Know Which One You Are

“It’s a business of sadists and masochists and you know which one you are.” -Ida Blankenship to Peggy Olson, Mad Men

I loved that quote the minute I heard it this season. It’s so on-the-nose; and Ms. Blankenship could have just as easily said it to me.  I’m a bit of a masochist, you see. Not in a creepy way, but more in a “willing to put up with a lot” kind of way.

It’s 8:05 p.m. on a Saturday night, and I am comfortably ensconced in the Suffolk Downs press box watching racing from Hollywood Park, waiting for programs to print. I would, perhaps, rather be at home sitting on my couch since I have been up since 6:00 a.m. and have had a rather long day. Or at a Halloween party I was invited to. But here I am. For I am a volunteer for the non-profit TB retirement organization CANTER.

We are now 13 hours away from the 5th Annual CANTER New England Suffolk Showcase. During the Showcase the volunteers help to present all the horses for sale by their trainers to a large group of buyers all at one time.  Sort of like an auction, but there is no bidding.  Held each year towards the end of the racing season, it’s a chance for the many horses at Suffolk Downs who are at the end of their careers for whatever reason—injury, non-competitiveness, age—to find new homes and new jobs.

I like what CANTER stands for.  It’s a win-win situation.  It takes no money to run the trainer direct listing program, and it really helps people and horses. Trainers have a great outlet to show their horses to people they don’t normally come in contact with that is safe and responsible.  Buyers are able to see a wide range of horses for every discipline and level. As a volunteer I get to visit the track and be around horses and I’ve made lots of new friends in the process. It’s pretty great.

Most of all though, it really is an effective way of helping Thoroughbreds move on to the next phase of their already productive lives. There are hundreds, every year from this track alone, that go on to be broodmares and studs, eventers and hunters, pleasure horses and pasture pets. And that’s why I put in the long hours. That’s why I pound the pavement on the backstretch taking listings and taking buyers around, and making calls to trainers all week and putting in the extra time and the effort. I get to, in some small way, help out an animal who has given me so much throughout my lifetime, literally shaping me into the person I am.

So, yes; dear, departed Ms. Blankenship. It is a job for sadists and masochists.  And I am acutely aware that I fall into the later. But it’s likely that as long as there are horses running at Suffolk Downs I’ll always happily be here, sitting at an eerily empty racetrack some Saturday night in October, waiting for programs to print.

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