And just like that….

Mission Accomplished

Back on August 4th, when this short but intense adventure began, I shared my definition of success: do not get hurt, do not lose a horse, do not get fired. Over the course of 20 days, I’m incredibly grateful to say that I was successful. Phew!

In fact, I thought I’d be working tomorrow (Labor Day) to complete my tenure, but learned via text while enjoying a special dinner with the Maven at Pennell’s that I’d “fully realized my utility” and my time is up. Hooray! Quite simply, I’m ready to return to my real life. I need all those extra cycles back to dive full-tilt into all the exciting and important work I have to do for the horses of the TRF over the remaining weeks of this month. The horses are counting on me, and let’s face it… I’m tired.

So much to chew on

While excited to share the news of my adventure’s completion, I’m still “up against” the fact that my body and brain will rapidly shut down over the next few minutes as we’re already into the 9pm hour. (NOTE: I took a nap and a shower before finishing up!) So, I’ll plan post some “delayed impressions” of some of the more vivid takeaways from this journey over the coming days.

Tonight, I’ll focus on what I was thinking of today as I walked what turned out to be my final (AM) “vueltas” … inspired by a question asked of me yesterday at the In the Money + Taverna Novo KY Derby party: What are the things I will miss when this ends?

The top 3

  1. The sky – so many moments, colors, clouds, light, dark, sun, moon, stars, trees. It was a gift every day to see the sky at those “magical hours” from 5:20am to 8am when the day was arriving, in all it’s glory. These are hours one rarely gets to see, and I truly cherished every morning I had the chance to witness the beauty an “take photos with my eyes”. Many friends will recall what a sunrise “hound” I am, but it’s often hard to actually implement the get up in the dark plan to see them. This job gave me that impetus and a new appreciation of watching the sunrise indirectly, looking to the west, looking through the trees, and peering out from under the eaves of the barn. All these vantages gave me visions of the spectacular sight of the lightening sky that accompanies the mornings on the backstretch.
  2. The community – there’s just nothing like throwing yourself into the “new kid” scenario. My heart is with all those college freshmen (first years) who are doing the same thing right now… walking into a completely new and unfamiliar setting, bringing their tools, talents and instincts with them to navigate unknown terrain and to connect with a new set of individuals who will guide them, shape them, support them, and share the experience with – whether they know it or not. My journey on the backstretch was made infinitely easier by my comfort level speaking Spanish, but that was merely a tool in my toolbox. Just like the college kids, it was a leap for me. My strategy was to just “be me” and hope I’d be accepted and welcomed. As I walked around the shed row today, I realized that I would truly miss feeling – albeit briefly – like part of a team with my new colleagues. The people I worked with at the barn – directly and indirectly – were a great gift. They collectively saw past or through my appearance as a dilettante (the short time, part timer), they accepted my intent to learn and be helpful, and they showed me how to be useful. I am grateful to all of them, and as I look back on this brief but vivid chapter I will fondly remember that feeling of being a part of this amazing, incredibly hard-working community.
  3. And of course, the horses, especially in those very special moments – usually right as we took the turn into the “good corner” with the green vines, and then headed up Linda Rice’s aisle, with the sun flooding through the pillars. These were magical moments. A couple of them took a little piece of my heart: Justin’ Scones, Devil’s Rendezvous and most recently, the big and thoughtful Macho Boy. Each of them surely taught me a lesson, and all of them looked to me for something important. They required me to breathe, to be still, to be calm, to be steady, to be strong, to be clear and to be present. A recipe I’ll try to hold on to!
Kim & Scones – artsy style, thank you Lupe Velez

4. Oh, and ice cream! Yes, I’ll miss that feeling that I can truly and legitimately eat whatever I want after walking 15-25,000 steps a day. Those afternoon trips to Cookies & Cream were such fun and I enjoyed every fry from my regular lunching at the Horseshoe…

These are still just a few of the gems that I’ll treasure from this strange and wonderful “summer unlike any other”.

More ruminating over the days ahead – but for now, hitting the hay without the 4:30am alarm and feeling very, very grateful.

Happy Labor Day!


Day 15: All about Scones

saturday was A Big Day!

I was looking forward to a reflection on “Reggae and Rainy Days” inspired by today’s (Saturday’s) episode at the barn… but this ruminating has been pre-empted by BIG NEWS: We Have a Winner! Her name is Bustin’ Scones!

This pink-nosed beauty is small but mighty.

Click here to watch her race. I especially like her happy canter across the finish-line, ears a flopping!

I think she was the first horse I walked on the day I began this adventure.

I’m fairly certain she’s the first one I held for a bath. She bit my thumb. Pretty hard. I’m watching the bruise grow out and remaining hopeful I won’t lose the nail. She loves grass. She’s super sassy. And she CAN BE sweet as pie when walking – ears flopping, head low, leaning in… an absolutely love. We’ve had a bunch of magical moments around the shed row. She’s my girl.

I gave her a big pep talk on Saturday AM when we walked, mostly telling her to come back safe, but also to let her fierceness shine. I think she heard me.

Meanwhile, our rider tells me she’s a thing possessed when you’re riding her. Total transformation to fire-breathing dragon. A veritable ball of energy, with the nimbleness to go in any direction at the drop of a hat – she does, she can and she will. The challenge is to stay with her and to not piss her off – neither sound easy. If you watch the race video through the post-race interview, Amira talks about how challenging she is to ride and she really credits the jockey, Benji Hernandez, for doing it so well and really “getting her”. Such a big moment for everyone who has spent time with her. She won her first race in 2018… so this one has been a long time coming, and a great culmination to the summer meet for the team.I think her 2020 Summer meet record was 1 3rd, 1 2nd and 1 first – and I know she’s dreaming of her next race.

As I return for my last few days of this summer adventure on Friday, I wonder if she’ll still be at the barn. With just a few days of racing remaining, I’m sure our shed row will be growing emptier with horses heading back to Belmont and some heading west to Finger Lakes. Scones will stay close to Amira for sure, but I suppose it’s possible she’ll leave before the weekend. I made sure to tell her how proud of her I was when we walked on Monday… I feel sure she heard me.

Life Lesson from Scones

I think what I most love about this little horse is that she is completely comfortable in her skin, completely her own quirky little personality, and entirely comfortable being two completely different horses – depending on the circumstances. I think she’s teaching me (all of us) a lesson.

In the barn and around the shed row, she is truly a love. She is my hands down favorite horse to walk (even on the couple days when she was on her toes), because she just seemed so happy, so there, with me, in the moment – enjoying the walk and not afraid of anything.

On the track, to train or race, she is a wild thing. A woman possessed, a dragon, a beast, a hell-hath-no-fury like a little filly who wants to run. She makes everyone pay attention and suffers no hard handed direction, she demands that all those around her do it her way. And on Saturday, she showed them all what she loves to do most – run and win.

You rock little Scones. You really do. When I grow up I want to be like you!