Horses, the ability & desire to care for them, has been in my blood for almost 40 years. The first time I saw a horse come back to the barn with a swollen leg or a limp in their step, it has been my desire to fix the problem. To assist in their pain. To make it better, just like your Mom kissed a boo boo when you experienced your first cut.
You want to know what the best feeling is? When someone tells you that your horse won’t race again, or he or she isn’t good enough to win or even make it back to the races. Standing in the winners circle with a horse that gives you 110% , even if it meant standing in ice boots for hours, and massaging its legs with linament, while wrapped those precious legs in standing bandages.
After the race, you put your cold water bandages on them, just to use some prevention measures like athletes ice their limbs after a good game. After they run their hears out and return to their barn, their reward is a bucket of grain and a full hay rack. But myself and a lot of my peers if you look in our wall box or in the office, there is a tin of peppermints. As you look down the shedrow, their happy faces to see or hear that peppermint wrapper is heartwarming and makes us feel loved. Even if it is by a four legged animal.
Over the course of my career, the legs have always been my forte. Checking them, noticing a slight difference in heat or pressure. The ability to see an issue and prevent it before happening. I’d like to say and be proud of that most of the trainers I worked for would take to heart what I saw or felt with my hands about a horses condition. I’m proud to say I worked for the best. But, as I grew older and fatter, my knees do not bend like they use to. My sleep apnea mask presses on the three bulging discs I have in my neck. My left side of my body tingles and goes numb every night while I get my hour and a half of sleep at one time. With weight gain from lack of activity and living in constant pain, I found myself behind the screen of a mac computer. Talk about a kick in the teeth. “Oh but your so good at the website and social media”, I will hear from owners or horsemen that are still physically involved in the horse preperation. People that tell me of their “years of experience” and how it ain’t their “first rodeo”, but yet they don’t even know how to put on a spider bandage.
So at 250 lbs, I am surounded by people who tell me their relationship hardship stories and their abuse from their spouses. They cry about which barn they are going to have built, or which 70 thousand dollar car they can drive. I try to look sympathetic, but in fact all I want to do is be around horses. I try to self educate myself in all aspects of social media and branding. But the truth is I’d rather be putting the bridle on a horse and leading it to the paddock at Churchill Downs.
I’ve dieted, exercised, taken diet pills and all of the other things one can do. These things work for a small amount of time and then I’m back to my stupid habits and self comfort foods all over again. I’ve read about weight loss surgery and low and behold, a dear friend is wanting to make this happen for me. I have the catostrophic Obama Care insurace that basically I am in debt trying to pay the co-pays that go along with the premium. Of course, this wonderful health care won’t pay for weight loss surgery, so at night while trying to fall a sleep, I dream of this. I dream I purchased a lottery ticket, won and found a surgeon to do the surgery. As my eyes get heavier, I invision myself at the Keeneland sale, purchasing horses with my now slimmer body and training horses. Again. My California nightmare is now my dream.
In 1998, I ventured to the left coast, California, for an assistants job with a man that makes Al Capone look like an alter boy. He was a british lad who had the charm and finese to talk an owners’ dollars into jumping out of their wallets and into his pocket. Stupid me, instead of keeping my mouth shut on what I saw, I described it to one of the owners daughters. We won races and I would pick out the horses in the barn who had the leg issues and concentrated on those. I lived on the track until I found my little $350 a month room and bathroom about a mile from the track. You always have to live close. What if you have a colic or a sick horse in the middle of the night. Time is crucial.
Over a period of time, his owners started to see discrepencies in their vet bills and training bills. They questioned me directly. I always told the truth of what I saw. The next thing I know, I ended up with horses to train and stalls in Charlie Whittinghams barn at Santa Anita.
Oh, what have I done? What have I gotten myself into? I don’t ride the pony, or gallop horses as my weight would never allow that. Santa Anita was a challenging place to train if you didn’t ride and only could watch from Clockers Corner.
I had a horse called Prevelance. He was a european bred son of Cadeaux General who was “the big horse”. We didn’t get along. He was rough for a woman to take care of, but I had to keep my payroll down so I groomed all the horses. The first start in my name as a trainer was in the Hollywood Derby on the turf. The owners talked me into running him in that race, despite having the a other than condition that would be easier, we ran on a boggy course that was not to his liking. We finished 8th.
In one year, I managed to win one race, with a filly that my future boss, Paco Gonzalez helped me with. Amawfe, a homebred daughter of Man From Eldorado. I hit the board with a few of my other horses and one owner actually fired me cause I wouldn’t run his bow tendon horse again after finishing second. After I had enough and was going to end up living back in the tackroom, I went to work for Paco Gonzalez and earned my best education thus far!
Next…..Back to KY.