Outside the Box: It’s About TimeJanuary 18, 2008,
by Bob Carson
Editor’s Note: The USTA Web site is pleased to welcome freelance writer Bob Carson and his popular “Outside the Box” features. This bi-monthly series is a menu of outlandish proposals presented with a wink — but the purpose behind them is serious.
It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change.” — Charles Darwin.
“Time Flies. It’s up to you to be the navigator.” — Robert Orben
“Time will explain it all. He is a talker, and needs no questioning before he speaks.” — Euripides
About a dozen years ago, six people new to the horse ownership game formed a syndicate and purchased a yearling. We named the yearling Broadway Beau.
We were excited about joining the ranks of horsemen. We each coughed up about three grand. I use the word ‘about’ because it was over a decade ago and eight horses ago — but I remember clearly that we all said we did not care about losing money; we just wanted to have fun.
This did not prove to be true. At the end of Broadway Beau’s pedestrian run there was a split decision. Despite the fact that Broadway Beau took the race out of the term racehorse and swallowed up all of our money, I was excited and felt that the whole adventure was a smashing success. I was chomping at the bit, ready for another yearling adventure. My fellow syndicate members held an opposing view. Apparently, they were just kidding when they said they did not care about losing money — and they did not have as much fun as they hoped.
The question is — why mixed reviews from the partners involved in the Broadway Beau saga?
The answer, I believe, was time.
You see, my unusual occupation, or as some have suggested, non-occupation, frees my schedule. This allowed me to visit the stables as much as I wanted. And I wanted to visit often. I probably visited Broadway Beau a hundred times in the first year. I watched him every step of the way; as he walked nervously off the trailer, when he was harnessed for the first time and as he was line driven. I mucked his stall, took him to the blacksmith, listened to the endless backstretch talk, learned about training harness horses and soon found myself jogging Broadway Beau in lazy circles around the racetrack. It was a blast.
Meanwhile, my syndicate friends were tethered to regular employment, family obligations and, well, normal life. They only drove out to the stables a couple of times on weekends and attended a qualifier or two. It is easy to see where these folks did not feel they received a good run for their money and decided to pass on the next opportunity for horse ownership.
The thesis is simple. Spending quality time with your horse, whether champion or pedestrian, enriches the experience. Spending daily time with your horse makes you appreciate the effort, difficulty and intrigue the sport offers. People need time to appreciate the value of harness racehorse ownership. Obviously, the best formula for new horse owners is to set aside employment, family and social obligations and spend massive amounts of time on the backstretch. This may be a stretch for normal citizens.
In modern America, time is a precious commodity. Instant coffee takes too long. Dialing a telephone is passé. College students consider E-mail prehistoric. A slice of time that most people cannot easily spare is finding an hour to drive to a training center, meeting with a trainer, waiting for your horse to be dressed, jogged, undressed, walked and then driving back home.
So let’s compress time. Save time. Expand time.
Let’s allow new syndicate owners to be in the barn every single day, watch their horse every step of the way, hear every word of discussion and be intimately involved in their investment. We will do it with cameras and computers. The technology is simple, the investment is minimal, and the upside is great. Almost every new computer comes with a built-in camera. Typing this right now, I can have a friend in Nova Scotia turn on his computer and we can watch each other or watch each other’s office all day long. It costs nothing.
Potential syndicate entrepreneurs — imagine this scenario and feel free to implement it.
Take horse ownership into cyberspace and install cameras and microphones at the barn of your trainer and at the racetrack for your owners. Just find a verbal and charismatic trainer willing to participate in the concept and work hard on the technical logistics, and then strike out in quest of new yearling syndicate participants or owners.
These new owners must be computer literate and have a high-speed server. Lean on the angle that this is a new, cutting-edge concept — interactive horse ownership. Stress that you, as administrator, will give daily briefings via e-mail of scheduled events such as shoeing, harnessing, training schedules, etc. to your new owners. You will use the computer to slowly explain the reasons for the various steps and allow them to interactively ask questions of you and the trainer. Make it easy for your new owners to spend time, as much time as possible, with their horse.
The computer-savvy new horse owner has several additional advantages besides saving time. Ownership is not limited geographically. Watching on your computer allows recording and playback possibilities at your fingertips; a stopwatch, a calculator, access to research, and instant communication with other owners and the trainer — all of this from your warm chair.
Imagine if my friends from the long ago Broadway Beau syndicate had the opportunity to push a button on their computers and watch the adventures of Broadway Beau anytime they wanted. While not as good as being in the barn, it is a big improvement on being out of the loop. Owners could see their horse, hear the conversations, and even record events — everything except smell the manure.
Cameras in the barn and focused on the track with non-stop live feeds of the backstretch would give new owners a window to the real world of horse racing and horse training. Let’s get wired up in the barn. Let’s take the horse into the owner’s living room.
It’s about time.