I have known her since she was 13 years old. All she wanted to do was talk about horse racing. We met at Emerald Downs, where I was having lunch with her aunt. Taylor Houser was also a walking encyclopedia about horses and horse racing. She was very clear about her future.
“I am going to grow up to be a trainer,” she said. I got chills when I heard this young girl make this statement because I could easily see it happen.
TAYLOR HOUSER AT 13
Brenda Houser, Taylor’s mom, said: “Taylor started riding at 18 months old when her grandmother bought her a pony. The rest is history. It’s all horses, horses, horses. That is all she wants to do.”
We kept in touch and I would visit her at Emerald Downs, where she would guide my dad and me with her winning picks for the day. It didn’t surprise me when she sent me a note in 2012 that she was leaving high school and moving to California. She wasn’t running away. It was more like she was running to her future. I smiled when I saw that she was moving on the Fourth of July. In California, she was based at Hollywood Park, Santa Anita and Del Mar. She worked with some wonderful people who were more than willing to mentor her.
I flew down to Del Mar to surprise her at her first race as a groom, where she walked “her” horse to the paddock. With the numbered vest reaching below her knees, she proudly entered the paddock with her horse. Despite being excited and nervous, she told me that she was going to remain extremely calm for her horse’s sake. Once they were in the saddling area, her mentors showed her what to do and how to handle the horse. I was so proud to see my friend in the paddock for the first time.
TAYLOR WITH KISS MY SWISS AT DEL MAR
She was a ray of sunshine at Santa Anita. It was always fun to stand next to her when she had a horse racing because of her enthusiasm. But you don’t want to stand too close because she can urge “her” horse to win through lung power alone. That girl can scream! It’s so much fun!
In January of this year, Taylor moved to New York and the California girl got a taste of a harsh New York winter. With typical enthusiasm, she said she didn’t mind it at all. She posted photographs of the snow on her Facebook page and proclaimed how beautiful the track and barns were in the snow. New York has offered her many new opportunities and she has already been to Parx, Aqueduct, and Laurel Park from her home base at Belmont. She is really looking forward to Saratoga!
Today at the Belmont Stakes, Taylor is thrilled to be ponying. The “ponies” are full grown horses who accompany the high-strung Thoroughbreds from the paddock to the gate. Ponies are usually very calm and experienced. Actually, they have strong personalities and won’t tolerate any misbehavior from their Thoroughbred buddies. They provide safety for both the racehorse and jockey en route to the gate.
TAYLOR AT WORK ON BELMONT DAY
Taylor is ponying for Miguel Gutierrez who is a familiar figure at Belmont. He has been an outrider for 25 years. He has a string of seven ponies and they are all experienced dealing with Thoroughbreds. Gutierrez said that he hired Houser because, “she knows how to ride and she is capable. This is a very special day for us and we are all very happy to be here.” He smiled and spurred his pony named Yes Yes Yes toward the paddock.
GUTIERREZ ABOARD YES YES YES
Taylor is on Gutierrez’s pony Pokey today. She is thrilled to be ponying for nine different races on such a historic race card. Pokey is a large Quarter Horse with a lovely, wide white blaze. Her hair is in pig tails underneath her black riding helmet. She is wearing the standard Belmont pony uniform, which is khaki pants and a green Belmont polo shirt. She also wears spurs on her boots. Pokey is wearing front wraps and the green Belmont saddlecloth with the Japanese white pine tree logo.
TAYLOR PONYING AT BELMONT ABOARD POKEY
One person who noticed Taylor at Santa Anita is Chris Aplin. Chris said that she was the same girl at age 25. “I can understand her passion and her love of learning all about the people, the horses and their stories. There is pride in feeling that you are part of a team, especially when your horse wins a race,” Aplin said. “Taylor is eager to learn by doing.”
Today is a historical day at the 147th running of the Belmont Stakes. It makes my heart swell with pride to step outside into the tunnel and see young Taylor Houser expertly taking a Thoroughbred in hand on its way to the gate. In the world of horse racing, we are a large family. Taylor has a long road ahead of her as she finds her way in the world of horse racing. But what is evident is that she is always at home when she is riding a horse.
HALL OF FAME JOCKEY KENT DESORMEAUX KNOWS THE VALUE OF OUTRIDERS