At some point in a horseman or woman’s life, we are challenged with giving up. It’s a phase in your life where you’ve had enough of the business and all that comes with it. The smell of sweet feed becomes repulsing and the idea of going out to the barn to clean one more stall is frustrating. I call this the tired stage, the ‘I don’t think I can do this anymore,’ phase. We’ve all been there, including me.
As a one horse lover writing to another, it seems impossible to not wake up and think about how much you love the four legged creatures standing in your barn. Believe me when I say this, it is quite possible to get sick of the business— sick of the companionship these animals bring. The idea of getting up at six in the morning to feed actually tires you just thinking about it. Working the young horses turns into a hassle and you become angry when they don’t pick up a concept you’ve taught a thousand times before. When you find the brushes out of place, it drives you insane. As silly as these things sound, this is a very real feeling. People have quit the business, people actually took a desk job over it. They hung up their boots and helmet and decided to move on. I know, I have and it hurts my heart every single day.
Some days are more confusing than others. You’ll love on someone else’s pride and joy, then catch yourself thinking about your own horses. You’ll start talking about the time where they ate some crazy treat or when they made you feel so complete when you were actually so empty. Times like these, I choose to walk until I find what I’m looking for.
Pacing the around the barns on the backside and I begin watching people work so hard in a business they love. I can’t help but to always ask myself, I wonder what their story is? How did they get here, why are they here? At any point in these grooms, drivers and trainers lives, they could’ve decided to put down the reins and hang up the colors for a normal life— a chance for something “stable”. This business is scary, harness racing is a hard sport to be involved in. Once you’re in it, there is no backing out. You can’t wake up one day and decide to not feed the horses or clean the stalls. It’s an all or nothing type of deal. So, how do the hardworking people of the backside continue to work day in and day out?
Yesterday wasn’t my very best day. It wasn’t anyones’ fault, but thankfully my coworkers and the community in the barns always know how to make me smile when I am at my saddest. As I’m pacing around the barns, I was reminded by one of my favorite drivers that there is always a reason to smile. I look around and realize everyone has a reason to smile. This is a difficult job, but everyone has their own reasons why they are here. Some, it is because they truly love the game and others, it is because they have been involved in the industry since they were young and they can’t imagine their lives without harness racing. Others just so happened to stumble upon a world they accidentally fell in love with and along the way met good people for a reason. Whether or not we realize it, we all shape each other somehow. Through exchanging ideas and smiles, that shapes a person. It help us move through this world a little bit smoother. It makes the love for the game still very sweet when you have people to share the love with.
If you’re in the business or if you’re sick of the business, don’t worry. We’ve all been there. Some of the best trainers and drivers have bad days, but it’s not a bad life. Sometimes you win some and you definitely lose some, but you have to be able to take the good with the bad.
When you choose to surround yourself with people who care about you, who love you, and who push you to be better than you were yesterday, the game changes and it will change you. Don’t panic, the best is yet to come and I promise— you’ll fall in love all over again, one race at a time. Just be patient with yourself, champions are not made over night. They are made with gentle hands and one lap at a time. When you finally get it— when it’s your turn in the winner’s circle, it’s even more bitter sweet because you know how hard you worked to get there. Just don’t give in quite yet. Sometimes we get so busy racing to the finish line— we forget to enjoy the race.
Photos and story by Race Marketing Intern Grace Hollars