On The Backside

April 22, 2008 at 10:16 am 1 comment

No, this isn’t about me falling on my butt, in case anybody was wondering.  No, this entry is about “the other side” of what CANTER does, lest anyone think it’s all playing “my pretty pony” and enjoying sunset trail rides.  As anyone who frequently browses the website knows, we provide free internet classifieds for trainers at the track, so they can market their horses direct to the public.  Which is a win-win-win situation, really, for the horses, the track trainers, and the people trying to find that diamond in the rough.

Before I started actually going to the backside of the track at Charles Town, I wasn’t really sure what to expect- I had heard lots of stories about shady goings-ons at racetracks, and that there were lots of people who didn’t “care” about their horses, and pretty much expected to be overwhelmed and out of place.  But after my very first visit, I found I loved the place. 

You’d be hard pressed to find friendlier people anywhere, for the most part (though some might argue that it has something to do with being cute girls in a predominantly male environment).  Everyone says hello and good morning- everyone.  It’s almost sort of disconcerting, you’ll hear, “hello ladies, good morning!” coming from stalls that appeared empty (ok, so that can make you a little bit jumpy), riders walking by on their way to and from the track stop to say hello, trainers with things to do and places to be will smile broadly and give you some updates on their favorites. 

If you’re used to the hustle and bustle of the outside world, where everyone is on a mission, and too absorbed in their little electronic gadgets to actually TALK to other people, this can be a little weird at first. 

Then we get around to actually taking listings, which can be a little bit of a roller coaster of an experience.  One trainer might say the horse needs to go as soon as possible, to the first person with a trailer, which always makes me a little nervous and sad.  Another trainer might talk for what seems like hours about his favorite horse, and how he wants him to go to a good home, and how he has to have six peppermints every day. 

Occasionally we run into a trainer who has sold a horse, and if they’ve gotten updates- watch out.  Every horse that people get off the track to retrain as a jumper?  Is going to the Olympics.  As an aside to anyone with an off track horse, the majority of trainers seem to love updates, but any little accomplishment you might mention is very likely to get much bigger in the telling on the backside.  Crossrails become 5′ fences, and successful trail riding can become 100 mile endurance racing really fast.

One of our favorite things to do on track visits is to stop up at the track itself, and watch a little of the morning workouts.  This serves two purposes- first, it alerts trainers who aren’t in the barns that we’re there, so we often get a lot of leads and a list of barns to visit.  Second… we just like to watch.  Really, there are very few things that get my heart beating so hard as a Thoroughbred racehorse does- even a not-so-fast one at Charles Town. 

On Saturday, standing near the rail, was a trainer who has listed horses with us before (and sold them successfully, she informed us with a grin).  A couple of horses worked by, and made me stop midsentence as I watched them, their feet pounding and breathing hard.  They sounded like trains, or some sort of otherwordly machines, it’s sort of hard to describe the sound.  I said that I would like, just once or twice, to try that out and really feel what it’s like to go all out- I’ve been close, but not quite.  The trainer turned and gave a knowing smile… “there’s no drug in the WORLD that will give you that rush…”

After a brief discussion of exactly how it feels to ride a fast horse, we turned back to scope out a few more barns.  Along the way, we saw some “old friends” (like a horse who was listed once, but the trainer seems intent on keeping- and overfeeding), and also had a few sobering moments (one horse who needed to be gone ASAP as she was injured turned out to already be gone).  As much as I love going, it’s not all sunshine and roses, and sometimes we find out things we’d rather not have heard.  But at the same time it still has an odd feeling of home.  And I’ve decided too that any place where you can find a goat dressed in pink kids’ clothes is a place that on most levels is fundamentally good.

(as a brief kloninator update- someone may be coming to take a look at him tonight- keep your fingers crossed!)


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Conversations With a Red Horse We’re baaaack!

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. jessica  |  April 23, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    How cute is that goat! I could learn to love goats if they came dressed up in cute clothes. Hope the showing goes well tonight. It will be both sad and happy to see Klondike move on to his person.


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