The Diary of Bridgette M., Part 5

by Trey Nosrac

Series introduction is here.

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

Part 4 is here


It was stormy and cold today, so we did things in the barn. I asked some questions, and Ronnie, my mentor/coworker/minder, explained stuff that I was wondering about, like what the horses did while I cleaned their stall. She told me that young horses would jog at least two miles daily and go at least a mile when they go the right way.

I was confused about the right way. She said the horses go slow and warm up clockwise and then race counterclockwise. I also learned they have different carts for jogging and racing and that the people at the training center will not drive them in actual races.

Instead of telling me the answers, Ronnie sat beside me on a bale of straw and used her iPad to show me everything she explained. She showed me several things about the animals and people in the sport. Ronnie was a great teacher, and for once in my life, I was a decent student. She said an hour was plenty for one sitting, but I should write down any questions for the next time we have some free time.

Then I began complaining about how it was wrong that the rehab took away our phones and devices. I got a tad snotty about what a raw deal I was getting, how if I had a phone, I would look up horse racing links.

Ronnie wasn’t buying what I was selling. She said, slow and quiet. They know what they are doing, and one of them is keeping you from doing stupid things and seeing triggers that send you into one of your pity party funks.


Ronnie picked up where we left off yesterday. She didn’t yell or scream but stepped into the stall where I was raking, looked me right in the eyes, talked slowly, and said, “Don’t talk down about yourself or anyone. Bitching is annoying and is terrible for business. I think that bad vibes rub off on the horses and other people. Try to give off good vibes. They don’t cost a dime. Now, I know your attitude is part of your issues, and an instant attitude makeover is a big ask, but try. If you can’t be Miss Sunshine, be neutral or mute. Bite your tongue before talking down about yourself or anyone else. I would appreciate it, the staff would appreciate it, and these horses will enjoy it.”

Instead of a pity party rant about how she did not know shit and she did not know me and then throwing the rake at her, it dawned on me that this would only prove her point. I did not say a word. I have heard this lecture at least a hundred times, but her words stuck for some reason, maybe because of the horse part. The rest of the day, as I shoveled, I thought.


This afternoon, an owner showed up at the barn. I knew he was coming because Ronnie gave me a heads-up. I imagined an owner would be wearing a suit and be all uppity, the kind of person who irritates me, or a self-important person who pretends to be regular folks, which annoys me even more. Almost everyone irritates me.

As usual, I was wrong.

The owner, I forget his name, something like Roy or Ray, was a shy guy in baggy shorts and a saggy white t-shirt, maybe in his 40s. He strolled over to the stall door where I was shoveling, stuck his head in, and gently said, “Hi, I pay the freight on this filly.”

He gave off a good vibe and was good-looking in a rumpled Jeff Bridges way, so my antenna started scanning, but of course, he wore a wedding ring. The good ones always do.

Ray or Roy was super easy to talk to, almost shy. We did some jokey small talk while I leaned on my shovel. Ray or Roy was like the second person in 20 years that I liked right away; maybe it was because we were in the barn, which was very strange. After a while, I asked him if being an owner was fun.

He said it was. Despite the ups and downs, he enjoyed owning a few racehorses and learning about the horse racing business. He said he got started as a release from the pressures at his job in a big company that I had vaguely heard the name of but can’t remember. He laughed and said his release turned into an addiction to the sport.

The word addiction sent off alarm bells in my head. I wondered if he knew about my situation, which is always on our minds. We always feel like everybody knows and everybody is judging us. But he asked me earlier if I had come from another horse farm, so I figured he didn’t know my history.

I told him I was a complete newbie and had yet to master the shovel and wheelbarrow.

He smiled and said that five years ago, he didn’t know a trotter from a pacer.

I said all I know is if the horse has junk, he’s a boy.

We went on for a few minutes, bragging about who knew less.

I was beginning to hope his marriage was on the rocks when his wife showed up and ruined my buzz. She was slim and attractive and calm and friendly, exactly my opposite. I hated her immediately.


Ted, the head trainer at the horse place, sat beside me on a bench in front of the barn. He asked me how I was doing.

I told him it was a day-to-day struggle, but I was hanging in there. I mentioned how much I appreciated him letting us work at the farm and that being outdoors was outstanding, even on the cold mornings.

He asked how long my stay at the facility was and my next step.

I told him a few more weeks and then probation.

Do you go to a halfway house?

I told him that’s up to the judge and the courts, but there are a lot more addicts than there are places to warehouse and monitor us.

Then we turned to the horses, and I asked him for the short version of how these horses got here.

He said the horses I work with were born and raised on breeding farms. All of them were born between January and June of 2022, and for the first part of their lives, they are called weanlings. He smiled and said, now it gets a little complicated. On Jan. 1, 2023, they all share the same birthday, and we call them yearlings because they are 1 year old. At the end of their yearling year, they get sold at big auctions, yearling sales. Between January and June this year, they try to go faster as they grow. Then, this summer, all the 2-year-old horses compete against each other and race for money.

Then he said, we, people who have been racing horses all our lives, don’t realize how complicated we seem to new visitors.

Then I asked, trotter or pacer, how can I tell?

He smiled and said not to feel bad. It’s not easy, especially at first. He said to try this, “When they are on the track, if the horse you are watching has a strap, a hopple, or a plastic band around its back legs, it is a pacer. If there are no belts around its back legs, the horse is a trotter, no back strap means trotter.” His phone buzzed, and he walked away to talk. When he finished his call, he returned to the bench, shook my hand, and said, “I hope you make it.”

So do I, but I’m getting jittery about a few things. I am wrestling with some demons.