St. Petersburg Times
Online: Tech Times
 tampabay.com
Print storySubscribe to the Times

Horses

Exercise rider gets into a horse's head

By BRANT JAMES
Published May 2, 2003

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Trainer Carl Nafzger needed to know every minute point about My Boston Gal's workout on Thursday morning. The filly was slated to start today in the Grade I Kentucky Oaks, if she was sound and working well.

Tracey Wilkes, a 37-year-old exercise rider, pulled off her flak jacket and answered each question with equal detail. As the only person with daily on-track interaction with the horse, the exercise rider provides the crucial communication link between trainer and animal.

"Your exercise rider is critical," Nafzger said. "If your communication isn't good, you're not going to see what you want to see. And if the horse ain't happy, you're not getting 110 percent out of them."

Wilkes understands her responsibilities are more than breezing and galloping.

"We're the eyes and the ears for the trainer," Wilkes said. "The trainer can look and see, but we have to come back and tell them the horse has something bothering him. You also have to take into account (horses) are like you or I - some of them don't walk 100 percent or jog 100 percent and we have to know whether that's a training thing or just the way they go."

Most exercise riders are independent contractors, earning $15 per workout. Zipping between barns on bicycles, they ride as many horses as they can before the workout session ends at 9:15 a.m. Wilkes works full time for Nafzger, doing billing and payroll to supplement her income. Her husband, Ian, was the exercise rider for Unbridled during his wins in the 1990 Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup Classic, and is one of Nafzger's assistants.

Tracey Wilkes has been an exercise rider since she was 17 and has no aspirations to train, like many of her counterparts.

"I like to ride the horses," she said. "To train the horses you have to see them all. I prefer to be on them rather than be on the ground and watch them go round."

[Last modified May 2, 2003, 02:31:39]


Baseball

  • NL: Rookie keeps Brewers grounded
  • AL: Gem keeps Mussina perfect
  • Union okays Series edge to All-Star victor
  • Runs up thanks to Yanks, Coors

  • College football
  • New 'Bama coach in jam over night out
  • McPherson attorney raps prosecutors, police, FSU

  • Colleges
  • USF toughens criminal offense code

  • Golf
  • Nicklaus beats his boys and concludes: 'That's ridiculous'

  • Horses
  • Success without the fame
  • Exercise rider gets into a horse's head
  • Homeister joins elite company

  • In brief
  • 7 months later, he sails in a winner

  • Motorsports
  • Water on track but Waltrip on BGN pole

  • NBA
  • Magic adding finishing touches against Pistons
  • Nets, Celtics will meet insecond round

  • NFL
  • League joins support for regulating supplements

  • NHL
  • Cechmanek guides Flyers

  • Outdoors
  • Angling for attention
  • Outside
  • May forecast
  • Daily fishing report

  • Preps
  • Gators avenge losses
  • Momentum carries Packers
  • Revenge sweet for Citrus
  • Saddlebrook duo wins overall title
  • Wharton meets potential
  • Wildcats have happy ending
  • Bulls' errors serve Sharks
  • Confidence leads Gutierrez to title
  • Devils' Wali powers into final
  • King pulls off another surprise
  • Roberts brothers pace Wildcats
  • Wildcats claw way into state

  • Sports on the air
  • NBC trying to hook fans with series of free fights

  • Sports on the web
  • Sites take fans inside Derby

  • Rays
  • Defensive lapses no laughing matter
  • Easley carrying on after Motor City run
  • Up next: Detroit Tigers

  • Bucs
  • Phillips has to grow up fast

  • Lightning
  • Pressure's on!
  • Invincible to invisible in just 1 series
  • Tonight: Lightning at Devils
  • Top players stumble
  •  


    Back to Top

    © 2006 • All Rights Reserved • Tampa Bay Times
    490 First Avenue South • St. Petersburg, FL 33701 • 727-893-8111