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The Worst Advice in Horse Racing

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When you first got involved with racehorses, whether as an owner, a groom, a trainer, or in some other facet, I’m sure that you were told many times, just as I was,

“Don’t get too attached to them, they’re racehorses – not pets.” That, my friends, is some of the worst advice I’ve ever gotten, and I’m glad I didn’t listen.

First, let me make one thing clear – if your attachment to a racehorse causes you to make bad business decisions, then yes, it’s not a good thing. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get attached to them. To me, horses are the most beautiful and loyal creatures on Earth. So go out and work 70+ hours a week alongside them, and don’t get too attached to some? Ya, right. Good luck with that.

Are you allowed to get “too attached” to your dog? Of course you are. Will your dog be around forever? Sadly, we all know the answer to that. And you’re allowed to get “too attached” to people in your life as well, right? Well as the great Johnny Cash once wrote, “Everyone I know goes away in the end.” But that doesn’t stop us from loving each other. It’s part of life.

So why not a racehorse?

When I was 16, I took some savings from my job at a golf course, and bought into my first horse. I was the proud owner of 25% of Bio Latka – a yearling colt by Tijuana Taxi.

I had been around horses my entire life, and had been in the jog cart from a young age, but I learned the most from him. I’d go to the trainer’s farm on weekends and help with the jogging and barn work to pay off part of my bill. I’d also paddock him when he raced. A bond developed – even though I was not to get “too attached” to him.

“Laddie” won at first asking at age two, at Kawartha Downs, and raced mainly on the Greenwood/Mohawk circuit at two and three. A ‘B-track’ claimer at age four and five, he was claimed from us in the spring of his five-year-old year. I was devastated. Did I get over it? Of course I did.

A year later, the man who trained him for us claimed him back, with some other owners. He went winless for them throughout that summer. One night in late August the trainer had five horses in to go, and asked for my help to ship and race. I arrived at his farm with our truck and trailer, and out of the barn walked Laddie – I hadn’t seen him in well over a year. I warmed him up and paddocked him that night at Kawartha, and at odds of 30/1, from post #8, Bio Latka won. The very moment he hit the wire, after being headed in deep stretch and coming back on, I knew that I was hooked on this sport forever.

By Christmas of that year, I owned him again. Winless since that start in August, he was sold to me at a cut-rate price. I raced him throughout my university years, and until he was ten. Our bond deepened. There even came a point when, after a summer race or hard training mile, he would turn his nose up at an offer of a cold drink of water from anyone but me. He was officially spoiled rotten, but always raced his heart out for me. I even drove him (unsuccessfully) in a few fair races, but it was becoming evident that Laddie’s best racing years were behind him. Enter OSAS – at that time, a new adoption society.

Laddie was adopted out to a wonderful family, that included five daughters and four riding horses – now they had a fifth. Did it hurt to see him leave? Absolutely. Did I get over it? Of course I did.

One day, many years later, I was contacted on Facebook, by one of the girls from his adopted family, and I was happy to learn that he was still happy, loved, and going strong.

In 2015 I received a photo of him, and a message that, at age 33, he had been humanely laid to rest. Was I sad? Absolutely. Did I get over it? For the most part I did.

I worked with dozens of horses after Bio Latka came and left, and I got “too attached” to a small handful of others over the years as well. Do I regret it? Not for a minute. The common denominator with each? They all made my life better!

Those of us who have been privileged to work with these tremendous animals should consider ourselves lucky. So please take this advice if you will: Go out and get “too attached” to a horse. It will be one of the best things that ever happens to you.

Dan Fisher
dfisher@standardbredcanada.ca

5 Comments

January 30, 2018 - 5:56 pmNice article Dan! (I said

Nice article Dan! (I said that so you will post my comment). lol P.S. In my case I should have taken that advice.

January 30, 2018 - 3:44 pmNice story Dan. I noticed the

Nice story Dan. I noticed the listed trainer, Robert Havery. In the early nineties my father and I with Stan Klemencic owned a mare named Fancy Co Star, with Bob as the trainer.

January 12, 2018 - 5:17 pmMore people need to become

Lynne Magee SAID...

More people need to become "attached" to the horses in their lives. Every day is a learning opportunity if you take the time.

January 12, 2018 - 4:16 pmWell written Dan. I agree...

Well written Dan.

I agree... getting "too attached" was, and still is, the best part of my life. I learned from some great people starting with my first grooms job back in the late 70's.
From then I moved to a bigger barns where I worked with starting, training babies and prepping sale horses. I knew all these horses would be moving on but being "too attached" they got cared for 110% regardless.
I've turned out some amazing, well mannered horses in my life in both the Harness and Riding horse worlds.

Like Dan, I can recommend getting "too attached", whether it's as a caretaker, trainer or owner. There are many options out there for anyone who wants the opportunity.

January 12, 2018 - 12:48 pmI would not be the person I

I would not be the person I am today if I had not gotten "too attached" to the first horse I groomed at my first job in racing. I would not be the artist I am today if I had not gotten "too attached" to harness racing. By all means, get "too attached". You will never regret it, and it may just change your life for the better.


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