Oaklawn Park

Warning: lots and lots and lots of pictures involved in this post.

Last weekend, my boys and I hit the road to Hot Springs for a couple days of much needed R&R. David and Joe brought their mountain bikes and planned on trying out some of the new-to-them trails while I . . . hit the race track.

For as long as I can remember I've had a thing about horses. When I was little, I wanted to be a jockey and win the Kentucky Derby. 

Then I grew. 

That was okay, because then I decided that I could be a horse trainer, training the winner of the Kentucky Derby (that was before I found out what the Triple Crown was about. If I'd known then about the Triple Crown, I would've set my sights a little higher).  I read all that I could about horse racing, plastered the walls of my bedroom with horse posters and decorated any empty surface with models of Citation, Secretariat, Man O'War . . . all the great race horses. I memorized which horse won the Kentucky Derby every year that it has been run. 

I knew my horses, the only problem was that my parents wouldn't buy me a horse to keep in our backyard.

So now I'm grown up and have resorted to plan B: photographing horses every chance I can get. Which, in a way, works out better because now any time I need a horse fix, I can just pull up my photo library and feast my eyes on pictures of all the horses I've photographed. 

Back to Hot Springs and Saturday morning. My father-in-law has a good friend that lives in the same condo community as he does and this good friend, Mr. Jackson, just happens to own a few race horses that he likes to race at Oaklawn Park, the home of the Arkansas Derby. It's a beautiful place to watch horses race. During college at the University of Arkansas, I used to go down on the weekends for the races and that was when I got hooked on the atmosphere and the excitement of Race Day, and ever since I've always wanted to go back.

In 2013, I did get to go back and you can read about that experience here: A Day At The Races.

I was allowed the same opportunity Saturday morning as I was allowed three years ago, and everything was just as I remembered. The smells, the sunlight, the horses, the quiet voices of the outriders and the trainers, the sound of clopping hooves on the stable floor, the whickers and head tosses and the flying manes. Dirt flying up in the air as the race horses streaked by the rail, the curious stares as they walked by me on the track, so close that if I wanted to I could've reached out and scratched their muzzles. I took over 1,000 photos that morning, photos of horses streaking around the track, portraits of out riders and trainers, horses breaking out of the gate getting ready for the afternoon races and sunbeams dancing down inside the stables.

While the boys were out riding the bike trails at Cedar Glades Park on the other side of Hot Springs, I got to get as close to racing as my little girl's heart could've desired. It was truly one of the happiest moments of my life. 

(and as always, just click on the image to see it larger, and for more photos, click this link that will take you to david's and my website: Oaklawn Park).