Thursday, December 31, 2009

Year in Review

2009, like all other years, was a year to remember. While previous years have held more singular exciting incidents, this year held a steady course of happiness, excitement, and of course, tears. It served as a nice wrap up to 2005 through 2008, and a great preview to what will come in 2010.

The most monumental factor of 2009 is the transition it has kick started in my life. This year I finished my University classroom work and wrapped up my job at Schonberg Farm (at least for now). I secured an internship at The Blood-Horse, accomodations at Lane's End Farm and am planning to do some travelling, all of which are to commence in 2010. 2009 will be remembered as the year when plans were made. 2010 will be the year to put those plans into action.

2009 started off with a bang, as I was heavily wrapped up in freelance writing for The Game and executing my duties as Editor-in-Chief of the school paper. The insanity continued throughout the winter, and I was very relieved to wrap up the school year and begin my fifth summer working at Schonberg Farm. Without a letdown, the summer also commenced with a bang, with five foals born in four days as soon as I started back. Our racing season began shortly thereafter, and the fruition of our hard work was finally realized as horses like First Circle, Woodsmoke and Politelyprecocious kicked off a 16-win season. The American racing scene was one of the most thrilling for me in a couple of years, as I wholeheartedly cheered on two Birdstone progeny, Mine That Bird and Summer Bird, to win the Kentucky Derby, Belmont Stakes, Travers Stakes and Jockey Club Gold Cup. Mine That Bird allowed me to have my second story published in The Blood-Horse.

The hard work hammered on at the farm, and in early July I ventured to B.C. for a weekend vacation. The summer continued with a lot of hard work and a few fun nights out.

In September I headed back to school, and began my new job with Mike's stable at the track. Being involved on the track side of the industry proved to be a lot of fun, and working with the athletes I had helped foal and raise was very thrilling and rewarding. In November I travelled to California for the second year in a row to attend the Breeders' Cup, which was naturally an excellent trip which can be summed up as the "Zenyatta Show". A week later I took a road trip with Lauri to Kentucky. I had the time of my life looking at horses and talking about horses for two straight days, and I got to visit Wando for the first time in two years.

In the midst of all this travelling, I completed my thesis proposal and hammered away at five other courses. Now, I have finished my classroom education at Guelph-Humber and am making my final preparations to travel to Kentucky for three months.

2009 has been a year to remember. Here's to hoping it kick starts the next chapter of my life in style.

End Point

There are some things they don’t tell you when you start school. As I leave Guelph-Humber and venture into this big playground called the world, a flurry of emotions are making their rounds within me. There is the excitement of finally being finished: all those late nights agonizing over that seemingly meaningless essay are now over. Following excitement is anxiety: have I learned enough? Am I good enough? This anxiety spurs fear, as I remember that I am leaving the only life I have known for four years, and I wonder what it will be like to adjust to a new life as a working person. The final emotion is humbleness. After much excitement, fear, and anxiety, I am on the cusp of completing this journey and earning a university degree.

These last four years of my life have rushed by like the turning pages of a dramatic novel. University life has spurned the darkest times of my life, but also some of the most exciting. While I have often questioned the fa├žade of academia and debated it’s true importance, the bottom line is that my status as a journalism student has provided me opportunities that may have otherwise been obscure.

And now it is the end. To future Guelph-Humber students, I say this: first year is the hardest, and once you have completed this hurdle, a little heart and a lot of hard work will take you the rest of the way. Don’t listen to your professors on the first day of class. You may spend two hours a week on one class, or ten hours on another. Tune out the professor and take some time to digest everything. It’s not as bad as it may seem. There is time to do everything.

Do not wait. Starting your assignments early will give you more time, more confidence and allow for more creativity. A hard-earned, successful end result far outweighs the bragging rights of an all-nighter assignment.

Discount no one. You never know who you can learn from, and this does not disclude classmates. No matter how superior of a writer you feel you may be, listen to your editors. You never know who you can learn something from, and I repeat this phrase for a purpose. Take advantage of every learning opportunity.

You will encounter many professors during your four years. Some will be life changing, other’s names will be forgotten by the next semester. Professors are never as frightening as they are during the first class, and they may just be the one to inspire you. No matter how your instructor dresses or how bizarre they may seem, they may just be brilliant. Never discount a conversation because it seems tedious or irrelevant at the time. Listen to everyone. These people are teachers for a reason.

It is not always necessary to operate by the textbook. Take it class by class. If the reading does not help you learn, don’t do it. If the lectures don’t inspire you, don’t attend. But have an eye to what does help you learn, and make your best effort. Disinterest or dislike is not an excuse to deem the class pointless or stupid. Remember, you’re paying for it. You may as well try to take something from it.

Most importantly, make time for friends. Professors, aquaintances and classes will come and go, but friends are forever. Make time for them. You may quickly forget that paper you did just average on, but you will never forget the smiles, laughter and love of true friends. Get to know as many people as you can, and learn to love everyone. It makes the sometimes agonizing experiences survivable, and the most difficult four years of your life unforgettable. Thank you to all those who helped me through the excitement and agony. Thank you for keeping my head above water. We survived. We did it.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Three

Just when I thought the racing season was over, we logged three more wins in Maryland. Zarroc won a $32,000 optional claimer at Laurel, paying $32.90. He follows up wins by Longlasting and Cheers Mate, the latter having won three races for us this year, joining Woodsmoke as our co-winningest horse. Our other multiple winner was First Circle. Overall, Gus Schickedanz's stable has now won 16 races this year, stellar considering it more than doubles last year's record. I learned that hard work truly does pay off. I also learned that the winners circle is kind of a fun place to be!

Pieces of the Puzzle

The pieces of puzzle that is my internship at The Blood-Horse are coming together. I will be leaving Canada and arriving in Versailles, Kentucky on January 5, 2010. Over the past few weeks, I have learned that I will be contributing to magazine content including features and race reports, as well as writing stories for the website and getting feedback from editors on my work. I look forward to working in each of these capacities, but I'm particularly interested in doing some work for the website, as this is where I have the least experience. I can't wait to get some feedback on my work from some of the most respected writers and editors in the Thoroughbred industry. My hours to begin with will be Monday to Friday, 8 am to 3 pm, and will likely change according to workload and important events.

I will be living in a house owned by Lane's End Farm in downtown Versailles, with a girl my age. I will spend a couple days a week in the foaling barns there, where they will be foaling about 150 mares this year. This is many more than what I'm used to, and I look forward to all the learning opportunities that come along with those numbers.

I will be returning to Canada when my visa expires for the month of April. My plans afterward are not set in stone.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Demo!

A little preview of the on-screen charisma and handy camera work learned at Guelph-Humber. Last Friday, one of my classmates and I covered a protest put on by our public relations counterparts from GH. Here's an overview, shot, edited, and reported on avec moi (they have also taught us French).

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Solid Sands

Click HERE for a thought-provoking article by Blood-Horse editor Dan Liebman on the influence of HH Sheikh Mohammed on the Thoroughbred industry during the global recession. The financial difficulties of Dubai have recently been brought to light, and it would be foolish for Thoroughbred industry participants to take this lightly, considering the strong influence Sheikh Mohammed's bloodstock empire has on Thoroughbred racing globally. Having said that, it would also be foolish to believe that Sheikh Mohammed would leave high and dry the industry that he so strongly supports. There is no saying what may happen with his global racing empire, but should any changes be made, there is no doubt in this journalist's mind that they will be made reasonably, and with the greater good in mind. As far as his racing and breeding operations are concerned, Sheikh Mohammed is first and foremost a horse person, more than can be said for some of the more prominent owners and breeders in North America today. While I am onboard with the many who believe that young stallions such as Bernardini, Street Sense and Hard Spun should have stayed on track past their three-year-old years, let's face reality: in the climate of today's breeding business, if Darley hadn't plucked these colts from the track in the prime of their careers, someone else would have. This is no legitimate reason to knock Sheikh Mohammed. The Sheikh injects millions of dollars into our industry, creates thousands of jobs globally, and displays the ultimate love of horses and sportsmanship this sport is desperately lacking. Instead of criticizing this leader, perhaps we should take a page from his book.

Thank you for bringing this issue up for conversation, Mr. Liebman.

Horse of the Year Home Run

Click HERE to read an excellent guest blog on bloodhorse.com regarding the current Horse of the Year pandemonium. Mr. Sealy hits a home run with this one. In the midst of the outrage between Zenyatta and Rachel fans, who has stopped to think about the real issue at hand? Had these two lovely ladies actually raced against each other, as was anticipated very publicly all year long, there would be no question as to who gets the crown. The best horse should be decided in a race, not by hundreds of voters waging words of war. I have been reading a lot lately about the origins of horse racing for my thesis on engaging fans, and Mr. Sealy depicts it perfectly: horse racing began with the challenge of obtaining the fastest horse, which led to social standing in society. It was all about sport, sportsmanship and socializing. Somewhere, we lost our way. And, as Mr. Sealy says, those who are serious about keeping horse racing alive must recognize an opportunity that was missed this year. While Rachel and Zenyatta were both no doubt much needed water to an increasingly parched sport, an opportunity was missed to return to the roots of racing, and regain the sportsmanship that crafted the beginnings of the game we love.