Thanksgiving is a day where families and friends come together to indulge in the good things of life. We feast, we laugh, and give thanks for all the things that bring us joy and comfort.
The world of horse racing is a family. We share jokes with one another, we celebrate the good, and mourn each other’s woes. Our family reunions come on racing’s big days like the Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup. This year, our family has been through so much stress. We have dealt with berating from people who do not even want to take the time to get to know us. We have battled one another on social media over what needs to change in our sport. We’ve scorned one another and allowed the outsiders to pull us apart in a time when he need to stick together.
In a time like this, it can sometimes seem hard to look at our sport and feel the same joy that we used to feel. But, the holiday season is all about joy! No matter your religion, this is the time of the year when we should be happy and thankful for one another.
With that in mind, I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone who keeps this industry going.
I want to thank the grooms, the people who spend countless hours with our beloved racehorses. The people who get to know them better than anyone so they can relay anything that seems off to the trainer. The people who brush the horses until their coats shine, who wrap their legs, and give them their feed. The people who greet our racehorses with a smile at the end of the race, regardless of the result.
I want to thank the exercise riders and the hot walkers, the people who keep our horses fit. Our exercise riders help to train our horses, teaching them what they can and cannot do. They get them to exercise the way the trainer wants them to. The hot walkers greet the horses after the workout and spend hours walking them around the shedrow, ensuring that their muscles do not ache at the end of the workout.
I want to thank the trainers for ensuring that our racehorses are fit and sound. They help prepare our horses for the biggest races of their careers, find their perfect distances and surfaces, and learn all about their horses so they can know what each horse likes and dislikes.
I want to thank the pony riders for greeting the horses on the racetrack. These are the people who keep these high-strung horses steady as they parade before the fans. They help get them to the starting gates safely, no matter how many problems the racehorse gives the pony.
I want to thank the gate crew. The people who are always there during some of the most anxious moments of a race horse’s day. They are there in the early hours, helping horses get familiar with the starting gates. They are there in the afternoon, helping the horses load into the starting gates without incident. They stand beside a racehorse who is ready to roll -- no doubt a dangerous job.
I want to thank the outriders, the people who go galloping after loose horses. The people who reach out and grab them, ensuring that they do not hurt themselves or anyone else. They are sometimes forced to put themselves in dangerous situations to ensure that no one else is in danger.
I want to thank the track announcers, the people who call the races as they are happening. They somehow memorize every horse’s name and silks so they can let us all know who is doing what. They make the races easier to follow and more entertaining to watch.
I want to thank the photographers, the people who capture the moments we all love seeing. They go to the races and visit the farms and photograph everything they see. They help us stay updated on the horses that we love. They show us the farms and the tracks we have yet to travel to ourselves.
I want to thank all of the media people. They spend hours writing articles, preparing for interviews, and compiling it all together for us racing fans to enjoy. They let us know what is going on in the industry, with our favorite racehorses, and at our favorite farms.
I want to thank the jockeys, the people who pilot our horses around the racetrack. They put their lives in danger each time they are given the leg up onto a racehorse. They make sure our horses are running safely and staying in line. They make sure our horses are conversing their energy until it’s time to make the move. They get the best out of racehorses so that they can show their full potential.
I want to thank the breeding farms, the people who create these majestic racehorses. The people who spend their entire lifetimes learning all they can about pedigrees and conformation and yet still gamble with the fact that the breeding they just initiated may not create the horse they were hoping it would. I thank them for allowing all of us fans to come onto their property to see the behind-the-scenes world and show us the horses we love.
I want to thank the people who work in aftercare. These people do they best they can to ensure that all racehorses are safe when they’re retired. They rehabilitate horses who need it, sometimes retrain them, and do their best to find the perfect home for every horse. They find potential in every horse who comes off of the track and spend insane amounts of time and money doing a sometimes thankless job.
I want to thank the horseplayers, the people who keep our sport funded. The people who spend hours upon hours studying the next days races and years perfecting their craft. The people who lay their money on the line in hopes that they were right, providing the money for the purses and tracks they are betting at.
I want to thank the fans, the people who this all happens for. The people who attend the races and follow the horses. The people who buy all the merchandise and subscribe to all of the content. The people who take the tours and donate to the rescues.
I want to thank anyone who works in horse racing, no matter what that means or looks like. Thank you for keeping this incredible sport running.
Most importantly, I want to thank the horses. They are the reason we can do this at all. They are the animals that inspire us, that captivate us. They bring us joy and solace and even sometimes heartbreak. They are what this is all about. They give their all to us because they trust us. They are born and bred to run and they do it to please millions of people.
In these tough times, we need to remember what this sport really is: a family. We all work together, no matter how different our roles in the industry are. We are all different, but we are one. Without any one of these people, our sport will crumble.
It’s the holiday season. Be thankful, be joyful, and be kind. We all need it.
About the Author: Through her blog Champions of the Track, Kaeli Bartholomew works to grow the popularity of horse racing through stories, photos, and videos. She aims for her content to reach new fans and kindle the love of horse racing in current fans.
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