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The Notebook March 21, 2013

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Two-Minute Lick - Natalie Keller Reinert

After more than twenty years in the horse business, riding everything from ponies to eventers to racehorses, Natalie Keller Reinert now spends most of her time writing about horses. Other People’s Horses is the follow-up to her best-selling debut novel, The Head and Not the Heat, and delves even deeper into the world of horse racing, this time from Saratoga. Visit her website at www.nataliekreinert.com for more information.

Name: Natalie Keller Reinert

What I do for a living: I’m a writer, specializing in equestrian topics. I also work as a Disney trip planner (I used to work at Disney and got addicted) and as a groom and patrol rider with the New York City Parks Department’s Mounted Unit. 

How and when I was introduced to Thoroughbred racing: I read The Black Stallion when I was in third grade. That was it. I was smitten. Does it matter that The Black Stallion wasn’t even a Thoroughbred? Not one bit. 

My favorite racetrack: While I adore Saratoga as the perfect ideal of a racetrack and a racing town, and I set Other People’s Horses there because I adore it, in reality, Tampa Bay Downs is the perfect fan’s racetrack. It is small, with a comfortable little grandstand, picnic tables right out on the homestretch, and a great view of the paddock and walking ring. It’s even in a nice part of town. I just love it.

My favorite Thoroughbred racing event: I love the hype and excitement of the Breeders’ Cup, I love sneaking up to Saratoga for any of their great stakes races, I love going to the Belmont Stakes to say “I was there,” but I do try to get to the Tampa Bay Derby every year, just because I love that little track.

Other sports/teams I follow: If there’s not a horse in it, I really don’t care. I love eventing, and I wish I had more time to follow it. 

What I would like to see more of in Thoroughbred racing: Transparency. I would like to see more people open and honest about the way they operate, and in turn, do better by their horses and the people who work for them.

What I would like to see less of in Thoroughbred racing: Disappearing horses. I’m looking for a filly named Upper West Side right now. She’s disappeared off the face of the earth. That is so frustrating and devastating.

Three words that define what Thoroughbred racing means to me: Heart, Courage, Pride. I see those words and I see a racehorse.

First Thoroughbred track I ever attended: Tampa Bay Downs. I am pretty sure we took Publix fried chicken and had a family picnic right there on the apron. 

Favorite all-time Thoroughbred: Amarillo Elbert. Amarillo was named for a cowboy, managed only to break his maiden at Tampa Bay Downs, was abandoned by the people who claimed him, learned to move cattle and jump logs while he was being rehabbed, and then taught me how to really, truly ride. We did everything together. He’s a perfect example of the intelligence, athleticism, and versatility of a Thoroughbred.

My personal best moment in the sport of Thoroughbred racing: My first time breezing a Thoroughbred at Aqueduct. I’ve never, ever felt anything like that before. It was amazing. 

Best racetrack food can be found at: Saratoga, easy. They have Shake Shack! No contest.

My favorite jockey: Gary Stevens, because look at you, Gary Stevens! What a comeback! I’m so impressed.

My favorite trainer: Michael Matz. I’m a show-jumping fangirl from WAY back. 

My heroes: Anyone who puts retirement and welfare at the top of their priority list is a hero to me. I’m especially impressed with organizations like Adena Springs and West Point Thoroughbreds that have integrated retirement into their business models. 

Person in Thoroughbred racing I’d like to have dinner with: Sid Fernando. Oh wait, I already have! It’s nice to have neighbors in the Thoroughbred business, even when you live somewhere like Brooklyn.

My philosophy on life: You never, ever know what’s going to happen next. It’s ridiculous and exciting.

Favorite quote or motto: I just read this on a blog today and it really resonated with me: “Anything is possible if you work hard and have an almost comical amount of passion to go along with it.” I think I’m going to put that on the wall above my desk.

Favorite animal other than a horse: Hound dogs. I’m a beagle fanatic. Also, we have wild parrots here in Brooklyn and I find them enchanting. Parrots in New York City! Why not?

Favorite non-Thoroughbred racing sports event I have attended: Red Hills Horse Trials in Tallahassee, Florida. I was actually a working student for a competitor when I attended, and walked the course with top rider Ralph Hill. I later went on to groom for Ralph Hill. I grew up eventing and it remains, to me, the ultimate equestrian sport. And of course, there’s no event horse like a retired racehorse.

Favorite food:  I think everything I eat should be exciting and amazing. But you know what? The perfect, most wonderful thing in the world, when all is done correctly, is an everything bagel with butter, and a black coffee. 

Favorite vacation spot: I’m thoroughly obsessed with Disney, so Walt Disney World tends to get top billing … but I would love to go back to the British Virgin Islands, and and I would really love to go to Barbados and see the Gold Cup. I love the Caribbean. 

Favorite city: Brooklyn! I love my town. It’s like living in Sesame Street, but with a very interesting soundtrack.

Favorite musician/band: The National. They’re also from Brooklyn. You’re going to hear a lot about them this year, I think, as they’ve recorded songs for Game of Thrones.

Favorite all-time movie(s): Moulin Rouge! No, there aren’t any horses in it. But it’s big and bright and beautiful and full of music.

Favorite TV show: "Cougar Town". Yes, really. It’s hysterical. Don’t be such a snob.

Favorite hotel: Disney’s Polynesian Resort. I used to work there. It really takes you away from the real world, and across the lagoon there is a sparkly castle and nightly fireworks, and I’m for both of those things.

Websites I visit daily: I use Twitter more than anything, so if a link from Twitter is interesting, I’ll click it, but I don’t have any must-sees outside of my Facebook. I use YouTube to listen to music while I’m working. 

What I drive: I don’t. I walk and use the subway. I’d like to bike more.

Pet peeve: Uninformed “experts.” In horse racing and elsewhere.

Favorite movie about horse racing: Seabiscuit. Nothing else comes close for me. 

Alma Mater: Valencia College in Orlando. It’s right next to Universal Studios, because life in Orlando is strange and unreal, and it’s a great school. I studied Journalism there, and now my Journalism professor sends me frequent, tempting messages to come down and train claimers for him at Tampa. 

Favorite radio shows/channels: I listen to NPR, and, thanks to Internet streaming, Portland’s 94.7 for rock, and the Philips Phile on Orlando’s Real Radio 104.1. Consequently I know more about Orlando politics and doings than I do about New York’s, but that radio show got me through a lot of quiet afternoons mucking stalls and feeding horses when I was living in Florida, and I feel like I know everyone on it! 

Best book I recently read: That honor has to go to Telegraph Avenue, by Michael Chabon. The characters, storyline and writing style are all just the sort of thing to make a writer close up her laptop and vow never to write again… it’s that good. 

Favorite memento: I have a halter of a Thoroughbred mare named Bounce It. She was a real war-horse with dozens of races listed on her papers. At 19 years old, she was still in such a hurry for her dinner that it would have been dangerous to get in her way once you shook that feed bucket. She had so much spirit. She was just the embodiment of a Thoroughbred to me. Our vet took her as a trail horse but we hung on to her halter and it’s hanging off a bookcase.

Favorite dessert: Key Lime Pie … dipped in chocolate! Yes, this is a thing and you should eat it. If you come to Brooklyn, which you should do, you can get it from Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies in Red Hook.

Favorite drink: I think Prohibition-era, nostalgic, over-the-top mixology experiments are the most fun, but vodka and soda with a twist is my stand-by.

Favorite scent: A tack room full of clean leather. Mmmm.

What I like about my job: All of my horses are imaginary, and I don’t have to get up at 4:30 on a cold rainy morning and feed them. And they never colic. And I can take vacations and not worry about them. Imaginary horses are definitely my favorite kind of horses.

Favorite tech gadget: I love my iPhone. I’m not sure that’s a gadget, but it’s definitely a can’t-live-without item.

Twitter Handle: @nataliegallops

People I follow on Twitter: Funny, articulate people who might or might not love horses.

No. 1 bucket list item: Gallop a steeplechase course. It doesn’t have to be in a race. I just really want to get out there and gallop the course on a bold horse.

 


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Congratulations to Mary Meek, winner of this week's Fan Photo Contest!

From Mary: "Medaglia d'Oro struts his stuff at the Darley Open House on January 8, 2013." Want in? E-mail a .jpg with a brief caption to photos@ntra.com.

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