October 25, 2014

My Downright Amazing Summer

So, I was originally planning on riding more and more this summer, hoping to go three to four times a week and ride my mother’s co-workers’ horses for them, but before I got the chance, I got the call of a lifetime.

Let’s start from the beginning. May 6, 2012. I was coming back from a 5K with my dad (which I’d placed Third in for my age group) and I’d told him how I found out there were really good racehorse trainers right over in Fair Hill, MD. We live about 15 minutes away from there, and my dad said, you should write to one of them and see if they’d let you do an internship with them this summer. I laughed and said, “Yeah, cause Michael Matz is really going to want a 16 year old girl who hasn’t ridden more than 12 times this year to go work with him and his clients’ million dollar racehorses. My father was serious though, and I started to write my letter to Mr. Michael Silver Individual Medal in 1996 Olympics Matz. I sent it on June 1, 2012. I didn’t expect him to respond, but I asked him to at the bottom of my letter, leaving my home phone number for him to reach me with either a “Yes”, or the expected “No way, Jose!”.

Flash Forward to June 19, 2012, I had just gotten home from my best friend’s house where we were starting our experiment for Junior Research, and I was telling my mom about what we did as she checked the phone for messages. She stops talking mid-sentence and says, “Michael Matz…?” I froze and stared at her before she looked to me and pressed play and I couldn’t even hear what he was saying, because I was sitting on the floor crying. He called me. An Olympic Show Jumping sensation, Kentucky Derby Winning Thoroughbred Racehorse Trainer, called ME. He wanted me to give him a call and, if I was still interested, we’d discuss a job for this summer. I went upstairs and called my Dad, still in tears, and he told me to stop crying and call the man! I then called my neighbor and one of my closest friends to tell her, and she was in shock as well. When I finally stopped crying, I dialed his number, butterflies abundant in my stomach, and he answered, asking me to call him back around 11 AM the next morning, as he was currently meeting with all the owners at his house.

11 AM on the dot the following morning, I called him. He asked what it was that I wanted to do exactly, and I realized, I had no specific answer for this. I’d wanted to be a jockey since I was 4 years old, and though that dream has passed (I’m 5 feet 5 and 3/4 inches tall) I still want to work with racehorses. I asked if I could learn what it took to be a trainer, get to know the language and the daily routines in the barns. He then asked the real question, “You do realize we start pretty early, right, Kerry?” He asked me. I laughed in response and told him I was well aware, but a 5 AM start was a small price to pay for this amazing opportunity. “How do you plan on getting out here?” He asked. “Well I guess I’ll have to see which one of my family members loves me the most.” I said to him, and this time, he laughed. “Alright, you figure out the driving situation, and give me a call. You can come in on Friday if someone will get up and drive you… but we’ll be starting at 4:30. It’s been a little more hot than usual during the day.” He said to me, and I agreed to call him later that night.

Friday morning at 3:30 AM: I didn’t even mind when my alarm started to blare in my ears. I got right up, threw on a pair of work jeans and my riding boots, grabbed a baseball cap and a water bottle and ran out the door. Did you know the humidity at 4 AM on June 21st is enough to strangle you? My dad came out behind me, holding my breakfast and his keys. “You ready?” I was shaking too much to answer him. The entire ride over, I couldn’t sit still. I was going to see where favorite trainer did his thing with the most amazing horses I’d ever meet.

“We’re going to start her out hotwalking, and see what she learns.” Mr. Matz said to my father and I and I stood there smiling wider than I ever had and nodding my head. He led me down to the lower barn and introduced me to the barn manager, Benjamin, who handed me a lead shank and showed me how to properly clip it to the halter of a horse named Late Cuddle. After 10 minutes of walking around the shedrows to warm up, I took him back to his stall and was given the next horse to walk. This was my routine for every morning that I was at the barn, and I loved it. I walked the horses before and after their workouts, during their baths, and while they grazed and dried under the sun. Every groom, hotwalker, exercise rider, assistant trainer, and vet knew my name, and loved to start conversations with me during and in between my walks. They were all so nice and welcoming, I was so thankful to have met them. I even got to walk a few horses while I was up in Saratoga Springs to watch the Jim Dandy with my dad (though we weren’t sure if I was allowed to, based on track rules… shh…) It was the most surprising and rewarding summer I’ve ever had, and I hope to return next summer and see how all the babies have grown and run since I last saw them.

I do not own any of these horses, but I DID take EVERY picture, so please don’t steal them, because that wouldn’t be cool… So yeah, I got to spend 2 and 1/2 months at a Racehorse Training barn… How was everyone else’s summer?

Contest

This first picture is from when I went on a trail ride with my Girl Scout Troop in the third grade, which would have been 2004 I think. I hadn’t started lessons yet (that came the next year, thank God…). I feel horribly stupid looking back at this picture, what with my feet not even IN the stirrups, but on TOP of them, and yanking back on his mouth so hard to keep him from eating the grass, but this poor horse, Apollo, put up with me without a single complaint. He is still at that Trail Ride Stable, at the ripe age of 42, going strong and happily.

2004 Trail Ride

The second picture is one from this May when I was just starting up with lessons again after stopping in 2006. 6 years later, my old riding instructor was the first to see me ride again, and was amazed by how much I’ve remembered throughout the years, but I guess I still can’t remember to check my stirrup lengths before hopping on, since they are so drastically different here! Haha, I’d still say it’s an improvement, just gotta get out my bad stirrup habits ;)

2012 Comeback Lesson