Detention Barn Blues

Edit Two: Pictures!

Thoroughbred in van, New York City

So this is New York?

I wrote this a few days ago, but haven’t had a reliable internet connection to post. There are pictures to be added, but I’m not sure when that will happen…

As I write this, I’m sitting in history, a barn maligned and unwanted, the monitoring barn at Belmont. It’s hot and humid, and every horse stands before an industrial fan. Grooms are dozing on straw bales, folding lawn chairs, one on a white padded chair that looks suspiciously like it once occupied a hotel ballroom. It is a place for reading text messages, gossiping, and drinking sugary drinks to try and stay awake. It has earned the name, “detention.”

Sleeping in the Detention barn

I understand people sleep in detention, too.

I was never actually in detention, but I’ve seen movies. And this is pretty much how I would have imagined it. Minus the horses.

The detention barn ends today. It ends getting a horse over to the racetrack six hours before its race, ends the stress of a new barn, new stall, new horses, just before a race. It ends certain rituals that have fallen into place; new ones will form over time. The racetrack is ever full of its own rituals.

The van brings over the horses by two or threes from Aqueduct, grooms hanging out the windows, watching Queens roll by, the Thoroughbreds peering into windows of city buses at traffic lights, startling the populace. It is the most bizarre juxtaposition of urban and rural imaginable. It is the epitome of the racehorse experience, horses in the city.

(A realtor asked me what I did for a living. “Oh, what brings you to New York City?” she chirped. “I ride racehorses,” I told her. Her expression of disbelief was typical of the response I get from New Yorkers who have no idea of the equines in their city.)

Shedrow Haircut

Many hidden skills at the races, including hairdressing.

Killing time is an artform, especially in the first few hours when no one has to prep for a race. Yesterday, I got a haircut in the shedrow. (Getting my hair hosed down with cold water behind the barn was SOME experience and I can’t imagine the audience that I had.) I watched a man smoking and staring into a tree for a while. Didn’t ask what he saw. There are books to be read and, in my case, blogs to be written. Speculate about who is who in the length of brown and white faces stretched over the shedrow, disfigured comically by their anti-straw-eating muzzles.

You can discuss at length just what the P.A. announcements sound like: I’m sticking with “Charlie Brown’s teacher.” Your best bet for knowing when to groom and bridle your horse for the walk to the paddock, really just to know post time and set your watch.

But these are valueless lessons I learned this weekend, because today is the last day. The bags are packed for Saratoga, the horses have been leaving in herds for upstate, and when Belmont closes at the end of the day, NYRA’s detention barn experiment closes with it.

Posted with WordPress for BlackBerry.

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5 Comments

Filed under racetrack life, Uncategorized

5 responses to “Detention Barn Blues

  1. How big is that barn if it holds all the horses racing for the day, if I got that right? And no haircut pics?!! Who in the world did you ever let cut your hair there, or was it a Nibble Cut/Pull from one of your equine friends? Thanks again for allowing us to be there with you!

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Hahaha! So many questions! Okay, there ARE haircut pics. And cute horse pics. But I haven’t been able to get on a computer. Living on my BlackBerry. And I am not clever enough to get properly resized pics via BlackBerry. I’ll try. Really.

      There were two big barns, one with four shedrows facing one another across a yard. I don’t know how many stalls.. It didn’t seem like enough but I suppose a hundred or so. It got quite lonely as the afternoon wore on and people started disappearing…

  2. Are you heading off to Saratoga? I’ve only been there once and thought it was a great town. If you are, try to head over to Great Sacandaga Lake while you’re out there. It has sand beaches and is fairly shallow so the water is actually warm in the summer, unlike most other lakes in the Adirondacks.

    • Natalie Keller Reinert

      Shannon, that sounds pretty tempting – possibly the most tempting item in all the laundry lists people have been handing me about how much I will love Saratoga. I may go with a ship-in, race, and come home again. I don’t want to go to stay. I just got to New York, and I just spent HOW many years in the country? At the moment, the countryside holds no charms for me. Our main stable is staying in the city and I am having far too much fun to complain.

  3. Hey, kid. My internet has been all wonky, too. I’ve decided to keep blogging about him, fictionally, of course;)
    Check out the picture, if you can… Read it and weep, as they say.

    and quit drinkin’ those sugary drinks! Water is your friend, sugar is your enemy.
    Old nag out:)

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