him before I could even react and keeping the horse from getting loose. I loved to pony but the pain in my back forced me to retire. I still have my old pony, he is now 33
                          My mom didn't raise no jellybean salesman!


                          • #14
                            Started when I was 17 at a training farm. Still with the same people we have 7 horses this year. All but 2 of them I've broken to saddle which is how I like it. I want to know my horses and this job lets me do that. We train off the farm and at the track, we have 5 at the track right now.

                            Get up at 4:30 and drive to the track, on my first horse by 6:30 (we have an hour+ drive to the track) off my last horse by 10:00. In between I hotwalk, bathe, clean stalls, feed, clean tack, basically do anything that needs to be done. We're a small operation and do it all ourselves. Finish up and usually head back to the farm by 11:00. Get back to the farm and get on 3 more (1 a show horse). At the farm we have a choice of riding in the indoor track, the turf course of out on the hill. Weather and ground permitting the best place to gallop is on the hill, takes a 10 minute walk from the barn to the hill, over a creek and through the woods. Do your jog and gallop amid the ever fun deer that love to jump at you or freeze and stare at you until your 10 feet away then turn tail and run which usually leads to fun times when your horse attempts to do the same (that is until both horses and deer get used to eachother then usually the deer just stand and watch you go by and after a while if they do jump out at your or run from you your horse doesn't care anymore). Then it's a 10 minute walk back to the farm, very nice atmosphere for the horses, they love the farm.

                            We've got a couple difficult horses to gallop, for the most part you can figure out ways to get them to gallop how you want. Had a Regal Sanction filly last year, who's since retired that would gallop with her head straight in the air and hated her mouth touched (she was checked over and over for problems; teeth, back, etc nothing was ever found). She did go well in a hackamore but went best with a loopy rein and the yoke used against her chest to rate her.

                            Have a Mingun filly who is a beast to gallop, your best defense is to jack your stirrups up take up a short hold, brace your hands in her neck and don't move a muscle.

                            My most difficult one right now to gallop is an Unbridled Jet filly that we got in about a month ago. She has a mind of her own and spins and makes right hand turns while galloping. She is coming along but does have flashbacks. She goes best in company with another horse. She is also the most difficult because she is a runt getting to the track and back home. Got on her in the shedrow the other day and she was in a mood went broncing around the shedrow then stood up on her hind legs. Went to the track with the pony and she tried to jump on the pony and was leaping and bucking up the gap. We were told she refused to go in the gate, our gate crew is great and she's been to the gate twice to walk through. She had a temper tantrum the first day walking on her hind legs and coming at the gate crew with her front feet but they figured her out and she walked through like a lady yesterday. Reading what I've typed makes it sound crazy trying to make her a racehorse! She does have talent, and despite her, ahem, quirks I quite like her! Was walking her back to our gap yesterday in company and we were talking about how good she was. A horse walks onto the track in front of us spooks her and she runs sideways into her friend...spoke to soon!

                            There's any range of difficult horses; I don't mind the pullers I've been able to figure out how to get them to gallop relatively easily. The most difficult horse IMO would be one with steering issues. Give me a puller or the goofy filly above any day!

                            Have a quirky Real Quiet filly who will gallop easy as you please but you have to gently half halt her every stride or she will get a hold of the bit and run off with you. If you get to that point she will also try to drag you down to the rail. My two favorite to gallop are a Stonesider filly and a Crafty Friend colt and I never thought I'd make that statement about either of them. Last year as 2yo's they were complete runts. The filly is a big powerful thing that would throw her head between her knees and buck you off. The colt would be going along nice and easy then would lose it bucking and leaping and would almost fall down. As they've developed though they have become my favorites to take out. They still have flashbacks to their terrible two's but are so nice to take out. The filly goes nice and relaxed and is a joy to work, same with the colt. Have a Perfect filly who came to the farm 2 weeks ago, she is tiny but is full to a half million dollar earner and so far acts likes she is full of class. When we walk out for our gallop she has to steal leaves from every low hanging tree we pass.

                            Greatest times are of course the wins and near misses though the latter are also agony! When you figure a horse out that is one of the best feelings! I have been very lucky in the worst times department. Our horses have stayed sound and healthy and I myself have been lucky to suffer only minor injuries. I know one day I will most likely not be so lucky but for now I try to be as safe as possible and we do the best we can for our horses. We stay as far from medication as we possibly can.

                            There are some of the best people at the track, and the worst. Being a young woman on the track is tough, a lot of the guys there think you are there for one reason. But there are many out there that I have become great friends with! The backstretch quite often is its own little world!
                            Blog: My journey with two OTTB's


                            • #15
                              OP, you might like this "day in the life of an exercise rider" video (RIP Thoroughbred Times )

                              As Peter, Paul, and Mary say, a dragon lives forever.


                              • Original Poster

                                Ipcutter, thanks!
                                Though there is no way, at this age, that I will be having a shot at ponying racehorses. I just want to learn about it.
                                I've done the only ponying I'll ever do, youngsters taken out on a hack.. never a fit racehorse.

                                I've seen the aprons on the ponies to keep them from racehorse teeth and often wondered how the rider keeps from getting bitten.

                                Crownedragon, I watched that whole series when it first came out. It was great!

                                Mintano, thank you, and continued good luck!


                                • #17
                                  Originally posted by skydy View Post

                                  Crownedragon, I watched that whole series when it first came out. It was great!
                                  Can I ask where you found them? I thought that was the only one ever released. They had a trailer for a second episode, but I never saw it in full.
                                  As Peter, Paul, and Mary say, a dragon lives forever.


                                  • #18
                                    Be careful what you ask for!!!

                                    I am going to try to rein in my ability to ramble and centralize my story as best as possible. I started loving racing as it was the only horse sport televised on a national network, during the Triple Crown. It was a yearly ritual for my family to park in front of the tv and watch and wager.
                                    As I guess it’s a natural progression, I would often “race” (read: extended lesson horse canter/while gasping for air) my fellow barn mates around the ring or up the “big hill.” (read: short sloped hill that was mercifully short for said lesson horses!) Time went on and I became an eventer. Then I was an upper level one. This meant that during the long format I was competing in the steeplechase phase. Galloping along, alone, and jumping regulation hurdles. No big deal. However at my first three day I got run off with by my overfit nice 15 hand mare. I wasn’t afraid, it was thrilling!! (Video link here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=01Kb9DF6LyQ )
                                    However when I moved to Virginia after this event to be a working student I ended up training with Jimmy Wofford who immediately noticed my lack of gallop fitness and so he pointed me, as he has pointed many, to go gallop at the Middleburg Training Center. I galloped there for over a year or so for Barbara Graham. She is a fabulous trainer and largely unheralded for her ability. While there I had the immense pleasure of galloping Maxzene during her brief resting from November of 1996-February of 1997. (Equibase:http://www.equibase.com/profiles/Res...642&registry=T)
                                    I knew nothing about racehorses by then but I knew she was the real deal. And she was. I will say the biggest name that I sat on there was by far the worst runner. Genuine Reward….. (http://www.equibase.com/profiles/Res...036&registry=T) That’s the foal that was the biggest news of the 1993 foaling season. Genuine Risk’s first live foal after more than a decade of trying. He was a $h1t!!!!!! Billy Mott sent him home and I had to jog him in front of his owners twice. I couldn’t wait to get off of his back.
                                    So once I started I couldn’t stop. I rode in a couple point to points and eventually ended up moving to California. In Cali a dear friend helped me to come work for her and her boyfriend, a solid private trainer, and get my license. That was John Shirreffs… future trainer of Zenyatta and many more. He was training for 505 Stables when I worked there and as such I was very lucky to sit on some lovely horses. I progressed to be ready to earn a real salary job. And I got one with Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella.
                                    I can say I galloped The Tin Man when he was a 2 year old.  (http://www.equibase.com/profiles/Res...074&registry=T)
                                    I enjoyed galloping in Southern California and I can never describe how gorgeous the mornings are as the sun comes up over the hills of Santa Anita as there is a mist on the track. For the Ponying folks… I had to pony a couple and gallop on the training track. I have never thought I was going to die so completely!!
                                    Finally the east coast called me back and I left the warmth. But yet I still ended up at the track. This time it was 2004 and the track was Bowie racetrack in the depressed racing state of Maryland. The shine of the California paddocks and grandstands was replaced by rust covered railings and inconsistent track surfaces. But the horses were just as lovely. That fall I was galloping a 2 yr old and I felt the same “oomph” beneath me as I had felt with The Tin Man and Maxzene. Brazenly I told others…you will see this horse in the triple crown next year. They laughed. They reminded me where I was, Bowie, and that I worked for a claiming trainer. Didn’t matter. I knew there was something to that gelding. And boy was I right.
                                    A winter spent at Belmont riding and living on the backside of Belmont Park brought me as close to my land of dreams as I have ever thought. See I always relished the Belmont Stakes. Not sure if it’s the distance, the grandeur of the track or just being the last of the triple crown jewels. I walked over the track in the snow one day that winter. I stood at Ruffian’s grave. My dog and I ambled the mile and a half oval and felt history beneath our feet. There is a magic there that one cannot describe in words. It’s just a magical place. And don’t get me wrong. Tragedy lurks in the history of those grains of sand as well. But as always I let the bad pass beneath me and enjoy the glories. It got even better as I was allowed to bring my new horse Lad with me. We enjoyed a successful meet that winter and watched as our big gelding made his way into the Triple Crown picture. Close to the time we were about to ship to Delaware for the rest of the year, the big oval finally opened. (It’s closed during the winter) None of the bosses horses went there, they stayed on the mile training track, but my horse and I went to gallop there. It was truly one of the most amazing rides of my life. Lad bowed his head and I let him strong gallop and literally stared at the grandstand and felt the history wash over me. I know it’s dorky but I really am that much of a fan of the sport, and I only got to gallop on it this 1 time.
                                    So off we shipped to Delaware and prepped as the Derby played out. We wisely skipped it and aimed towards Pimlico. The weeks rolled by and we shipped down to run in the Preakness. We got the typical “new shooter/long shot” dismissive press. No matter. The big horse was ready to roll. And ROLL we did….almost all the way to the winners circle. I can say that looking back 8 years later that even though we didn’t have the fantasy, becoming infamous has lasted a LOT longer than a little dose of fame.
                                    (Video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfFzODoD7YY ) We were 2nd!
                                    I went on from my 2.5 years with Robbie to work for Michael Matz at Fair Hill. But sadly I started the Monday after Barbaro’s Preakness. It was an entirely different atmosphere than the celebration I experienced the year prior. I was surrounded by people whose hero had fallen. I saw the faces of those who were suffering and I gave them the space they needed to grieve. I can’t even list how many stakes horse and names I sat on during that job. I loved it, and enjoyed the gorgeous views that Fair Hill affords. I also probably harassed Michael more than he liked, but on quiet moments when he ponied a horse I was on I would ask questions about his jump career, what horses he idolized and how he liked training. Those were amazing times and though I didn’t work for them long (6 months) I am always thankful that I can say I swung a leg over Round Pond, Chelokee, Man In Havana, Bee Charmer, Honest Man, Aunt Henny, and sooooo many others.

                                    The track can be a magical place and it can show humanity and horsekind to those who open their heart and minds long enough to blink and see the truth around you. The injuries, breakdowns, accidents and such will make you ache in ways and places you didn’t know exist. But the highs are so high you will get dizzy from the lack of oxygen. Glitzy track or hole in the wall doesn’t matter. The horses will get you through. From lowest level claimers to the glossy stars of the big stakes, the job and the goals are the same and the dedication of the people around them will never wither and die.
                                    ((Guess I didn’t do too well on curbing my rambling))
                                    Pics from work: http://www.flickr.com/photos/xctrygi...7602288023921/

                                    "Courage is not the absence of fear but rather the judgment that something is more important than fear. The brave may not live forever but the cautious do not live at all." ~2001 The Princess Diaries


                                    • Original Poster

                                      Originally posted by CrowneDragon View Post
                                      Can I ask where you found them? I thought that was the only one ever released. They had a trailer for a second episode, but I never saw it in full.
                                      It was on the Thoroughbred Times website. I remember they followed an exercise rider, a track announcer and there was another episode as well, I think? (the subject of which I can't remember now so perhaps I am mistaken).

                                      Here they are!




                                      • Original Poster

                                        Xctrygirl that was great. I bet you were thrilled with that second! Infamous indeed.

                                        I'm sorry about the timing of your work for MM. It must have been a rough atmosphere, but glad you got the chance.

                                        Thanks for sharing. I am happy to read your reminiscences and honestly, I will never get tired of reading them. To all of those who kindly responded to my OP, please don't hesitate to write more if you will.