Monday, June 10, 2013

At the Track

I've spent my entire horsey career hanging around the show world. Dressage, jumpers, eventers, the occasional arab or breed event. RedHeadLins works on the racetrack near me, and I thought it was high time I figure out that one strange bit of the horse world in which people appear to be able to make a living.

Quarter horse race
I came with a couple of friends the first night. We watched the horses in the paddock, then tried a couple of different positions to watch the races. The stands, the rail by the gate, the rail by the finish. All were fun. I've never spent time watching live racing before, and I was surprised by the intensity of the atmosphere, especially as the horses came galloping down to the finish. 





I don't bet money because I have the worst luck in the world, but some people seem to enjoy that sort of thing too. I figure if I'm going to blow $5, I'd just rather end up with a margarita. It's a known quantity.



One of the racehorses
Then RedHeadLins offered to show us around the backside. Omg. Yay! Off we went. We got to meet her string of horses in their stalls and watch them watch the races.

They were remarkably composed about the whole thing. For some reason, I thought they'd be more amped up, but they just munched on dinner and visited with us.










View from the backside
We also got to watch a race from the back side. It was pretty hilarious to hear the commentary the jockeys have going when they think no one can hear them. We tried our best to be non awkward and stay out of the way, but I loved being around the horses and seeing what it was like. It was also incredibly strange to not be working in the barn, but I'm sure I wouldn't have been any help.

We watched a horse get ready and went up to watch her race. It was pretty exciting, but she didn't end up winning.







After that, I managed to convince the cool track people that I could come out and watch the horses work in the morning later that week.Again, it was a really cool experience. I got to go in the stalls and help brush them to get ready. After watching some gleaming specimens go by on their way to work, I was determined that not a single spot of dust would be left on the horse I was with. After all, I'm a show groom. I can do this.

But he was clean!
I stood back to admire my work and my guide said, "You have to be faster. We need to keep them moving."

Oops.

I picked up the pace, though I'm still nowhere near fast enough to blend in with the legit race people.


I also got out of the stalls and watched from the rail. There were quite a mix of people working. Some horses got ponied all the way to the track, while others walked on a loose rein. Gallop girls, exercise riders, jockeys, pony riders, and trainers were all around.





Headed out to work



Particularly impressive was the commentary that the experienced riders gave when they came back to the barn. They were so in tune with the horses that they would mention problem physical areas that they thought the horse might need help with.











Brakes!
After the horses worked, they were given a drink and put on the hot walker by experienced handlers. I was warned that some impressive antics happen there on occasion, so I steered clear. That day, the horses were more interested in making the walker stop and wait for them.

All in all, it was a super cool experience. I'm hoping to spend some more time there this summer and get to know the world a little bit. I have no desire to gallop baby racehorses, but I love the shedrow of gleaming horses and the power and speed of the track.

Can't wait to go back.

14 comments:

  1. I worked at the North Dakota Horse Park where they had racing for a few seasons. While it was a bit of a cow track I loved being on the back side. I worked as a groom for a very brief period and decided I just couldn't cut it as one. Even at our tiny track it was WAY more stressful than I was ready for hahaha! The trainer I was working for at the time then asked me if I wanted to breeze his horses in the morning for him. Being all of about 100 lbs at the time and no where near as experienced in the saddle as I am now I laughed and said "absolutely NOT!" Looking back now, I wish I would have. It would have been quite the experience!

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  2. What a cool experience. Love the pictures.

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  3. What a great way to spend some time, lovely photos and sounds like a great experience!

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  4. The backstretch is a often misperceived, misunderstood world of its own. Full of horsemen from an array of differing backgrounds and knowledge levels. Glad you got to go see it up close and personal and experience it. Not many people do or want to. Not the lifestyle for me, but I can see how some people like it. It can be a close knit group and a second family kind of thing.

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  5. careful...track life is addicting! Glad you enjoyed it :)

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  6. Very cool. There's a racetrack near where I live (for harness racing) and I really wish I knew someone who could show me around the barns

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  7. What a beautiful track! Sounds like 2 very fun outings. =)

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  8. Tricks to being a track groom: 1) Have enough tack to do 2-4 sets at once. That way all you have to do is bridle. 2) A damp sponge. Gets rid of dirt, shavings, and tames a crazy mane. Never pick up a brush until after 10am again!

    That is a pretty cool looking track!

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  9. Neat! I'd love to go behind the scenes at the track :)

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  10. I always wanted to see the backside of the track. I used to always go to super early car shows next to a track and get some amazing photos of the horses breezing thru the fog. A lot of the riders would stop and chat, I always tried to be somewhere where I wasn't the dummy spooking a horse.

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  11. oh man that sounds like SO much fun! :)

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  12. What a great opportunity to experience something totally different!

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  13. Fantastic! I can't wait to see more pictures. One day I'll get to the track :) I'm glad you had that experience.

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