What is an Outrider?
What is an Outrider?
They are stationed at every racetrack you’ll visit, but you may or may not even notice them.
While training or racing is being conducted on a racetrack, horsemen called outriders are employed to supervise the events and to help as necessary. They are available any time horses are on the racetrack, whether it is during morning training or the afternoon’s races.
Outriders assist with the post parade, are stationed and at the ready during the race and help bring the winner’s back after a race.
One of their most visible duties involves helping to capture a racehorse if it gets loose, which is an incredibly demanding and precise job. The outrider’s horse must assist getting in position, and sprint quickly up to speed to catch the loose racehorse, then slow down again with the captured racehorse in hand.
TS Pee Wee Payne (Bart Bartender-Pryor Showdown by Tee Jay Doo Bee), a 2005 bay gelding, works full time at the track with his owner, Greg Blasi. If you’ve watched the telecast of the Kentucky Derby, you’ve more than likely seen the pair at work. Greg, an Oklahoma horseman with ranch roots, is one of a handful of professional outriders at Churchill Downs.
“For people who don’t understand the racetrack but have been to a rodeo, it’s basically like being a pickup man, except (the horses) are not bucking, they’re running,” Greg says.
Having a well-trained horse to serve as a partner is vital, as the outrider himself is busy handling the racehorse.
“You’ve got to give all your credit to the horse because if he hesitates or backs off a little bit, (it doesn’t work out),” Greg says. “He’s pushing and helping me the whole time, without me really having to do anything (to keep him going).”
Outriders can ride any breed of horse, and many do mount up on Thoroughbreds, but Greg likes the qualities of Quarter Horses.
“That’s what I grew up around, and that’s what I prefer. (Catching loose racehorses) is basically a timing situation. That’s why I like those horses off of the ranch, where guys have cowboyed on them and doctored a bunch of cattle on them. That kind of horse works out good for me. I also think that they handle the stress of the job better than others.
“With a Quarter Horse, 1. you want that burst of speed. I’m not going to chase (a racehorse) very far anyway. And then, 2., they settle down so much better afterward.”
Greg has worked at Churchill Downs for more than 20 years, sometimes returning to Oklahoma in the summer to help ship cattle, work with colts and cowboy.
On a typical day at Churchill Downs, he and Pee Wee are the busiest in the morning during the track’s training time, when 50 to 70 horses can be out on the track area doing different things in different directions and at different speeds, which makes for the occasional mishap. Races are run in the afternoon, and Greg says that is usually a more quiet time for outriders.
An outrider’s horse has to be very fast, sensible and enjoy their jobs.
“They’ve got to like what they do,” Greg says. “They can’t be scared to run in there.
“I give my horses all the credit because I’ve been lucky throughout my career, and I’ve got a good reputation. A couple of guys I work with, we have a very good reputation at Churchill for what we do. We’re considered some of the best in the country, and it’s because of our horses. I just think for what I do, a good broke horse off a ranch that has some speed, it just translates well.”