Saratoga ~ New York

Saratoga marks the end of our year trip since we abandoned the dogma of “American dream” and started our endless journey. This is the place it all began – Saratoga. Since we have been back in America for the summer the one question everyone asked was “how was it?”. My answer, “Did you see my blog?”. The answer to this question has been “no”. Now I find myself trying to explain the entire trip’s highlights in enough time without losing their interest. It has been since then that I decided to make my “blog” more of a personal journal for myself.    

Stables
Stables

At first I was writing the blog in hopes of it being “discovered”  virally. I thought I had a chance since we were taking a trip of a lifetime that most people never get. Once I realized how much time and dedication it takes to write for the masses, I changed my strategy and wrote with more of my family in mind. Now I find out that none of my close friends and only a few family members actually read the blog. That leaves only me as the captive audience.  This alleviates all pressures of writing something I think someone else might like to read or see. Another weight off my head and another step in the letting go process. It may sound small but small pressures can build up into a large stress ball.  

Saratoga is a special place to me because we have been coming here for over 16 years. I have come to really love the sport of horse-racing. I’m a huge animal lover and lean more towards the Humane Society rather than Peta. From what I can see, the horses are treated really well and I enjoy seeing them being respected and cared for. Sometimes PETA stands outside of the racetrack picketing. Seeing PETA at the track makes me wonder. Do they know things that would change my mind about patronizing the track.

Horse being groomed
Horse being groomed

For some reason I can’t watch dog races or harness races without feeling horrible for the animals.  Over the years, I have spent a lot of time at the track visiting the horse stables and feeding the guide horses peppermints any chance I can. Once I found out they liked peppermints (and were allowed to have them), I always had peppermints on me.  

Cheesing for peppermints
Cheesing for peppermints

Saratoga is the place where I have officially become the crazy squirrel lady. Our rental house has a huge backyard with a big tree that is home to a HUGE squirrel nest. Every morning and early evening a squirrel came to the sliding door, climbed up the screen door and peered inside the house. Immediately I was fascinated and started hand feeding her. She was my pet for the month.    

squirrel-saratoga
coming back down from looking in up high

But word got out and I ended up feeding about 7 squirrels (that I could identify individually) daily. Most of them would come to the door by the end of the trip. I set out a plate of nuts and a bowl of fresh water which also double acted as a bird bath. My own little animal sanctuary. I spent a lot of time back there. Aside from feeding wild squirrels I found serenity in mowing the lawn twice a week and light gardening. I never knew I had it in me but I found it very therapeutic.   

My lady friend hanging out with me on the porch
My lady friend hanging out with me on the porch

Back to the horses . . . betting on them is always a losing ticket for me. I have tried many different strategy, some showed promise at times but always in the end they were nil. My boyfriend and his friends study the races by something known as handicapping. Handicapping is big business in the races. Studying the history of the horses, the trainer’s history and even going as far back as who the horse’s parents were. I have gone to seminars held by professional handicappers and have yet to see one worth their salt except for one guy – Paul Matties.  I have seen Paul and his family for the past 18 years at the track. We all sit in the same area kind of like an unspoken bond. Last year in Las Vegas Paul won $1,000,000.00 in a horse racing handicap tournament, making him the King of Saratoga. 

Paul - King of Saratoga
Paul – King of Saratoga

Now he sits behind red ropes and is well-respected by trainers, jockeys and degenerates alike. Sometimes you couldn’t even physically see him because he was surrounded by people saying hello throughout the day – everyday. Respect.  

Paul surrounded by people
Paul surrounded by people

My strategy is to get up and go physically look at the horses before the race. I look out for their overall mood at the moment and the muscles in their hind legs and behind. The bigger the muscle the more powerful the horse right? WRONG! Sometimes I pick out the best name in the race or a jockey I really like — still nothing. It’s just like Las Vegas odds. It’s never in my favor.

Irad Ortiz riding the 10 horse.
Irad Ortiz riding the 10 horse.

Horse trainers are like celebrities during racing season. My favorite trainer is Gary Contessa. His passion and love for horses is what put him at the top of the list. Each year he holds a weekly seminar open to the public to educate people on race horses. He explains in full detail their personalities, medical care, exercise routines and answers questions from the crowd.  One week he took everyone on a tour of the original race track in Saratoga and told stories of his mentor Frank Martin. It’s nice to get educated on the horses instead of betting on them all of the time.  I know horse-racing is a business but these are living beings that have feelings and personalities. Unfortunately, it’s a profitable business and that attracts people who don’t love the animal itself per say, but the profits.

Gary Contessa speaking to fans
Gary Contessa speaking to fans

This year Gary Contessa is training a baby thoroughbred named Artic Stormcat. He is the first white thoroughbred horse in New York in 38 years. Artic Stormcat is only 2 yrs old and both parents are black. His first race ever will be sometime this year.  Everyone comes by the stable to see him because white race horses are very rare.

Artic Stormcat
Artic Stormcat

Riding bikes throughout the town is a daily activity. There are so many trails and a spacious green park known as the Spa. Saratoga during the summer is a great town for outdoor activities. Being outdoors in Saratoga was something I looked forward to everyday. Working out, riding bikes, going to the track and Starbucks was a daily routine there.

Selfies
Selfies

This year I was much more relaxed because I was more mentally and physically ready to travel for another year. Last year I grew more anxious and fearful as racing season came to an end. This year I decided to travel very lightly. I over packed last year and ended up sending clothing home from a few places. It got to be really expensive in Singapore. When I got home and looked into the boxes, there wasn’t one thing I wanted to wear to take with me again. Over packing also put a stop to buying anything. By the end of the trip all of my bags were bursting at the seams and nightmares to close. I learned from experience that everything a person needs is available in most places in Southeast Asia. There wasn’t one place I visited that didn’t have a pharmacy, market, gas station or cell phone cards and accessories. The world is connected through large corporations, government and internet. Besides, half the things I packed weren’t worth anything, why not start with nothing and fill the bag with things I really love, good quality and will last through wear? I got some great advice at a wedding this summer from a cousin-in-law. He told me to make sure all the clothing I pack can match one another. At first it sounded too simple but the more I thought about it, the more I liked the idea.  With this advice I packed 1/3 of what I took to Asia. Such a relief, the less choices I have in clothing the better off I am.  

Hopefully by next summer Saratoga will be the ending and/or beginning of another adventure of a lifetime. Next stop Amsterdam.   

Starting gate immediately after the race
Starting gate immediately after the race

2 responses to Saratoga ~ New York

  1. nvalano@embarqmail.com says:

    Hi Barbie,, It was so nice to see your new blog. I think about you often and wondered when you would be off again to see more of the world. I loved your squirrel story and know they are going to miss you. The pictures of the horses are wonderful. Please don’t give up on your writing I think you are very talented, and I for one enjoy reading all the things you write. Your details make them special. Have fun on your trip! good to pack light. I’m sending you hugs and well wishes. Love Nanette

    Liked by 1 person

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