If it were easy, then everybody would do it. – These words harken back to a time when racing was starting to get into my blood. I loved everything about the game. Harness, Thoroughbred, and everything in between. I couldn’t get enough of the thrill of walking the shed row, seeing my horse workout, and bringing friends to share the moment. I wanted to be a part of the game, or was I mistaken?
When I was young, my Mom called a local Harness track and asked if they had a program for drivers. It was pretty easy to see I wouldn’t make weight as a jockey, and I loved being around the giant beauties. They said there was “some type of provisional program,” but couldn’t give her the details. At the time I was pretty distraught. I could see myself laying back in the sulky, and holding the rail until the first glimpse of the “lightning lane.” My colors would be neon orange with a black cap,and a black $ on my back. I can remember back to my younger years and recall in precise detail the silk colors of every barn and driver. That time has come and gone, and every once in awhile I venture down to the Red Mile and watch the big time names roll into town for the Grand Circuit.
I started my horse ownership with two friends. If there is ever a way to get rid of friends, just have some money involved. We all started off just wanting to pay the barn bills and have some fun. That’s all said and good during the high times, but try making that house payment monthly bill and you’ll soon find out why they call it the Sport of Kings. I used to go out in the morning before my college classes and watch him work. There couldn’t be a better job in the world than a horse trainer. You got to be around the horses, get them to the races, and make pretty good money if you balance your operation. Man, if there was ever a job, this one was meant for me!
As I sit in front of my computer, my region has a set an all-time record low. The wind chill reading was – 21, and only a crazy person would be out in this weather. That’s what got me thinking about that training gig again. The trainers are probably eating donuts and sipping hot coffee in the track kitchen, talking about the big horse and when he was going to run. But wait, who is going to feed the horses, or walk them in the ice-cold shed row as the track is closed for training? How about breaking up the water frozen in their tubs? Wow, the kitchen seems a long way from barn 1009, and I don’t see myself getting that hot coffee anytime before lunch if I’m lucky. OK, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea.
I abandoned my dreams of working directly with the horses long ago. It sounded good, and the pictures in the brochure looked neat standing in the winner’s circle. But there’s a little more to the game. Ask any trainer when the last time they went on vacation? When is the last time they haven’t seen a 7 day work week? Or, who does the work if your help gets sick or can’t make it? Now before you toss out Todd Pletcher, D. Wayne Lukas, Chad Brown, or Shug McGaughey. You do it. Then you get to feed, bathe, rub down, and bed them down. Then you start ordering supplies, talking to owners, speaking to vets, and looking over the condition book for races. Sounding like that brochure yet ? It’s a 24 / 7 / 365 job that’s not for the faint of heart.