That One True Calling

Oftentimes, a lot of effort is put into finding a horse’s true calling. When you get a retired racehorse into your barn, you can’t help but immediately begin profiling him, storing away little tidbits of information, trying to build up a resume for him like a high school counselor advising a teenager on what they ought to consider as a college major.

“He’s very steady and large-boned, good in company, bet he’d make a nice field hunter.”

“He’s a bit hot and athletic, doesn’t know how to manage all that energy, I’d make a show jumper out of him.”

“This horse is the whole package – sound, good-tempered, athletic – can you say eventer?”

And so on.

Three Thoroughbreds, three jobs.

It’s interesting how much time is invested in finding the perfect job for the horse, as opposed to how much time we tend not to spend in finding the perfect job for ourselves. Not necessarily the job that might come easiest – I mean, you might be really awesome at accounting, but you might despise it, and haven’t we all known a truly gifted jumper or dressage horse that hated his job with a passion, and ended up cheerfully running barrels or moving cattle or something else equally improbable?

And you might not necessarily hate your job. You might be thinking, hey – I’m pretty good at being an accountant, and the hours aren’t half-bad and the wage is okay and, quite frankly, my desk is nice and I have my own potted plant, so what’s the problem here? If you’ve got an event horse who is always winning the dressage and falling behind in the jumping, you might be thinking – maybe he ought to be a dressage horse.

And then there’s that nagging question that pops up – and I doubt horses get this question, as their primary concern is grass/grain/not being eaten by predators/avoiding the pit bull ghost in the corner. It’s a bit existential for horses, and I don’t give them nearly as much credit for psychic abilities as some. But, you know, that nagging question – should I be doing more?

Some people react by volunteering. Some react by going into local politics. Some join the Peace Corps and build schools in the Peruvian mountains. Everyone has their own cure.

I’m an okay trainer. Here’s the thing: I like my job. I’m good at it. I like the desk and the hours and the potted plant – that’s all great. But if I’m an okay trainer, I’m a better writer. I’m a decent eventer. I’m better at dressage. If I can help one horse at a time by reschooling, I can help dozens (or more, one hopes) by writing about everything that goes into it, from the racing industry to the reschooling, from the people and organizations on the front lines of OTTB rescue and adoption to the horses and their riders at the boarding stables and in the showrings, succeeding together.

And that’s exactly what I’m going to do.

I’m giving up the farm life and moving back to New York City to write full-time. I hope you’ll come with me. There are horses there in spades – the urban horses that fill the thousands of stalls of New York’s racetracks – and the horse people that work with them every day. People say they want to know how to handle a retired racehorse – I want to show how racehorses live. There’s no surer way. If you want to know how to approach the future, learn about the past. That certainly goes for our OTTBs. It’s time to dispel stereotypes. Time for some backstretch reporting.

Ironically, I’m fairly certain at some point a high school counselor told me, “You don’t want to train horses for a living. You like horses, you like writing – why don’t you write about horses?”

Well, okay.



Filed under Stereotypes, writing

18 responses to “That One True Calling

  1. Wow! Go Natalie!

    I, for one, will go with you. If only because I myself am still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up (and I think I’m older than you are).

    Bar is also trying to figure out what he wants to be–and he’ll be 10 tomorrow, April 1st–but he is pretty sure he wants to go there with me.

    I still say I can get that horse to work cows.

  2. Natalie Keller Reinert

    Bar wants to work cows! OTTB Number 1 worked cows, you know, in between being a slow claimer and being my test subject for the next fifteen years. . .

    Thanks Jessica, we’re going to have a time.

  3. Barb

    Well, we know for a fact you’re an excellent writer! Of course we’ll go with you, with the stipulation from Vince that NO elevators are involved in future OTTB training columns! You GO FOR IT, Girl!! Congrats!!

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Now you KNOW if I find an elevator, I will have to photograph/write about it for you. But I don’t think there are any more horse elevators in New York City. If anyone knows of one, please let me know post-haste. Inquiring OTTBs want to know.

      Thank you, Barb 🙂

  4. Laurie

    You are a very smart girl. I applaud you. I love New York and it will get your writing juices flowing. Trooper and I will be right behind you!

  5. “I’m giving up the farm life and moving back to New York City to write full-time”

    Holy jeepers creepers, I can’t keep up with you!

    Awesome, go for it, wow, what??

    First Dubai, now, New York??

    Oh, well, pack your woolies:)

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      GoLightly, my LIFE is surprising you. Half the things I do, I measure against how astonishing you will find them.

      And isn’t that astonishing?

      I’m just moving closer to Canada so I can harass you more conveniently.

      • Well, how cool is that? I have a US stalker!

        You’ll never guess what’s in my neighbour’s garage..


      • Natalie Keller Reinert

        You’re right, I won’t. Is it a retired racehorse?

        Oh I’m going to have go look at your blog aren’t I… sigh… the things you make me do…

        Wait until I have high-speed internet, then I will stalk your web site again 🙂 You and yer giant photos. And horsesticks. I heart horsesticks. Can you go to Cafepress or some such vanity site and design t-shirts?

  6. Sweet! Good luck! I struggled with a similar issue for awhile…work with horses/manage a barn for a living or write? Because I love both…and I’m pretty good at both.

    I decided it was in my best interest to write for a living so I could afford to manage and work my OWN horses, and one day be able to take on OTTB retraining projects.

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Jenn – exactly.

      I’m much better at managing a barn than I am at riding. I used to work for Ralph Hill and his manager, Ivy, used to say she was really talented at keeping horses happy, so that was what she did, even though she wanted to do more riding. I get that. I love keeping horses happy. But that’s a job that you work to the exclusion of anything else. And I don’t think I’m particularly unique in my ability. I just have a lot of knowledge built up! I think it’s better used elsewhere… And I’m going to enjoy not having chores on muddy mornings, too, lol.

  7. Da

    Right behind you, daughter-girl. I seem to recall one or two conversations on this subject myself….

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Thank you Da!!!

      One or two, one or two thousand, etc. It takes a long time for things to settle in my brain. And then some.

      But can you bring yourself to visit NYC this time? THAT is the question 😉 The pizza, Da, the pizza….

  8. I couldn’t help but double-check the date of your entry, making sure it wasn’t April 1. Wow, that’s a huge step. Will you still be blogging?

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Shannon – I think it may have been April 1st.. But I’ve never been one for pranks. Although an interesting one may have involved taking Final Call and joining the circus, with Barb’s blessing since she wants me to teach him tricks…

      I’ll absolutely be blogging. With any luck, that will be what I do with most of my time.

  9. Okay, I’ll take pity on your dial-up slugdom.

    My psycho neighbour has a TB stallion in her garage.

    OSPCA, my landlord, and the seller of said horse are all notified. In reverse order.
    My heart is bursting with anger and helplessness.
    Taking tomorrow off to hopefully see an end to this madness.
    May have to wait until next Thursday, in the meantime, he stands…

  10. Cheryl Deane-Tursi

    Wow, Natalie, I must have missed this post on FB. I am excited for you but a little sad. It stinks that a great horsewoman is leaving us, but it’s great that you are following your dream. I am going to miss your adventures with FC in the ECoD, but I will look forward to your new ones in the Big Apple.

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Cheryl, you make me blush. I am not a great horsewoman 🙂 I just ride great horses! And pass on the bad ones, so I fall off less. And I can’t stay on Bonnie to save my life…

      It’s going to be a real pleasure sharing the adventures in New York. Next week I’ll be broadcasting live from New York! Excitement!

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