Itâ€™s time to dust off the ratty tennis shoes, break out my scuffed up jeans and crappy T-shirts because this weekend Mom leaves for the track, which means racing season officially begins Ââ€“ for us anyway.
Sorry, Iâ€™ve been a little lax in this whole blog business. Itâ€™s been a busy month and I totally missed out on rattling off my take on the Kentucky Derby or the sad Preakness effort. I was rooting for Animal Kingdom, and pretty disappointed he missed a shot at the Triple Crown by just a length. Iâ€™ll circle back to that eventually.
In the meantime, Iâ€™m trying to wrap my head around this already an anomaly of a race season for the Rocking Diamond Ranch (thatâ€™s my parents, by the way). Itâ€™s a little different this year because itâ€™s the first time in a long time Iâ€™m not in The Cities to meet Mom at the track when she gets there. Of course, I wasnâ€™t around at all when I lived in California or as a kid when it was my job to stay home and take care of the horses â€¦but still.
What is the same is what my mom will be up to. Every year, she packs up feed, tack, supplies, our race horses, horses she is training for other people, and a couple of pony horses.Â She loads up the trailer and heads off to Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn. Â She eventually moves them all to Iowa for the Prairie Meadows season where she will be until nearly October. Each year, the number of horses she has at the track varies. It can be anywhere from three to 15, which for one person, is quite a lot.
On the backside, there are dorm rooms built above the barns. The dorms are basically 10X10-foot cement block rooms. No air conditioning and communal showers. Mom makes it a home with a refrigerator, a twin bed and a little television. She always makes sure her room is close to her barn and she can see the horses from the single small window.
While there, she is up at 4 a.m. each day. She heads down to the barns to feed, clean stalls and ride once the training track opens up. Sheâ€™s busy with all of that until mid-afternoon when itâ€™s time to feed and pick stalls once again. On race days, she is busy working: either ponying, racing or helping other trainers, until after midnight. I wouldnâ€™t call it glamorous but Iâ€™ve always admired my mom for what she does. She basically eats, sleeps, and breathes her horses for five months out of the year. She doesnâ€™t just know about her horses, she knows everything about them, sometimes even better than they know themselves. Yet, she is always willing to learn, to hear other ideas and try something new. At the same time, her horses are her priority, her passion. Â Itâ€™s a lot of hard work and it can be heartbreaking when it comes down to simply bad luck. Other times, entering that winning circle is a reminder of what dreams are supposed to be made of.
Of course, itâ€™s no picnic for my dad either. He remains at home and cares for the horses and cattle left behind. Theyâ€™re both pretty strong willed to do what they do, but it works.
For me, well, I just fill in somewhere in the middle. I help on race days and learn on training days when Iâ€™m there. If I go home, I either give my dad a break so he can visit Mom at the track, or Iâ€™m forced out of bed in the wee morning hours to go check cattle with him. I complain, but itâ€™s almost always fun.
Itâ€™s our familyâ€™s official start to summer, even if this weather doesnâ€™t want to agree.