Interview with Margie Plarr, April 30, 2008

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:16 - Childhood / Interest in horses

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Partial Transcript: This is Kim Lady Smith and today is April 30th, 2008.

Segment Synopsis: Plarr talks about her parents, childhood, and her first memories of being involved with horses.

Keywords: Amusement parks; Divorces; Grandfathers; Horse fanatics; Polo; Riding lessons; World War II

Subjects: Allentown (Pa.); Chambersburg (Pa.); Childhood; Fathers; Fury (Television program); Germany; Horse industry; Horse riding; Lexington (Ky.); Mothers; Parents; Ponies; Spindletop Farm (Ky.); United States. Army.; University of Kentucky; World War, 1939-1945

00:04:57 - Elementary school / High school

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Partial Transcript: So, uh, where did you go to school here in Lexington, elementary school?

Segment Synopsis: Plarr talks about where she attended school and how she traveled between her mother's and father's houses and attended high school in both locations.

Keywords: Bus rides; Country; Elementary schools; Glendover Elementary School; Horse rentals; Nature; Outdoors; Schools

Subjects: Education; Farms; Fathers; High school; Horse riding; Lexington (Ky.); Mothers; New Jersey; Parents; Ponies

00:07:21 - First job walking racehorses

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Partial Transcript: So when you graduated from high school, what were your plans?

Segment Synopsis: Plarr talks about how she did not have any plans after graduating high school and how she randomly found out about a job cooling out horses at the racetrack. She started doing that work and knew that is where she wanted to be.

Keywords: Apartments; Bell, Mike; Colleges; Cooling out horses; Dating; Hitchhikers; Horse walkers; Hot walkers; Jobs; Odd jobs

Subjects: Degrees, Academic; High school; Keeneland (Lexington, Ky.); Race horses.; Working

00:10:53 - Racial and gendered atmosphere on the backside of the racetrack in 1970

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Partial Transcript: Now, when, um--okay, so 1970, um, Keeneland. So what was the--how would you describe the backside at that time?

Segment Synopsis: Plarr describes the atmosphere of the backside of the racetrack in the 1970s as almost entirely men, with all labor workers being black and trainers being white. She comments on how there were almost no women.

Keywords: Backsides; Exercise riders; First female jockey; Hot walkers; Smith, Robyn

Subjects: African American horsemen and horsewomen; Jockeys; Keeneland (Lexington, Ky.); Nineteen seventies.; Racetracks (Horse racing); Thoroughbred horses; Women in horse sports

00:12:20 - Hot walking horses / Philosophy degree

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Partial Transcript: I've heard from a lot of people, that hot walking, and I've read that being a hot walker is kind of the entryway--

Segment Synopsis: Plarr describes a typical morning at the racetrack hot walking horses. She also explains how she ended up majoring and getting her degree in philosophy.

Keywords: Apartments; Blankets; Cars; Colleges; Grazing; Hot walkers; Jobs; Mathematics; Shanks; Water buckets

Subjects: Degrees, Academic; Horse grooms; Philosophy; Racetracks (Horse racing); Thoroughbred horses; University of Kentucky; Working

00:16:34 - Working in Mike Bell's stable

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Partial Transcript: So when you started, um--let's go back to working with Mike Bell. What kind of operation did he have at that time?

Segment Synopsis: Plarr talks about working in Mike Bell's stable, how everyone who worked there was black, and how friendly everyone was.

Keywords: Bell, Mike; Chandler, Alice; Horse stables; Mexicans

Subjects: African American horsemen and horsewomen; Florida; Horse grooms; Horse trainers; Thoroughbred horse; Women in horse sports; Working

00:19:56 - Learning to be an exercise rider

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Partial Transcript: Now I think you told me at one point that Mike taught you how to ride?

Segment Synopsis: Plarr talks about getting the chance to learn to ride Thoroughbreds, getting a job breaking yearlings, and eventually making it to the track as an exercise rider.

Keywords: Barbs Delight (Race horse); Bell, Mike; Breaking yearlings; Cleaning stalls; Exercise riders; Goodpaster, Herman; Horse barns; Horse riding; Horse stables; Jobs; Luck; Patchen Wilkes Farm; Stepfathers; Sweeping; Two year olds; Ward, John

Subjects: Horse boarding facilities.; Horse racing; Horse trainers; Horsemen and horsewomen; Keeneland (Lexington, Ky.); Racetracks (Horse racing); Thoroughbred horse; Working

00:28:33 - Riding for John Ward / Furthering her career

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Partial Transcript: So you worked with Mike Bell, Herman Goodpaster, and now John Ward.

Segment Synopsis: Plarr talks about her years working for John Ward. She explains that she was making a tremendous salary but not getting as many opportunities to ride as she wanted. She tells the story of how she ended up getting a job with Tony Basile.

Keywords: Basile, Tony; Bell, Mike; Breezing horses; Bwamazon Farm; Differences; Exercise riders; Goodpaster, Herman; Horse stables; Hot walkers; Jobs; Salaries; Volkswagen vans; Ward, John

Subjects: Aqueduct Racetrack (New York, N.Y.); Churchill Downs (Louisville, Ky. : Racetrack); Friends; Horse grooms; Horse industry; Horse trainers; Keeneland (Lexington, Ky.); Race horses.; Racetracks (Horse racing); Thoroughbred horse; University of Kentucky; Women in horse sports; Working

00:34:44 - Mentors / Churchill Downs / Monmouth Park

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Partial Transcript: Did you have any particular mentors or were you learning just from riding?

Segment Synopsis: Plarr talks about learning to ride basically just by observing others and practicing. She also tells what it was like on the backside of Churchill Downs and Monmouth Park.

Keywords: Apartments; Breezing; Hot walkers; Learning; Mentors; Monmouth Park; Riding horses; Track backsides

Subjects: Churchill Downs (Louisville, Ky. : Racetrack); Horse racing; Horse trainers; New Jersey; Racetracks (Horse racing); Secretariat (Horse), 1970-1989.; Thoroughbred horse

00:39:04 - Accidents and injuries / Hustling jobs

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Partial Transcript: Had you had many accidents up to that point?

Segment Synopsis: Plarr discusses how lucky she was to have only had three minor injuries during her career. She also talks about her favorite parts of this line of work, moving around between racetracks, and working various "two-bit jobs" for a while when she returned to Keeneland after working for Goodpaster.

Keywords: Breaking horses; Breezing; Broken collarbones; Broken wrists; Dislocated shoulders; Dunn, Joe; Exercise riders; Fears; Fillies; Goodpaster, Herman; Injuries; Jobs; Jonabell Farm; Strength; Ward, John

Subjects: Accidents; Discrimination; Health insurance; Horse trainers; Keeneland (Lexington, Ky.); Women in horse sports; Workers' compensation.

00:46:21 - Job variety / Local horse farms

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Partial Transcript: What type of jobs were you willing to do? What were you working?

Segment Synopsis: Plarr continues to talk about pursuing a variety of jobs, and talks about why she wanted to stay in Lexington, Kentucky, and lists some of her most favorite farms that she worked. Also she describes some experiences where potential employers would test or prank her.

Keywords: Bluegrass Farm; Breaking yearlings; Bunker Hunt, Nelson; Claiborne Farm; Elmandorf Farm; Exercise riders; Fitness; Goodpaster, Herman; Jobs; Jonabell Farm; Sosby, John; Strength; Testing

Subjects: Friends; Horse farms--Kentucky; Horse grooms; Keeneland (Lexington, Ky.); Race horses.; Thoroughbred horses; University of Kentucky

00:51:56 - Gender and race at the racetrack in the 1980s

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Partial Transcript: So what was it--what was Keeneland like?

Segment Synopsis: Plarr talks about there being more women in jobs at the track by the 1980s, but still dealing with some discrimination. She also talks about the shift of African Americans leaving jobs at the track and a huge influx of Mexican workers.

Keywords: Exercise riders; Hunter jumpers; Jobs

Subjects: African American horsemen and horsewomen; Discrimination; Gender; Horse racing--Employees; Keeneland (Lexington, Ky.); Mexicans; Nineteen eighties; Prejudices; Puerto Ricans.; Racetracks (Horse racing); Women in horse sports

00:56:35 - The early nineties / Becoming a race horse owner

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Partial Transcript: What were you doing at that point, the early nineties?

Segment Synopsis: Plarr talks more about working in the late eighties and early nineties. She tells how she met Art Antrim and ended up partnering with him in the ownership of race horses. She also talks about getting her training license.

Keywords: 1990s; Antrim, Arthur; Exercise riding; Jobs; Lord of War (Race horse); Perkins, Peter; Trainer's license

Subjects: Horse breeders; Horse owners; Horse racing; Horse trainers; Nineties; Race horses.; Stallions--Breeding

01:02:01 - Women over forty working on the track

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Partial Transcript: We were talking earlier, you were talking about, uh, working for an individual who'd, um--didn't think people--women should ride after age forty. Could you tell me about that experience?

Segment Synopsis: Plarr discusses discrimination she faced on the track as she entered her forties, particularly as a woman over the age of forty.

Keywords: Exercise riders; Gender; Injuries; Jobs; Riding horses; Women over forty years old

Subjects: Age discrimination; Keeneland (Lexington, Ky.); Racetracks (Horse racing); Thoroughbred horse; Women in horse sports

01:05:40 - Thomas Embry

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Partial Transcript: Before I forget, when we talked a few days ago, um, you told me that at one point you worked with Tom Embry.

Segment Synopsis: Plarr talks about working with Tom Embry, who she really looked up to and respected. She tells a story about a colt that he put her on that was extremely difficult.

Keywords: Colts; Embry, Thomas; Exercise riders; Forest Retreat Farm; Hamburg Place Stud; Idols; Riding partners; Spencer, Joe; Two year olds; Yearlings

Subjects: Accidents; Discrimination; Horse trainers; Race horses.; Thoroughbred horse

01:13:03 - Owning and breeding horses

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Partial Transcript: Now, uh, let's go back to with you and Art, when you started owning horses.

Segment Synopsis: Plarr talks about the horses she started off owning with Art Antrim, being fairly successful on the track, and then breeding those horses and producing more successful racers.

Keywords: Antrim, Arthur; Claiborne Farm; Colts; Exercise riders; Fillies; Kimberlite Pipe (Race horse); Stroll (Race horse); Take Me Out (Race horse)

Subjects: Horse breeders; Horse grooms; Horse owners; Kentucky Derby; Race horses.; Racetracks (Horse racing); Stallions--Breeding; Thoroughbred horse--Breeding--Kentucky

01:15:17 - Art Antrim's background / Graduate school

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Partial Transcript: Now tell me a little bit about Art's background.

Segment Synopsis: Plarr talks about how Art got involved with horse racing. She also talks about how she went back to school for a masters degree in library science because of concern for the future. She talks about letting Art make most of the training decisions for the horses they now own.

Keywords: Antrim, Arthur; Eagle Valley Farm; Graduate schools; Hot walkers; Masters degrees; Philosophy

Subjects: Careers; Gambling; Horse grooms; Horse owners; Horse trainers; Library science; Race horses.; Retirement

01:20:36 - Current horses

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Partial Transcript: Now didn't you tell me that you had trained one horse?

Segment Synopsis: Plarr talks about a good filly they had that she and Art often disagreed on about what races to enter. She tells a few stories about this filly, including the filly being diagnosed with a heart nerve issue that required giving her jugs before races and some potential controversy in a stakes race that she lost. Plarr also talks about their current string of broodmares and racing horses.

Keywords: Allowance races; Antrim, Arthur; Belterra Park; Beulah Park; Drugs; Fluids; Jugs; Mares; Mountaineer Racetrack; River Downs; Stakes races; Stroll (Race horse); Thumps; Two year olds; Winning; Yearlings

Subjects: Churchill Downs (Louisville, Ky. : Racetrack); Claiming races; Horse breeding; Horse racing; Horse trainers; Jockeys; Race horses.; Thoroughbred horse

01:30:56 - Race fixing

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Partial Transcript: Have you had experiences with, uh, medication issues or race--fixing races or anything like that?

Segment Synopsis: Plarr talks about some of her experiences with potential race fixing and other suspicious activities when she thought her horses were unfairly beaten.

Keywords: Betting; Fixing races; Rumors; Scratched; Suspicions

Subjects: Horse owners; Horse racing; Jockeys; Race horses

01:34:40 - Regrets / Favorite horse / The future

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Partial Transcript: When you look back, um--I mean you've had a really interesting career with horses and, and you've made some sacrifices to work with horses, so when you look back on your career, do you have any particular regrets or?

Segment Synopsis: Plarr talks about regretting not being more successful in the racing industry, her favorite horse to ride, being most proud of surviving up to this point, and how she hopes to continue working with horses as she ages.

Keywords: Breaking horses; Businesses; Claiborne Farm; Coronados Quest (Race horse); Dreams; Exercise riders; Feather Maraine (Race horse); Luck; Money; Potential; Proud; Regrets; Sosby, John; Successes; Survival; The Thoroughbred Center (Lexington, Ky.); Unbridled (Race horse); Yearlings

Subjects: Horse farms; Horse industry; Horse racing; Race horses.; Thoroughbred horse