Claiborne Chronicles: Lucky and Grateful

The Life

A Giant's Causeway mare with her War Front colt. (All photos by Alexa Ravit)

All good things must come to an end. It is cliché, but it is true when it comes to describing my breeding-season internship at Claiborne Farm. My last day is Sunday, May 17, and as that dreaded mark approaches, it has provided a chance to gain some perspective on the past 3 1/2 months and to appreciate some of the most memorable moments and learning experiences:

*Foal my first mare: I was lucky enough to be given the chance to help pull a foal out of a mare during a daytime foaling. Apparently, when you help deliver a foal for the first time, you get christened with the mare’s colostrum. Video does exist of this momentous occasion, but it will not be shared here!


*Participate in tours: With Keeneland’s recent spring meet followed by Kentucky Derby week, the other interns and I have taught dozens of visitors a week about the farm and our stallions! Some of my favorite moments during the internship have been seeing the smiles on people’s faces when they get to feed War Front a peppermint or pet Orb on the shoulder.


*Survive blizzards, arctic temperatures and floods: The 2015 breeding season has been a season of wild weather. The resolve of horses and employees alike was tested as we trudged through more than a foot of snow (several times!), attempted to stay warm as everything around us was frozen, waded through flooded fields and chased after mares during thunderstorms. I have never met a more dedicated group of people.

*See the “kids” grow up: While at Claiborne, I have spent the most amount of time with the newborn foals. Once they move on to nursery barns, I do not see them very much. Thus, it has been exciting to visit the oldest babies on my lunch breaks. I recently said hello to the Data Link filly whose birth I observed on Feb. 10. These kids grow A LOT in three months!



On a recent lunch break, I visited a special farm resident for the first time. He has not been on a racetrack in more than 20 years, he no longer breeds and he does not get fawned over by tourists, but he is special. He is the great Lure, two-time Breeders’ Cup Mile winner and Racing Hall of Famer. His 26 years are understandably starting to show on him, but he seemed to enjoy my company and the peppermints I provided … though probably just the peppermints.


Spending time with Lure is just one example of the innumerable moments to remember from my three plus months at Claiborne Farm. Years from now, I will recall all of the great mares — way too many to list — with whom I was fortunate enough to cross paths. I will remember the first time I bathed Blame and War Front by myself and the day I had to jog to keep up with the great Seeking the Gold as I brought him in from his paddock. And, of course, I will smile when I think of all of the precious foals who passed through Claiborne’s legendary foaling barn and the potential they possess.



Ultimately, when looking back on all of these moments, I cannot help but feel so lucky and grateful. Claiborne Farm has been home to many amazing horses, but that is undoubtedly due in large part to fantastic managers and staff as well as the Hancock family. I have learned invaluable skills from incredibly knowledgeable, patient, and hilarious people, whom I will miss just as much as the horses.

In my first blog, I stated that 22 Thoroughbreds in Racing’s Hall of Fame were born and raised on Claiborne Farm. Twenty-two Kentucky Derby winners, 19 Preakness Stakes winners, 22 Belmont Stakes winners, and six Triple Crown winners were conceived here. I hope that in a few years, I will be able to say that I helped add to those tallies.



newsletter sign-up

Stay up-to-date with the best from America's Best Racing!