Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Interview: Jodi

 I recently found Jodi's blog, Racing to Ride, and as I enjoy horse racing, I decided to interview her on job working with racehorses. Enjoy!

What are your responsibilities at the racing stable/track?

 I kind of do it all, though lately I haven't been doing much in the cleaning stalls category. Mostly, I tack horses, watch them train, ride the pony-horse, and occasionally take one of the race horses to the track. Leg (wrapping, mudding, sweating, icing, etc.) and body (massaging, stretching, and red lighting) work is also a big part. There is a lot more to the business than just taking care of the horses, so I also handle the billing and keeping Ty, my fiancé, and the owners in sync. I also help with picking horses to claim or buy.

What is a typical work day like?
I hate to admit this, but I'm a bit of a slacker when it comes to getting up in the mornings. I usually get up at about 5:45, which is pretty late for the track. My fiancé gets up a lot earlier. After arriving at the barn, I usually tack the first horse, watch it go, then go back and repeat. Or I take the pony with them. Every day is a little different. It depends on how many horses we need to track or if we are working (breezing) any that day. Watching the horses track and work is very important to me so I spend a large part of the morning doing that.

The races are in the afternoons and we usually only run about 1-3 horses a week. If we have one in, about two and a half to three hours is spent getting them ready. When we don't have a horse in, I usually spend the afternoons riding my dressage horses, resting, or watching the races.

The evenings are pretty easy. We feed and pick stalls mostly. This is usually when we do leg work too. Then go out to dinner with owners sometimes.

Could you tell me a little about some of the horses you are currently working with?
Oh, I could write a book on all of them. I will try to keep it short and down to just a few though.
Kama Su (Johnny)- He is kind of a head case, but I love him. He's beautiful! We claimed him out of California. He didn't have much of a foundation so we went back to the basics with him. Johnny is really starting to come around and I'm hoping that taking our time with him will pay off. My favorite part about him is that when he is coming back to the barn from the track, he perks up his ears and walks faster when he sees me. The jockey we put on him always tells Johnny "There's your girlfriend, bud!" as they start walking towards me. If he gets worked up in his stall, I can usually go pet him and get him calmed down. He doesn't really do that for anyone else.

Princessofthering (Princess)- I bought her off of a friend for $200. He was threatening to sell her as a recipient mare and I told him I would take her. She only had ten starts and had already been through three barns. I figured with a little consistency she could have some success on the track. She won a race with a $12,500 dollar purse about sixty days after I bought her. She is good to be around, smart, classy, and is starting to get very confident. I'm extremely proud of her!

Woodpulp (Woody)- He is a bit of a hard luck horse. If some weird thing can happen to him, it does. Woody is the sweetest thing in the world though. No matter what happens, he is always a happy horse and loves people. He has a huge stride and is a gorgeous mover. I'd really like to find him a home in a dressage barn when he retires (if we still have him). I hope he can still have more success on the track before that though. (Editor adds: Woodpulp is by Lucky Pulpit, California Chrome's sire.)

Pentagram (Berni)- He is the type of horse that you notice. He's plain bay, but is very pretty with a commanding presence. We've had some set backs with him, but I think he is starting to get lined out now. I'm looking forward to running him again.

Chopperette (Harley)- She was disgustingly skinny when we got her just over a year ago. So, of course I've spoiled her and now she thinks she's the queen of the barn. She's a little pushy and moody, but not in a mean way. I like a horse with a little bit of spunk anyway.

How and when did you first become interested in working with racehorses?
I've been infatuated with racehorses my entire life. My Grandpa was a trainer at one time. My dad took me to the races some when I was a kid.  I've always been interested in them, but never became actually involved with the racehorses until I met my fiancé in 2007. I didn't start working at the track until 2009.
Jodi's grandfather.

How did you get into the racing industry and working with racehorses?
Through my fiancé. I was working full time and riding dressage horses, which didn't leave much free time, but I spent every moment I could at the track. I always hated it when the season would end. My fiance would leave in the Fall to go to another track. I hated getting left behind. I missed him and racing. In 2009, the track at home didn't run. I had gotten hurt and couldn't ride anyway, so I quit my job and went to Arapaho Park in Denver with my fiancé. I gave up a lot to do this, but I don't regret it.
Justcallheraggie, one of the horses Jodi works with.

Who is you favorite racehorse you have ever worked with?
We've been lucky and had some pretty nice horses. It's hard to pick just one favorite, but I would have to say Scherzi. She won seven races and made just over $100,000 in the time we had her. That included a stakes win and some stakes placings. The owner had claimed her for $5,000.

Scherzi is probably the smartest horse I've ever worked with. She was little, about 15 hands, but had a heart of gold. She always tried hard. She was one of the most athletic horses I worked with! Scherzi was professional and classy, but also seemed to have a sense of humor.  She stomped in the paddock and post parade like a little Zenyatta.

Her half sister, So Many Ways, ended up being an extremely nice horse, so Scherzi is now a brood mare. She had her first foal, by Scat Daddy, this year.

What is your favorite part about working with racehorses?
I love the horses in general. Their different personalities and the challenges each one presents. I am constantly learning something new from them. They put so much trust into us, that I want to keep learning from them to be better for them. This is the case with any type of horse, but I think it's more extreme with racehorses. You have to pay attention to every little detail about them, physical and mental. This is a very high risk sport and if you aren't attentive enough to the horses, the results can be catastrophic. I love having to know each one so well. It's not necessarily the win that matters as much, but all of the work and pride put into getting them there.

What are the biggest challenges in working with racehorses?
Everything! Just kidding. Kind of. They are on a lot of high energy feed. They have to be able to focus and behave, no matter how good they are feeling, or it can become dangerous. Teaching them to use that energy in the right way can be difficult. You have to be very disciplined and draw the line.
It's also hard when a horse gets claimed or taken away for whatever reason. We are very hands on and spend a lot of time with these horses. It's hard to not get too attached. Mostly, it kills me if one gets hurt. Even if it was something that was out of my control, I feel responsible.
Another of Beefeheart, Jodi's OTTB.

Since you work with racehorses, I was wondering---did you get your OTTB directly from the track(maybe you worked with him when he was a racing) or did you get him through an adoption center?
My fiancé trained my OTTB, Beefheart. He hadn't been running well, the owners wanted to sell him. No one really wanted him, so Ty ended up buying him for me. Gunner, our pony-horse that I also ride dressage,  was Ty's first racehorse. I have to stay away from the adoption centers because I have a tendency to want to rescue them all. I can only afford so many horses.
Gunner, another of her OTTBs.
 Gunner at his first show.

Because you are familiar with racehorses, do you have any advice for anyone working with or riding OTTBs?
I think people need to understand how the horse is trained on the track to be able to retrain correctly. Educate yourself about their training, so you understand why they do what they do and don't get frustrated. Be patient. The worst thing you can do is get mad and start muscling them around. Understanding them is the key to an OTTBs success. Most of what you ask will be new. They are going to depend on you for confidence and guidance, make sure you are able to give that to them before ever getting on.

What are some of the challenges in training your OTTB for dressage?
Probably redeveloping their muscles for dressage. I don't think many people think about this, but going slow and carrying their weight on their hind end is going to be a lot harder for them than going fast. It helps if they're already fit, but it still involves them having to use muscle groups differently. They have to learn to relax to be able to do this. They have to learn to bend through their body and stay loose over their topline. This involves the rider being able to control the rhythm of the horse. To do this, the horse has to be able to balance. So much goes into building the correct muscles that it includes most of the other challenges a rider will face with their OTTBs. It takes a lot of time and patience
Silk Indian

Anything else?
I think that's about it. Horseracing definitely keeps life interesting. We work seven days a week, including holidays. It's nearly impossible to take a vacation. It's not an easy life, but it's worth it to me and I love it!

Thank you Jodi! Go check out her blog if you don't know her yet!


Thank you for reading this post! I love to hear from and interact with my readers; it's what makes blogging worth it, so please comment and let me know what you think.