Posted by: yogavet | October 10, 2010

Hunt Races

Whew!  This here is one tired, slightly sun- and wind-burnt girl.

Yesterday I attended the Genessee Valley Hunt Races, as a paddock veterinarian.  Basically, the paddock vet is there to go over the horses and make sure they are sound enough to participate – limbs cool, tendons not sensitive, joints flex well, and they trot soundly.  So my morning was spent running my hands over some very lovely equine athletes.  I didn’t have to scratch a single one, so the morning ran smoothly.  Then it was on to hang out in the warm up ring, and make sure none of the horses looked unfit to race then.  And of course, watch the races in between!

Now, I suppose I should start by explaining these races a bit.  They are put on by the Genesee Valley Hunt, which was founded in 1876 – they have been foxhunting in this area every since.  The race meet was begun in 1894, and was one of the first race meets to offer sanctioned steeplechase racing.  It is still the only place in NY to offer sanctioned steeplechase racing.  Now, I’ve been to sanctioned steeplechase races, and while it’s very exciting, I sometimes get bored of watching professional jockeys over and over.  But these races are different.  There were all sorts of races offered, in addition to the sanctioned ones, some just on turf and some over fences.  So local people, on local horses, were competing as well.  Here’s a little taste…

The day started off with a few pony races:

The announcer offered, “Some of you may be surprised by how fast these ponies can go!”  A few knowledgable horsepeople in the crowd shared a knowing smile.  We weren’t surprised.  We’d tried to catch these little monsters in a field before.

Then there was a race for kids younger than 16 years old.  My favorite was a young girl named Erin, it was her first race ever.  She was up against only one other girl, who was clearly more experienced.  When they broke away at the start, the more experienced girl took off like a shot.  Erin seemed shook up, and was travelling at a slow canter.  The distance between them quickly became a furlong, then a quarter mile.  It seemed like Erin didn’t have a shot.  But she kept going.  Then came the announcement that the other girl had gone off course!  She travelled inside a fence when she should have gone around.  She clearly didn’t know, since she was barrelling down to the finish.  Erin was a half mile out.  But it looked like she’d win! 

After the other girl crossed the finish, her trainer started screaming – “go back, you need to go around that fence!”  My heart sunk.  Was this girl really going to go back, and still beat Erin?  She took off, and the crowd went wild.  A few seconds later, Erin roared into view.  She had gotten her pace together, and was coming to the finish at a good clip.  The other girl had completed her circle, though, and was behind her by only a few lengths.  Erin kicked it into high gear, and won.  The crowd was going insane.  It was a great, great race. 

They had a “stock horse sprint” where non-thoroughbreds raced 1/3 mile on turf, in Western gear.  This was a bit of a harried race, though – with so many horses at such a short distance, there wasn’t time for them to spread out.  One horse fell right after the finish, leaving the rider in the path of more than a few galloping horses.  She was fine, and the horse was fine, but it was a tense moment. 

My favorite race of all was the Heavy Horse race – for drafts and draft crosses.  Um, have you ever seen a Clydesdale gallop

Okay, maybe “gallop” is a strong word.  Definitely a canter.  He didn’t win, or even come close, but they had a blast, and the crowd loved them. 

And of course, there was plenty of this:

And finally, there were the tailgaters.  These people paid top dollar for infield parking, they had awesome spreads of food, beer, wine, you name it.  There was a competition, and different categories – “harvest theme”, “horse theme”, etc.  Some people went ALL out.  My favorite tailgaters, though, was a lovely little bunch of Irishmen right next to the paddock (the warm up area, which I was slightly tied to).  They had a cute older man playing the fiddle.  Need I say more?  Okay, they also had soda bread, a growler of stout, Jameson…  I kind of wanted them to take me home. 

All in all, a beautiful day.  The horses ran clean, mostly, and there were no significant injuries.  A few jockeys got tossed, but they seemed alright as well.  My lips are seriously sunburnt, but that seems like a small price for a good day outside in the country.



  1. Okay, so now you need to get certified with AERC to be a vet judge at Endurance and Competitive Trail Ride (CTR) events, seriously!
    Amazing to see horses do the serious mileage, 25-100 miles, whether in one day, or over 2-3 days depending on the event.
    Get paid and have a room and fed, too!

  2. I know! I do need to get into that, it’s pretty amazing

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