Eclipse Award-winning photographer Barbara Livingston has captured some breathtaking images of horses in her time, but if her social media is anything to go by, a barn cat is one of her favorite subjects.
Livingston, who works for the Daily Racing Form, is well known for her love of cats generally but found a particular challenge in photographing the resident feline at trainer Dan Hendricks' barn on the Santa Anita backstretch.
“It is so much harder because they're fast and wily critters, and she mostly wants to get away from me because she's just sort of that type of cat,” said Livingston. “She's so calico. It's actually much, much more difficult, but when you get a good one there's a sort of satisfaction to it. You know where horses are going, usually, but you don't know where a cat's going. And she never goes where Dan or anyone expects her to.”
Hendricks ended up with the young calico earlier this year after someone brought her by the barn as a kitten.
“She was a very skinny little, unhealthy cat. Then, when I had her fixed, she lost weight and didn't really gain it back until Del Mar [this summer],” said Hendricks. “At Del Mar, she was real scared to go out of the office because it was her first new place. When she got back from Del Mar, she had put on some weight and she's healthier looking but she's still a small cat, which is good.”
He named the kitten Duane after Livingston (Duane is her middle name), but if that was meant to convince the cat to bond with the photographer, it didn't work.
“She likes Dan, but that's more of a Stockholm Syndrome thing,” Livingston joked.
Duane doesn't particularly like anyone else, Hendricks said. She doesn't fear people or horses but has little interest in socializing with them. The only time of day she is known to be cuddly is first thing in the morning, when she is fed and released from the barn office (where she spends the night for her safety), then it's off to patrolling. She isn't known as an exceptionally good mouser, and if anything, Hendricks' son Greg said, she seems to take a maniacal pleasure in startling humans and horses in the course of stalking birds. He recalled one incident when he was riding a horse back from the gap to find Duane stretched out in the walking ring, which spooked his mount.
Still, Duane is clearly a beloved member of the Hendricks shedrow family, as evidenced by her many and various toys arranged alongside her barn, a drawer full of treats, and the feline jungle gym which sits in the corner of the barn office. And all things considered, she isn't totally unfriendly. Dan Hendricks, who is wheelchair bound, has grown fond of carrying Duane on his lap during phone calls and occasionally helping her climb into her favorite hiding spot outside the barn. With a careful toss, he helps her scale the lower branches of a small, manicured tree at the barn entrance. The leaves are thick enough she is virtually invisible if she wants to be, and she can watch both birds and horses amble by, undetected. (For the record, she will also play with visiting humans who wiggle their fingers at her underneath the leaves. She is extremely quick at this game and should not be underestimated.)
No bird is too big for Duane's tastes, although she has learned some are harder to catch than others.
“She jumped on a duck at Del Mar,” recalled Hendricks. “The duck wasn't too happy about it, and I think it scared her when it flew off.”
Duane is decidedly unimpressed by Zelda, the Hendricks' barn goat. Zelda currently ‘belongs' to Autumn Flower, one of the Hendricks' fillies, who is significantly more attached to Zelda than Zelda is to her. Zelda is tied outside her stall because if the goat wanders off, the Thoroughbred screams until she returns. The filly had been running up the track in maiden races until Hendricks got her the goat as a companion, and she is now undefeated in allowances with the goat.
Zelda's fee is 10 percent of her friends' grain.
Duane was initially insulted by Zelda's presence, Livingston said, and the cat used to stare daggers at the goat from inside the barn office. Now, they seem to have come to a grudging acceptance of each other's place in the barn. Duane's place, obviously, is the non-equine resident celebrity.
“The funny thing is now, when I post a picture of Duane, people refer to her as ‘her,' I don't have to say that she's a girl because everybody knows her,” said Livingston.
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