Sometimes, I get comments from people* that make me feel like I should get my Horse Person Card revoked for not being anti racing.
*people = largely on the internet
Let me be clear– there are things I don’t like about the racing industry. I wish they weren’t started as babies…. which happens because there is so much emphasis on races for 2 and 3 year olds. On the flip side, I wish there was more of a trend to keep the good ones racing longer, so they can prove they can stay sound past 3 before they go on to make more of themselves. I wish they had turnout. I wish the unsuccessful ones didn’t have to keep on racing because their trainers don’t know what else to do with them, and if you’re interested in donating to/volunteering for/attending an event that caters to that issue, click here.
But there are many, many good people involved with racing, and I enjoy going to the track and connecting with them, and looking at the horses and imagining their stories.
Back in 2o14, I reached out to the trainers of a horse closely related to a horse I adored. I told them I was interested in him if he wasn’t successful on the track. They invited me to watch him run at Arlington and come meet him after the race.
I’ve since learned the hard way that I can’t afford a second horse anytime soon. The horse in question has since been claimed again and again, and actually remains fairly successful now in his 6-year-old year. But I’ve stayed in touch with his old owner and trainer through the wonders of facebook, and when his owner told me they had a horse running in the 7th at Arlington yesterday, I was like hell yeah I’m coming to watch.
I saw his trainer in the paddock and she ran up to me and gave me a hug, and said “did you see your buddy is still running? I wish he could just have a good home with you.” Their horse ran fourth, failing to hit the board and earn me anything back on my $2 bet 😛 But he was lovely in person, and I was pleased to see when I looked him up that he’s Irish bred, because who doesn’t love a dapple grey Irish TB?
His face reminds me of a friend’s eventer
Close but no cigar
Since I was there, I stuck around to watch a couple races. I didn’t bet, but my time tested strategy of “go for the chunky dark bay with chrome” meant I picked the winner in two of three races.
Not fancy and uphill, but he had presence.
I was completely awestruck by a horse (apparently he’s a horse-horse, as in an ungelded 3-year-old) in the last race of the day. I will freely admit that I am blinded by dark bay with chrome (see above betting strategy). But he walked into the paddock and just owned it.
Calmly was saddled and walked to the post.
Showed off his fluid and supple trot in the warmup (seriously, I wish I had taken a video of him)
Came from behind and won by 3/4 of a length
Cantered home quietly (again, wish I had taken a video)
Stood to be unsaddled, with just enough sass and “yeah, did you see me do that?” to keep things interesting
Stood in the winner’s circle
And pranced his way home.
And then the coolest thing happened. I posted a picture of him to my instagram, as I often do
because I need validation from strangers on the internet and also I am so broke and maybe I will magically get hired as a photographer somewhere. And then I saw I had a comment, from his groom? exercise rider?, who I guess we were mutual followers but never really talked. She told me it was a good picture, and he is a lovely horse to handle even being a 3-year-old colt. And I told her he was one classy horse and congratulated her on the win, and then checked out her profile cuz I am a creep like that, and saw that her most recent posts were full of pictures of him, selfies with him, his journey to Arlington, him hand grazing during our cold snap. And I realized– each of these horses has a team behind them. They have real live people who know them and love them and know their quirks and take pictures of them so they can carry them around on their cell phones and look at anytime. They think about how they’re doing now, and when they start winding down, they probably think about what comes next.
And that’s why us sporthorse people need to not be so quick to judge racing folk. There are many different facets of the horse industry, and trust me
I’m a vet tech, there are ugly aspects of all of them. But the important part is that we’re all in it for the horses, and we need to keep making these connections so these horses are ensured careers after the track.