The Rush of Riding
By now, there are thousands of racing fans who have watched the video of jockey Mike Smith, taken from his point of view, as he exercised the great Zenyatta.
Like many, I was amazed at the perspective and how it let viewers, most who never will ride a horse at 40-plus MPH, experience the rush of riding.
Fast forward to this year’s Kentucky Derby. Much of my photojournalism is about taking people to places they ordinarily couldn’t, or wouldn’t, go. I started thinking about the Zenyatta video and wondered how much fun it would be to get a jockey’s perspective, from horseback, while traveling around the most famous racetrack on the planet.
What would it be like to see the Twin Spires pass by on horseback at 30 mph?
I searched the Internet to see if anyone had done this before and came up empty. Enter Churchill Downs-based trainer Karyn Wittek. I had written about her efforts to become a great trainer earlier in the year. I asked her if she would mind wearing a video camera for Kentucky Confidential as she galloped her horses around the Churchill Downs surface.
Not only did she agree, but she came through splendidly.
We outfitted Karyn with a GoProHD miniature video camera. Picture a miner’s helmet assembly with a stretchable body and camera housing where the light would go. We put the video camera on her riding helmet, hit record and let her and her horses do the magic.
Karen exercised a smallish filly first and next took out a clearly green and developing, and as yet unnamed, son of Bernstein. As a viewer, you will get the full trip around Churchill Downs. While you are going along for the ride with Karyn, take a special look as she schools the son of Bernstein at the gate. Watch the colt’s ears. They are laid back right up until the gate opens when they stand up straight. The young guy is definitely interested in running.
We hope you enjoy the video get a little bit of the feeling of what it might be like to be on a horse during the “Run for the Roses.”