Lawn chairs and saliva

A road trip with race horses and trainers turns into noisy fun for a photographer



When I received this assignment - following thoroughbred racehorses and their trainers through an arduous road trip - the editor warned, "It's going to be a long day."

"Where am I headed?" I asked. He replied, "We'll start at Pimlico, stop at Laurel and then down to Virginia, Colonial Downs." My next question was, "Do I have to ride with the horses?" The editor chuckled, confidently declared "no" and explained that I'd be riding in the van with trainers. And then he cautioned again, "It'll be a really long day." I thought to myself, "Well, at least I don't have to drive."

I woke up at 4 a.m. and made my way to Pimlico uncertain of what I was getting into, but excited about the possibilities. While unloading my gear, I noticed everyone carrying lawn chairs. Sandy McKee, the reporter, wished me a good morning and asked whether I had brought mine. I asked "What for?" She said not to worry because she had brought one for me.

We all gathered at the trailer as the groom loaded the horses. Sandy then asked, "Are you ready for this?" I replied, "Yeah, ready for a nap." Then the driver says, "Well, make yourself at home, we got a long ride."

Turns out, the trainers and grooms refer to the horse-trailers as vans and yes, I had to ride with the horses.

Despite the occasional sprinkling of horse saliva and the nonstop clanging of harnesses, the van ride home was my favorite part of the trip. I laughed with the trainers, hung out of a moving van, had a Spanish lesson and made the day's best photograph. It was indeed a long day, but time flies when you're having fun.

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