by Sheila Williams
Public Relations People Wanted
Requirements; must have racing, owning, breeding experience
Must not toot your own horn or promote your business
Must allow horses to be the spokesperson
Racing people know that the Barbaro’s and the Eight Belles tragedies can happen whether they are in their pasture or on national television in one of America’s greatest races.
I remember giving a tour to a group of college-level art students at Canterbury Park when a filly snapped her ankle just before the wire. The students were drawing her in pencil in her stall just that morning as a field exercise so at race time they were all rooting for her to win. I had more of an emotional attachment to that filly than they. But I came back to the track the next day, and the day after. I don’t know if any of those students did. There is no way to spin a positive story out of an event like that. So you face it—squarely.
We public relations people at racetracks do not have the resources that groups like PETA have. With boat loads of money and lobbying power, they could actually be a front for the Taliban for all I know. I am certain, however, that animal welfare is not their real agenda.
Case in point. My husband still breeds and shows German shepherd dogs. We used to attend a large winter show at the Minneapolis Convention Center. Happily, this kennel club holds this show at Canterbury Park in the fall now.
A few years ago, the PETA people came and released the crates of some toy size dogs to “set them free” onto Hennepin Avenue. We have German shepherd dogs. They didn’t open our crates.
Last winter in Palm Beach, PETA bought a show catalog—which holds all the exhibitors names competing at the dog show. That way they could harass the exhibitors at home and call the City of Palm Beach complaining about dogs in the city and where they lived.
As I told my fellow employees when I retired from Canterbury; we all have to be the public relations person at the track. Unhappily, Pat Reusse from the Star Tribune found Justin Evans. I didn’t see one opinion piece appear in the paper commenting on Reusse’s column.
Patrick was begging for rebuttal with that piece. That is not the public relations person’s job. It belongs to the real horseman, who doesn’t like to talk so he shies from the press. It belongs to the farrier who makes his living keeping hooves strong. It belongs to the owner of that graded stakes Quarter Horse, and the farm owner who buys a lot of hay and oats in Minnesota. If these people can’t write well, give it to me for an edit. I will help you.
We have to talk, write and video the horses that we love and save. Certainly, Timeless Prince, Canterbury Horse of the Year and now veteran Saint Paul police horse got more ink and video than Barbaro did. But we can’t just nag Jeff Maday and Randy Sampson to do the work. It has to come from the people whose lives and hearts are invested in these animals. And this holds double for the fans.
Before working for Canterbury I wrote troves of stories about racing and racing people.
I wrote about horses who survived amputation surgery, including a stallion who serviced mares after surgery.
My friend Holly sent me a little video of Molly the pony. Abandoned by her owners after Hurricane Katrina hit, Molly not only survived, but is a test case for future Barbaros, and a therapy horse for children who have lost limbs or are facing cancer.
We all know animals like Molly. I know many of you reading this have a Molly in your life. Get that Molly story out. Give the Molly story to Jeff in the press box at Canterbury.
Working yourself into lather because a columnist chooses to write about one of the “usual suspects” in racing is not enough. Become the public relations person for Canterbury and Minnesota racing.