I spent a couple of years working on the racetrack. I started in the summer of 1988 at Ak-Sar-Ben, then back again after graduating from UNO in 1990. For two years I went from Omaha to Remington Park in Oklahoma City to the Woodlands in Kansas City, back to Remington Park and finally Omaha again.
My short career took off one night when I met a guy in a bar. His orange jacket informed me he was a bull rider and bull fighter in big white letters on the back. I asked if he knew the one bull rider I knew. He said no. I decided he wasn’t much of a bull rider or bull fighter. He said he worked on the racetrack. I told him dad had race horses. He said they were looking for someone to watch their hot walker in the mornings. I was waiting tables in the evenings, so I said I’d do it. I went to the stable gate the next morning and was hired. A few weeks later a groom was quitting and I got that job, but I had to quit my waitress job. It really broke my heart (no) and I also told my friend Melissa, who also waited tables, there was a job for her too if she wanted. She wanted. Off we went.
At this point I want to accept no responsibility for how Melissa’s life has turned out. She seems happy enough, but if she’d dreamed of being a ballet dancer or a rocket scientist, and ended up where she is today, it had nothing to do with me. I swear. She’s married to a racehorse trainer.
I have virtually nothing to do with racehorses. My experiences taught me many things, one is to appreciate the very good paying job I have now, with insurance, paid holidays, and paid vacations. These are things you don’t have on the track. A typical day on the track looked like this:
5:30 Check who was going to the track (working or galloping) and who was walking. Then pull wraps on any horses done up overnight Tack whoever had to go out first, or put the walkers out to start on stalls. Track, clean stalls, do up horses and feed at 11:00 or so.
4:00 Pick stalls, fill water buckets, afternoon feeding.
You had a partner. There were no races on Monday or Tuesday, so you had one afternoon off and your partner had the other one. You’d pick your partner’s stalls and feed on their afternoon off. Horses don’t vanish over the weekend and reappear on Monday morning, this was a 7 day a week job, and that doesn’t include racing.
Races started about 5 p.m. during the week and 2 on weekends (depending on the track schedule). If a horse needed to be iced two hours before a race and it was in the first race, post was 30 minutes prior so you had to start icing at 11:30 to be at the paddock at 1:30. If your partner had a horse running, you’d have to clean the stall and have bath buckets and water buckets ready. If the horse won, you’d meet them at the test barn with the buckets, help cool out the horse and get the buckets back to the barn. There were days the races would get done about nine o’clock, so you’d have worked a big fat day. No such thing as overtime on the racetrack. It’s a job you love to do, or you don’t do it. There are no perks other than ending your day smelling like a horse, which was why I was doing it. That was a bonus for me!