Saturday, January 17, 2009

Don't Touch My Horse!!!!!

Pet peeve. Piss off. Major irk. Can of whup-ass ready to open. Teeth and claws extending.

Anyone with me here?

One of the no-nos around a racing barn- if you have no affiliation with a horse, don't frigging touch it. Unless the horse is running loose and needs catching, stay away. Not a hand, finger, nothing.

That said, let me tell a little story that happened today.

I took the Doodle up to the arena to turn him out this afternoon after my hay run.
We'd already trained and everyone was done. I asked the last exercise rider I saw and he told me, everyone is finished. No one is using the arena.

So I sweet talk Doodle into behaving himself, all the way up the hill to the arena.

Turn him out, let him go. I watch him do caprioles, unofficial mini-works, he runs some poles like a champ (there are beams in the center of the arena). He bucks, he kicks, he runs, he has fun.
After witnessing the biggest steam being let off, I tell him:

"Have fun, don't hurt yourself, I'll be back!"

I turn all the horses out at least once a week. I do it for obvious reasons- they're not meant to live in stalls 24/7. Unfortunately, we have no turn out paddocks or pastures. So the arena gets to double as my horses' turnout field.

Nice thing- it is well maintained and has great footing. Racehorses don't all behave as well as they should when turned out. Some of them will invariable hurt themselves.
This is a really nice, safe alternative and my guys all love it.

I go run my errands and go back up the hill to get Doodle.

When I walk in, the gate is wide open - my first thought is, oh shit! He escaped!

Once my eyes adjusted- I see Doodle in one of two temporary stalls off to the side. In the arena are two guys doing their idea of longeing a two year old.

They see me and one says:
"Hey, we took good care of your horse!"

I'm livid. Good care my ass!

"Oh did you now?"

"Yea, we were really careful when we moved him!"

"Not careful enough!"

Horse stops circling and the guy turns to me:

"What do you mean?"

I clear my throat, walk in and face him about a foot away:

"What I mean is that if you EVER fucking touch my horse again without asking my permission, I'm kicking your fucking ass, is what I mean!"

My arms are crossed, my foot is tapping and I'm waiting.

The other guys is off to the side, snickering.

So I turn to him and tell him:

"And you think that's funny, I'll kick your ass, too, come on!"

I turn around and walk over to Doodle.

I hear a "man, I'm sorry, I was just trying to do the right thing here, you know.."

"Well, let me tell you, the right thing would have been for you to come ask me to move the horse and that you need the arena. That would have been the right thing.

In the future, you'll know what to do, right?"

I snapped my shank back on Doodle and as we were leaving, Doodle turns towards the little group, snorts, snakes his head up and down and with an elegant turn of foot, leads me out of the arena.

So, I know rules as related to race horses are different than rules in boarding barns.

You guys ever have to deal with this type of thing? And does it bother you?
Ever come into the barn to find your horse has been moved to another stall without any notice to you or permission from you? How do you guys handle it?

I'm obviously not very tactful when getting my point across when it comes to my children (human or animal). But I think I made my point and it left a lasting impression.

How do you all feel about people outside of your circle handling your horse(s) without your permission?

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Cindirelli Story

Ok, I know it's spelled Cinderella but this one is a little bit different.

Back in July 2008, one of my owners purchased a 4 year old filly, sight unseen, based on a photo, her pedigree, her race record, the word of a person who was acting as the sales agent and the fact that this filly had just raced last in May.

Her price was set at $4500, which in this economy, is pretty steep, even for a mare with her breeding [by Capote out of Fundraising by Black Tie Affair (IRE)]- nice family, top and bottom.

My owner was able to negotiate the price down by a couple of thousand dollars.
We were told the current owner had 25 or so head horses that he tossed into a grassless pasture, no hay, no grain, no fresh water, just a pond in the pasture. We were also told that she was a hundred or so pounds skinny and that she was completely racing sound but needed some TLC quick.

My owner arranged for payment and had the filly moved from "Ole Pete's" farm (let's just call the previous owner that) and she was boarded for 3 weeks at the agent's farm.

The date approached for her to get on the trailer. She was located in VA, sort of off the beaten path.

It was a Saturday morning when the trailer arrived shortly before I made it to the training center. The guy was very nice and told me he had gone ahead and off loaded her and put her in her stall. I walked up with him to look at her and sign receipt paperwork.
He told me they were worried about keeping her on the trailer longer than absolutely necessary because they felt she may not make it through the day. They had another horse scheduled to drop off first but went out of their way to deliver her to us.

I saw a beautiful grey head sticking out of the stall and went to open the door.
What I saw standing in this stall put me into shock. I didn't know what to say. I was completely dumbfounded.
The horse I was looking at was not the horse whose picture both my owner and I had seen. This horse was a wreck. A skeleton. To top it off, her right front leg was swollen from above the knee on down and she was sore walking on it.

I've seen a lot of skinny horses. I used to help rescue horses in the past. I'm also pretty damned good at looking at a horse and telling you how much weight it needs without having to stick it on a scale.

This mare (for she didn't look like a 4 year young filly, she looked like an old mare) was an easy 400=450 lbs underweight.

Shocked? You should be. This filly is right at 17 hands tall.
During this first bath, which took several shampooings and rinses, I discovered the following:

Upwards of 20+ ticks embedded under each of her "armpits":

A barrage of insects to make proud an entomology professor that was living in her mane, complete with nests. Ulcers were present near her udder and along the inside of her thighs.

Not a single ounce of fat left anywhere on this poor creature. Whatever muscle she still had was just enough for her to walk and stand. She couldn't actually lay down in her stall for the first week.

I could actually stick my upper arm between her butt cheeks and not get stuck.

A week after her arrival, I took more photos during bathtime. She looked even worse then because I had so successfully scrubbed off every bit of rainrot and unhealthy coat she had. Now there was nothing hiding her bones.

Notice the shank attached to her halter. Ms. Skeletar was getting as strong as an ox! Nothing was stopping her. She'd walk right over whatever or whoever was in front of her.

Course, at this point, every trainer at the training center would stop through to view her and wish us luck. Everyone was pulling for this girl. I've never heard so many strangers be so outraged by something done to an animal. "Ole Pete" is lucky he lives so far away.

Her tongue was almost severed from being tied incorrectly. Her teeth had never been floated and she still had a couple of baby caps.

Her feet were a mess. Her legs were a mess. Come to think of it, there wasn't a part of her that wasn't a mess. Cept for her eyes. Those looked good- no infection, no discharge and no injuries or blindness.

What I noticed the most about this girl was her attitude. She soaked up every bit of attention she got. She enjoyed her warm baths (it was summer but I still used warm water because cold water got her shaking like a leaf!). She would gingerly walk across the driveway to stand for her bath and be perfectly still for its administration.

She loved eating grass. And I swear to you guys, she must have been able to understand every word I told her because she responded immediately to any type of positive comment and her spirits were high.

It has taken months to rehab this girl.

Xrays showed that she had an old and healed slab fracture in her RF knee and an old and healed sesamoid fracture in the same leg. Looking at the history we were able to track down for this girl, she raced through both injuries without more than a 30 day break.

I also found out that she was never trained at the track. The "trainer" only swam her a couple of times per week, gave her official works and then raced her. This filly was never fit enough to actually race. Yet she broke her maiden in a 10k Maiden Claimer, going gate to wire in a 9F race at Charlestown.
Charlestown Racetrack is a bullring. It's a small track. 9F at Charlestown is like going around the track 50 times.
Ok, not 50 times, but you get the idea.

The vet came and checked her, shaking his head the whole time. Told me this was a lost cause. This had to be EPM. That she'd never walk sound again. I took all this with a grain of salt because having worked in rescue, I've seen a lot worse than this girl and I honestly did not think it was as bad as he said.
While he was talking, her head went lower and lower and was finally resting up against my chest. Her ears were drooping back and she didn't want to move her head off me.

When Doc went to get his xray equipment, I grabbed her head and told her:
"Honey, don't you listen to any of that. Everything is going to be just fine. You'll be great. You watch, I will make sure that you're going to be healthy and happy and fat again."
Amazingly, she immediately responded and stopped moping.
This is why I say she understands everything. She must! By now it's happened too many times for her not to understand human speak.

Since gaining weight and standing in a stall are not a good way to gain positive weight, after a couple of weeks, I started taking her for walks around the track and property. Her strength was coming back very quickly and before too long, we all realized that she did not have any ground manners.

She was also completely in love with racing. I would take her to the grass and she would stare out over to the track with this far away look on her face.

Cindirelli on August 7- less than a month later. The guy holding her is my good friend Jose.

Notice the lack of mane- I had to roach the whole thing.

We've worked on her feet. I trimmed her myself the first couple of times. Her feet didn't look as bad as they actually were. Below are photos I took after her first trim. Her shoes had grown into the bottoms of her feet.

Above: Right front: not very bad looking, other than her heels being underslung and and crushed. This hoof was also a good bit contracted.

Above: Left Front - a good chunk of hoof wall missing- only so much I could do without making her even more sore. This foot was very run down- broken down a good bit from carrying the bulk of her weight because of the injury to her opposite front leg. Toes gotten long and no heel left.

Above: Right front side view- you can really see how high she is in the heel and short in the toe. There is a lot of flare going half way up the hoof.

Above: : Left front: big difference between the other front- this is typical in a horse who has had an injury- the hoof opposite the injured leg will start breaking down. It's a tell tale sign in TBs- you see a horse with two different feet like this and you're told it is perfectly sound? Well, it may be now but there is an old injury in the opposite leg or hoof- you can put money on that.

Left Front again. Ton of toe.

And one more time.

Let me remind you guys, these photos were taken within a month of her arrival.

Present Day

It's been a pretty long time since her arrival and she's gained a ton of weight. I had started her jogging with extra saddle pads a month after her arrival (a skinny horse needs to gain muscle back- just fat won't only not help but will expose them to the risk of heart failure).

What started off with just a mile, ended up culminating to almost 4 miles per day.
She now jogs a mile and gallops up to 2-2.5 miles. She wants to run so badly, it's like looking at an addict. She is impossible to take off the track. Her shenanigans are unrivalled in that department.

It's time to see if this girl still has it in her. We're looking for an easy race for her- 5k claiming at a mile. She's getting shoes on this week at some point (she needs some elevation on that left front, she looks like a pacer when she's jogging because she sinks so much deeper on the left side on landing). We've fixed as much as we can in the time given with barefoot trims.

After the shoes are on, she's going to have a mandatory official work so that she can be entered. If the weather holds up, I should be able to have her in a race within a month.

This is Cindirelli today:

The photos below were taken by Louie and Anne. You can tell the ones taken by Louie by the missing parts of the horse in the picture.....

So there you have it. Months to undo what one thoughtless, worthless, careless person did to this girl, just by not doing a damned thing.

People who do this to horses go straight to hell. No doubt about it. No ifs, ands, or buts.
And when Ole Pete gets there, I hope the Powers That Be do the same thing to him. Can't wait for those before and after pictures!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

The Cost of Training

I've been asked this by a couple of people here lately.

Although finances probably are not something appropriate to discuss in this type of forum, I've gotten to thinking about this and maybe this is a good way of informing folks about one of the other mysteries surrounding racing.

Training is expensive. When you are a one-person operation, it's also backbreaking work.
There are no days off. Not for the human.

Stall rent, bedding, feed, superior quality hay, basic supplements, exercise rider, equipment, those are just the basics that come out of a trainer's pocket.

By the time it's all said and done, I make an average of $6 per day off each horse.
Trainers depend on purse winnings. My cut from a race is, if the horse runs 1-5 place, 12%.

When you are looking at a purse like the last race Lady ran in, this is how the purse structure breaks down:
Purse: $22,000
1st place: 60% of purse
2nd: 20% of purse
3rd: 10% of purse
4th: 5% of purse
5th 2% of purse

The rest of the field generally gets the jock mount fee "reimbursed", i.e. the horse will make something like $50-60, which pays for the jockey.

In other words, training race horses for a living is slim pickings in the paycheck department, unless you have a huge barn full of talented, problem free horses (yea right!).

I had a discussion earlier with a friend about this (another trainer) and although our styles are very different, and we look at horsemanship from different backgrounds, on this we both agree:

You are better off owning your horses than to have a public stable when you are a small barn.

Add to the financial picture, the emotional drain that being at the mercy of other people puts on you mentally, well, there you have it.

It doesn't matter how good a trainer you are, how happy and well trained the horses in your care are, racing is racing and there are no guarantees. Purses suck these days, everyone is having financial problems and what it boils down to is that this business is a thankless game.
Add to that some of the creeps who are trainers out there (there is one particular trainer at my training center who just can't help himself - he LOVES to steal horses from other trainers. He just did this to a trainer in the upper barn- badmouthed the trainer to his owner, who turned around, pulled all the horses and gave them to the badmouther. It does make you wonder about the owner and his ability to judge people, though...)
I always thought he was a nice enough guy but then hearing the things I do, I guess there must be a reason why he was only allowed back to the training center conditionally (other people's stuff better not go missing) and everyone calls him a crook.

The point being, there are different folks, different strokes out there. I am never going to be one of "those kinds of trainers". I'm in this for my love of horses and racing. The horse will ALWAYS come first in my barn. I realize this is an unconventional way to do things at the backside, but this is where the buck stops for me.

You guys can google race horse trainers and come up with some websites and see what trainers charge for their dayrates. I know what I charge is nowhere near enough.

There is an interesting bit of research out there which I am going to paste below. Its data was compiled by surveying different training barns in Kentucky. Note when you read the prices listed for things such as hay and feed- I get a super deal on my hay and pay $5 per bale. A bag of feed costs me $20. A bale of straw runs $3.

This article is copied from the "Race Horse Trainer" website:

Cost of Training

Owners - do you wonder where your day rate money goes? We interviewed several medium sized racing stables in Kentucky to come up with an average breakdown of the rate paid by owners per horse for training services. The breakdown is based on a 10-12 horse stable, which if keeping costs as low as possible could manage with 1 rider, 1 hotwalker, and 2 grooms. Most stables have horses coming and going all the time, therefore contract labor is often used to supplement staff on salary (it's a rare rider or hotwalker who can work with 10 horses/day; 5-8 horses/day per rider or hotwalker is more realistic). Some trainers gallop horses themselves which is a big savings in exercise rider fees. Note that groom cost per horse is higher because a groom works with less horses than a rider or hotwalker (3-5 horses/day per groom is common).

Typical costs per horse per day in Kentucky and can vary by several dollars/day - the numbers here are on the LOW END of the range, and are current for 2004 :
$12 - exercise rider
$17 - groom
$5 - hotwalker
About 20% of the labor cost for groom, rider, and hotwalker is FICA, unemployment, and workers compensation taxes.
$4 - straw
$6 - hay
$3 - grain
$1 - supplements
$5 - office/barn equipment and supplies
The total is $53/day. In our research we found day rates in Kentucky that varied from $35-$80/day. The majority of trainers we encountered that are stabled at race tracks and large training centers in Kentucky charge about $60/day. Note that training centers that do not have live racing charge "stall rent", generally at a rate of $5-$8/day per stall.

Other expenses paid by the trainer and usually not covered by the day rate:
travel and moving expenses
assistant trainer's salary
liability insurance
health insurance

Other expenses paid by the owner that are not included in the day rate:
veterinary care, medications, vaccinations, worming
specialized equipment for an individual horse
mortality insurance on horses
liability insurance

Other points to consider:
-Not only do most trainers drive to work in the morning 7 days/week, they also have to
drive to the races when not stabled at the active track, and many move their entire
stable and their home with the racing circuit several times a year. In order to retain
important staff members, trainers have to pay some employees' travel and moving
expenses as well.
-For these reasons travel expenses are extremely high for most trainers.
-For trainers who have exercise riders on salary, the more horses per day that one
rider can gallop, the less the cost per horse for the trainer. Similarly the trainer's labor
cost will be less if salaried grooms handle more horses per groom; however, each
horse in the stable will receive less individual attention if the groom and exercise rider
have more horses to work with daily.
-Feed and bedding cost is directly related to quality, and feed/bedding quality directly
affects the horse's health and performance so is very important. The cost of hay and
straw can fluctuate greatly depending on weather conditions and demand. Most race
tracks and large training centers mandate use of straw for bedding, so lower cost
bedding options like sawdust on rubber mats is not an option.
-Most racing stable employees and many trainers do not have health care insurance
coverage because they can't afford the premiums. Of course this is a problem shared
by many small businesses in the U.S. This problem is part of the reason for the
existence of horsemen's organizations such as the Horsemen's Benevolent and
Protective Association (HBPA) and the Kentucky Racing Health and Welfare Fund.

So you might ask, "how does a trainer make a living?"

Trainers have to make ends meet with purse money, and there isn't much room for error or a trainer will go broke quick. Let's optimistically assume that an average trainer's 10 horse stable earns an average of $20,000/year per horse, or $200,000 in total earnings. The trainer's share of the purse earnings is 10% or $20,000. A major focus of the HBPA is maximizing purse money, since it is what keeps not only trainers, but the whole racing industry in business.

Creative ways that some trainers try to improve the bottom line:
-Owning part of the horses they train, therefore increasing their percentage of purse
earnings. This is risky since there is no guarantee that any horse will actually earn
money (see stats below).
-Acting as bloodstock agents for their owners, making 5-10% commission on buying
and selling racing prospects.
-Owning a farm and breeding for racing or sale, boarding layups and young horses for

Unless a trainer has several high dollar earners in the barn, it's a tough way to make a living. A trainer must be ruthlessly selective of the horses kept in training to ensure that each one can contribute to the bottom line. This is not an easy task considering the statistics below from Thoroughbred Times:

Chances of what any given thoroughbred race horse born in North America might accomplish in its entire racing career:
run in a race: 69%
win a race: 45%
win more than once: 34%
win a stakes race: 3%
win a graded stakes: less than 1%
race at age 2: 34%
win at 2: 11%
win a stakes at 2: less than 1%
*Copied From Race Horse Trainer*

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Thoroughbreds with American Citizenship

Today was eye-opening for me.

Coming up in Europe, horse keeping was very different. Now add to that the fact that horse racing is, to this day, also done very differently, you invariably end up comparing different methods at one point or another, side by side.

Now I don't practice European style horse keeping. Most horses over there (or let me be more specific- in Germany, where I spent the majority of my growing up time) live in stalls 24/7. Most riding stables back when I was young had no pasture land or fields. Many of the stables were old, centuries old, barns built from rocks, bricks, or not THAT old but made from Beton (German for concrete). I remember when I started earning my first lessons in exchange for caring for a school horse, those old school masters were kept in "parking spot" stalls. Spaces about 6 feet wide, 10 feet long. The horse is parked head first and that's where it lives.
Not knowing any better at the fresh age of 6, I never gave it another thought.

The horse I cared for was a HUGE liver chestnut Hanovarian mare named Elfe (German for Elf).
Elfe was a bit of a biter and didn't like everyone. But she loved me and it was mutual.
She was an easy 17 hands tall and her hooves, if I remember correctly, were at least a race shoe size 8 or 9, easily.

As barbaric as the horse keeping practices at this establishment sound, it was actually a very reputable and regionally recognized riding school, specializing in dressage.

Here is where I have to put another explanation in, which is going to veer way off the subject, but it's a must:

Germany and her teaching methods, in any discipline, whether academic or as in this case, equestrian, is very from the bottom up and all encompassing.

When you are a student in a German school and you go to PE, you don't just play Dodgeball in Gym. You actually learn: Basketball, Handball, Soccer, Tennis, Gymnastics (not just basic stuff, either. I vividly remember the parallel bars and vaulting. I remember coming off the rings with a flip through the air and landing on my feet!), Swimming (competitively), Track, you name it.

Come to think of it, the competition aspect also bled over into general academia, i.e. math. Competitions in early Geometry and Algebra as young as 4th grade were NOT unusual, and by competition I mean in class competition- teacher lines up the whole class and poses a problem on the board. First student in line has to answer it. Correct answer gets points. Incorrect answer gets you to stand in back of the line to start all over again.

So, when I started learning the skills of classical horsemanship, it was also required that I learn to jump. Basically, all riders had to come from a level skill base in order to continue and excel and start showing. Once you learned all sorts of different disciplines, you could then choose the specialty in which you wanted to continue and come up in.

This barn was a mere kilometer from our home. Another kilometer down the main road from the barn was a racetrack. An honest-to-goodness, real life racetrack.

I used to pedal past this track on my way to school every morning, on my bike during the open race meet. I would glance over the HUGE hedge and hope to get a glimpse of horses, jockeys, something, anything!

After a few years of obsessing over the big mystery contained behind that giant green wall of China, at the age of 12, I decided I had had enough wonderment and I was going to find out.

I snuck in through the ship-in gate into the barn area.

Over in Europe, horses don't stable at the track. Trainers train from either private or public training farms and ship in for races.
The particular Saturday I chose was a live racing day and I went about exploring the "backside" as best as I could without being noticed by security personnel.

I must have been having delusions to think that a 12 year old girl on her own would not get noticed - I was petting heads peeking out awaiting their races when someone hollered and within the blink of an eye, I was cornered by two security guards (who at that time in my short life seemed REALLY HUGE). I was informed that I would be escorted back to the gate, where the local police would then collect me and take me home (oh joy, this whup-ass I REALLY did not look forward to!) when an older gentleman walked up and asked where the hell I had been and not to wander off on my own or I wouldn't be accompanying him in the future.

This man, who freed me from the clutches of the evil security nazis, was a trainer who took me under his wing and got me started in racing.

Thoroughbreds with German Citizenship

Did you know that in Germany, race training takes place come hell or high water? Rain? What are you, made of sugar? As much as it rains over there, if training stopped for rain, well, no races would be won. You throw on your rain gear, you get a leg up and off you go to the gallops.
Heck, I've never met a horse that didn't enjoy working in the rain!

Surprisingly, those German Thoroughbreds are apparently of a very hardy sub species of the breed. I say that because....

Today it was raining. Steph came out and trimmed two of my crew and off to the track we went. When the rain started to pour down, Cowboy came into the barn and asked me if I was ready to call it a day.

The puzzled expression on my face must have been worth a million because he explained:

"Well, we can keep going out if you want them to get sick!"

By now my face is scrunched doubly, trying to follow this train of thought and figure out just what the hell he is talking about?!?

"Sick, what do you mean?"

"Well, it's raining!"

"No shit, Sherlock, what's your point?"

"Well, you send the rest out in this rain, they're going to get wet and then they're going to get sick!"

I have a really hard time equating wet with sick in the same thought process.
I'm guessing this is attributable to the fact that in my brain, the ability to get sick has a prerequisite of a bug of some sort to invade FIRST. Or a weak immune system.
But never once in my life have I ever heard of a perfectly healthy being get sick from simply being out in the rain. (Although my grandmother tried plenty of times to pull this wool over my eyes, as I'm sure yours has, too!)

Instead of explaining all this to Cowboy, who I suspect was more or less referring to himself moreso than the horses with his statement, I simply informed him that to my knowledge a healthy Thoroughbred wouldn't just get sick from training in the rain.

As I walked off, I turned around and said:
"Waitaminute...... I get it! These are American Thoroughbreds! They must have special lowered immune function! THAT's why they'd get sick in the rain, right?"

Trying not to laugh at the pissy look on his face, I mumbled, walking off to the tack room to retrieve the next set of tack:

"Dang! I knew I shoulda brought soma dem there German racehorses over here with me! Shit, what am I gonna do now for the rest of the winter!??????!!!!!! The vet bills are going to be outrageous!!!!!!!!!"


The humor in the situation is self-evident, of course. But what lingered with me was the thought that for some reason, horse people, especially racing people, in this wonderful country come up with the most asinine concepts I have EVER heard of!

I suspect Cowboy really just wanted to go home early because he was already soaked to the bone. Thing about that is- why not just come out and say it?

Instead I am forever going to look at him and wonder what exactly he has learned in 30 years of being around the racetrack.

Or maybe, Thoroughbreds with American Citizenship do have inferior immunity?

Then again, these are the same Thoroughbreds who couldn't possibly run a race without shoes.

Some days I feel like I have stepped into the twilight zone.

I'm going to have to see if I can get an application for Canadian Citizenship for Doodle.
At least then I can flash his passport next time someone tells me it's raining and proclaim:

"HA! Doesn't faze us! See this here? My horse is a Canadian Citizen! He can train in the rain and NOT get sick!"
The love of my life, Raggedy [RIP(Three Rags Rappin)] - in the snow. How in the world he didn't get sick, I don't know, after all, he was an American Thoroughbred Citizen.......*snicker*

Monday, January 5, 2009

6 Things About Me Tag

Ok, so a little while ago, one of my readers, Jackie, left a comment tagging me for this "6 Things About Me Tag" Game.
My first response was the *eyeroll* with the "you're kidding, right?" mumbled somewhere in between there.

I initially ignored this tag and justified it by telling myself, that, well, I'm really not all that interesting and to be honest, thinking of 6 things about myself... is WORK! No way, dude!

Since then, a special, and undoubtedly, unjustified, amount of guilt has set in (maybe something to do with being raised in a Muslim household yet having been schooled by mean nuns with wacky, hard, wooden rulers that stung a great deal, in a Catholic School- you figure it out- the concept of guilt, which makes me do the things I would by nature put off doing. Be honest, you have one of those tiny little twinges somewhere in there, too, no?) for ignoring this kind request by a stranger who finds my ramblings interesting (go figure) and what sort of putz would forgo this type of invitation?

I guess what I'm getting at here is that the amount of hemming and hawing it took me to honor this request, coupled with thoughts of why in the world anyone would want to know 6 things about me, made it impossible for me to ignore, and here I am, playing the Tag game.

1. I was born in Asia. Specifically, in Istanbul, Turkey, which rests half in Asia and half in Europe. I did, however, grow up on the other side- in Europe- living in Turkey, then Germany, briefly in France and back and forth including stints in the United States. Yes, I am a US citizen. I am also a German and Turkish citizen. Makes me a triple citizenship person, I guess. As a result, I speak several languages fluently, including German, Turkish, sometimes English (ok, so that was a fib), used to speak French fluently and can get around in Spanish, as well. Never mind the slew of curses I know in any of the European languages. Oh, yes, and I took Chinese in college (don't ask!).

2. The first time I saw a horse, my mother had taken me to a family member's farm and she said I almost fell out of my stroller trying to get to the horse. The first time I sat on a horse was at age 2 during a pony ride at a carnival. It took 3 adults to pry my screaming bottom off the poor, tired pony.

3. I am single. Ok, correction: Technically, I am divorced. Unfortunately, the experience was so long ago and of such the unpleasant kind, I can't remember the guy's name, nor what he looked like.
This I consider to be a fortunate occurance.
A few other relationships have followed since but as of a year and a half ago, I am very happily single, do not intend to share my very valuable spare time or any of my very peaceful evenings with any other man, no matter how delightfully delicious his company may be. In the end, they all fall short of one very important requirement that I can't live without, namely, the ability to be secure enough in themselves to let me be exactly who I am without trying to change me, and, well, I just find life much, much easier and more pleasant when not only do I not sweat the small stuff, but I don't even let it into my life.
Moments of romantic swooning happen regularly when I catch a glimpse of Wesley Snipes, or the yummy guy that stars in that show "Eleventh Hour", and let's not forget Sean Connery in "First Knight"- you get the idea...

4. I have a very independent 13 year old daughter who is the polar opposite of myself as far as interests go. She is a computer/electronics genius who NEVER plays outside, rarely accompanies me to work and for the most part, we get along great.
She used to be into horses when she was younger, was a great little trail rider but it waned.
When I mentioned to her this last spring that I had been hoping that she would start galloping for me that summer, she smirked and this was her reply:
"Mother, if you want this to be a family business, I suggest you adopt another kid. You can always screen them by whether they like horses or not. You could find one who is horse crazy like you are and can even ride. And, if you need someone to help with stalls and around the barn for general chores, well, adopt another one- a boy. He'll be dumb enough to think there is some reward in all that slave labor and if he's short enough, you can even make a jockey out of him!"

5. I like horses better than I like people. I think horses are the better people. Heck, I like my dogs and cats better than I like people. In general, I find critters to be much more intelligent and intellectually stimulating than most folks I run across on a daily basis. People who don't "get" their horses, well, they obviously need to work on expanding their brain power.

6. Hold on to your seats because this one will blow your socks off:
I went to lawschool (University of Georgia), graduated in the top 1/3 of my class and realized how much I hated that particular profession, inspite of the fact that I was very good at it.
One day, my then 3 or so year old daughter came up to me and said:
"Mommy, I think you need a horse", so I literally dropped everything and went back to horses. That was almost 10 years ago.

There you have it. 6 Things About Me.

Now I'm supposed to tag 6 people, only I really don't know if I know 6 people to tag who haven't already played this game.
Come to think of it, here is an idea: If you are reading my blog and you have never been tagged, leave a comment and consider yourself tagged by me. Please leave a link to your blog so that we can all go read those unimaginably interesting things that the rest of the world does not know about us *Grin*.

Oh yea, here is Jackie's blog:

Another one bites the dust.....

What an appropriate title for a post!

If you had been anywhere near me these last few days, I wouldn't have to explain.

Lady raced Friday night at Turfway. We went off at huge odds. My dear friend Hector was on board as navigator.

Remind me, folks, how many times I have named Hector on Lady now... three rides so far, I believe?

Friday evening, while waiting for our outrageous 9:32 pm post time, I get a call from Hector (our jockey, for those of you who haven't read previous posts). I think to myself, utoh, this can't be good!

Hector tells me he is on his way to Turfway. That he is coming in just to ride Lady, and no other horses. That his latest agent is an ass and he switched agents and decided he would not be getting on all the horses his last agent lined up. Just Lady.

I'm flattered and think, well, maybe this is a good omen. I mean, a jockey that is driving in from across the river for just this one ride, come on, this is good, right?

Lady is feeling great. She can't wait to get out there and run.

She breaks wonderfully from post position 1 and is hauling ass. She is right up there with the other half million dollar horses (serious competition in this race). We're finally going a mile.

In contention the whole race until she comes to the last turn before the stretch for home. I'm watching on screen with my breath held thinking: "Wow, look at her- this is the horse I expected to see all this time!" , when she all of a sudden looks like she is galloping backwards.

She hit the breaks so hard I thought something very bad may have happened.

I run back to the track from the grand stand entrance and wait to see what coming out of the turn will bring.

There is Lady at the rail, no longer in the 5th position but crossing the wire, dead last.

Picking her up I ask Hector what happened.

"She's sound, she's great, I dunno, she just quit!"

My friend Tommy who hauled us up there comes up and announces "She quit, just cold quit."

But why? Hector doesn't stick around long and I'm left holding the horse with the owner looking displeased. I walk her off back towards the receiving barn and tell the owner I'm calling the vet to have her scoped. This sort of quitting doesn't come from a horse getting tired. Something happened. I wonder if she flipped her palate? She's never done it before.
Perhaps she bled badly? She is a bleeder- despite the Lasix, she has bled a tiny amount each race, which indicates she is a genetic bleeder.

The little voice in the back of my head is murmuring a quiet but persistent mantra: "He hit her with the whip".

Scope is clean except for a tiny bit of mucus. Not anything that would make her quit running. Palates are all in perfect working order. Not a drop of blood in sight (that's a first).

Her owner's friend, a pretty good horseman, comes up to me and tells me out loud what the little voice was telling me: He had to have hit her.

Lady isn't tired. Although she drinks a fair amount of water, considering the fact that Lasix dehydrates and we have been in the receiving barn since before 4 pm that afternoon, I'm not surprised. She's jumping around, dragging me every chance she gets, upbeat, happy and unwinded. A tired horse who just quit its race would never act this way.

Did my pinhead friend have a brainfart and use the whip on my girl?

I won't know until I get home and watch the replay.

At 3: 30 a.m., I am finally back home and planted firmly in front of my computer. I'm watching the replay- panoramic view, I can't tell much as the picture is too far away. I have to watch several times and really pay attention to his body language. The place where she wheeled backwards is where he would have asked her to go more, to find her next gear. Looking at his shoulders and weight distribution, he most likely used the whip.

I watch the head on replay and again, from that angle at that particular place, it is impossible to tell. However, when he comes out of the turn with her and enters the stretch, there he is, plain as day, hitting her with the whip. Right handed, low, barely noticeable.

Why, oh why, is it that these boys think they know better than the trainer?

I hate he made this mistake. It may have been an honest mistake. Jockeys will instinctively go to the whip during the race at certain times. I understand that.

What bothers me is this:
You make a mistake. Please come tell me about it. I won't rip your head off. I can forgive one mistake, an honest mistake. I've heard jockeys say I'm sorry, I spaced out, I was on autopilot and hit the horse.
Instead, my pinhead comes up and tells me, I dunno what happened, she just quit. And lacking further explanation, he runs off to the jock's room. Not like Hector at all. More like:
"Oh shit, I better get out of here before she figures out what happened".

Small mistake. Cost us very big.

In the meantime, I get a call from her owner who tells me the wife has announced that the horse has to have shoes on or can't win.

My instinct was to tell him to come pick her up. This filly has an old injury to her hip that develops heat down her right leg once in a while and so far has not bothered her. I'm afraid if I put shoes on her, it's going to aggravate the situation and she will come up too sore to continue.

But hey, who am I? Just the trainer. I must not know what I'm doing.

Tells you the difference between experience and speculation.

When a race doesn't go right and you are trying to figure out what to fix with a horse, you NEVER attempt to fix more than one thing between races. NEVER. You "fix" 4 things and the horse runs well- guess what? You have no clue what one thing was the actual fix.
Not that putting shoes on her would make a damned bit of difference to improve the way she runs, au contraire- if nothing else, it will expose her to more shock and heighten the probability of reinjury.

In an ideal world, all the horses in my barn would be my own.

In reality, they are not. In reality, there is a certain amount of ass kissing trainers have to partake in because our clients, like it or not, are the owners, not the horses.

As disgusted as I am with the demands now placed on me, I have little choice in the matter. If I send Lady back, they take her to another trainer and she now turns around and runs well because we have figured out the majority of her quirks, I look like shit as a trainer.

I can bitch, moan, work myself up and when I look at this filly, I can even feel bad for her, knowing full well, none of it will make a difference.

As my dear friend Doc Beebe told me yesterday on the phone: "Honey- you tell these owners what you just told me: There is a probability she will come up sore if I put shoes on her and I am telling you that right now. But I will put the shoes on her because that is what you want.
When she does come up sore and has to be off for a few months, I want you to know that I warned you this could happen."

It's called a disclaimer. Cover your ass. I'll ignore the fact that seeing shoes on this filly is going to make me cringe every time. Watching those hooves fall apart again is going to anger me.
When she was brought to me, I was told that her feet fell apart badly from having shoes on last year.
This girl can jog and gallop on a paved. gravelly driveway and never take an ouchy step. Barefoot.

And I now get to ruin four perfectly good hooves.

Who can I smack? Any volunteers?