Straight from the horse’s ‘Tweet’: Four-legged social media

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It seems that these days, the second a promising two-year-old scores a stakes win (or even a high-level maiden or allowance victory), they aren’t just Tweeted about—they’re Tweeting.

Many farms are already using Facebook and Twitter to promote stallions at stud, but the motivations for keeping current runners on news feeds can be very different. Not only are the motivations different, so are the posts, many of which are written from the racehorse’s ‘perspective’.

Kelly Wietsma, president of Thoroughbred public relations firm Equisponse, said that as administrator of the social media presence for Uncle Mo at the start of his career, the project was all about keeping fans informed on the star’s progress. At the height of his virtual popularity on Facebook and Twitter, Mo had around 8,000 followers, according to Wietsma.


“We had one lady who was sick and in the hospital who said his Tweets brightened her day,” said Wietsma. “If you’re a fan of a Major League Baseball player, he can talk to you. Our four-legged animals can’t.”

Upon Uncle Mo’s retirement, Wietsma stopped updating the horse’s social media accounts, believing that those with hands-on experience with the horse could better represent his persona.

“I think there are people who are motivated by business, if they’ve got a horse going to stud or something … once Mo went to stud, we stopped. To keep 8,000 fans happy and really giving the true day-to-day, you have to be living at the farm,” said Wietsma.

For those working in trainer Doug O’Neill’s barn, the element of hands-on experience helped I’ll Have Another’s Facebook page take off. These days, the team manages the social media presences of Derby contenders Goldencents, Know More, and He’s Had Enough, as well as 12-year-old retired star-turned-lead pony Lava Man.

“We saw that people really loved the idea that they were talking to the horse … in fact, they’re asking us for more pages. It’s a way for them to be involved in these horses’ lives like they would never get to do normally,” said Sharla Sanders, Team O’Neill representative.  Sanders said O’Neill is very supportive of helping fans connect to the horses in his shedrow.

Mucho Macho Man, whose Facebook and Twitter accounts are managed by owners Dean and Patti Reeves, joined the social networks as a way to help keep the owners’ friends and family updated on his trip down the Kentucky Derby trail. When it became clear that he was gaining fan attention, Patti Reeves embraced the chance to interact with Mucho Macho Man’s admiring public and began aiming posts for the over 6,000 Facebook fans and nearly 1,500 Twitter followers.

“We enjoy the horse racing lifestyle so much that we want people to come along for the ride … the longer a horse stays in training like ‘Macho’, the bigger they can build their fan base,” said Reeves.

She said that as a result of Macho’s social media presence, she’s had the chance to meet several fans in person and feel it’s enhanced her experience as an owner.

“When it’s his birthday, people have sent us cards and gifts,” said Reeves. “I actually had someone send me gift certificates to buy him carrots and peppermints and things. It’s really, really endearing. “

Reeves said she hadn’t considered Macho’s stud career when she launched the page and isn’t looking to sell anything. She is not sure if she will continue to update it after he leaves the track.

Both Reeves and Sanders said they try to incorporate the horses’ personalities into their online “voice”, and have had fun sharing their antics with the public. Devoted fans know He’s Had Enough is a fan of chewing on elements of his stall, while Know More has a ‘girlfriend’ in a nearby stall and shows off for her while she cools out in the aisle. Mucho Macho Man is an intensely curious character, and keeps in touch with everything going on in the barn around him. Reeves brought this element of his personality to life online by posting Macho’s ‘comments’ on current events such as the Super Bowl (he particularly enjoyed the Budweiser Clydesdale commercial).

“Even though he’s a ‘Macho Man’, there’s a woman who runs his Facebook page, and I think we’ve been able to connect with the majority of his fans who are women because he has a sensitive side,” said Reeves.

Besides promoting the sport directly to fans, Wietsma said horsemen are motivated to create equine social media presences as a way to interact with the media. For Team O’Neill, it’s a great way to let Santa Anita patrons know a workout is coming up for a popular horse, but it also gets the word out to television anchors, writers, and editors whose reach extends beyond a horse’s few thousand followers.

Although social media account managers aren’t primarily motivated to create Facebook and Twitter pages for horses as a marketing tool for their future careers as stallions, the practice does have value for public relations professionals like Wietsma. She doesn’t charge her clients extra for promoting current runners online, but it is part of the overall package she offers to owners.

“It’s something I recommend they do for the fans…to bring them closer to the connections and let them know what’s going on inside the barn/stall and behind the scenes,” she said.
 
Not all the representations of racehorses on Facebook or Twitter are authorized by owners or trainers, however. Many Facebook pages are managed by fans who use the accounts similarly to an RSS feed focusing on their favorite horse. These pages usually post articles or publicly-released photos of the Thoroughbred in question to create a “one-stop shop” for others.

While owners like Reeves appreciate the enthusiasm, they said the idea of having a stranger speak on behalf of their athletes is a little unnerving, since fans may express opinions that don’t fall in line with those of the owner or trainer.

“Social media is a blessing and a curse at the same time,” Team O’Neill’s Sanders agreed, noting that she has had to ask fans to revise the wording of their pages to indicate that they do not represent owners or Doug O’Neill.

Wietsma and Sanders believe the trend of using Facebook and Twitter to promote individual horses is only likely to continue as racetracks, trainers, and jockeys keep Tweeting, posting, Instagraming and pinning images and content to market the sport to fans.

“Do I think it will continue? If people are smart about how they market their horses, yes,” said Sanders.

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  • Amazeballs

    I wonder what the yearly handle is for people who enjoy reading tweets from a horse, and better yet, people who send tweets back to said horse.

    • Lexington

      What is yours?  Just ballpark it.

    • HossBoss

      not much… most of these people grew up on Disney talking animal movies and have yet to graduate to reality…

      • Circusticket

        Is that what you think of racing fans?

  • Amazeballs

    I wonder what the yearly handle is for people who enjoy reading tweets from a horse, and better yet, people who send tweets back to said horse.

  • MA

    I’m all for more social media connection, including horse pages, but acting like the horse is talking is juvenile and idiotic.

  • MA

    I’m all for more social media connection, including horse pages, but acting like the horse is talking is juvenile and idiotic.

  • Nucky Thompson

    I’m looking forward to the day a horse tweets” I don’t know what they’re injecting me with but it sure makes me run fast”

    • Stanley inman

      Nucky, That’s interesting,
      Because
      Whenever my horse sees a needle or syringe he
      Smiles at me….
      gives me his happy face.

  • Nucky Thompson

    I’m looking forward to the day a horse tweets” I don’t know what they’re injecting me with but it sure makes me run fast”

  • Candy11275

    Anything that brings more POSITIVE attention to our industry is a blessing. I dont think fans should necessarily have the capacity to “speak” for the owners/their horse without ok but the reality is that many people NOT in the business look at the show LUCK or information handed out by PETA and think we are a bunch of crooks who abuse our animals. Nothing bad can be gained by using this opportunity to correct that vision and to market these wondeful animals to the general public. Those people are fans or could become fans who in turn show up at the track, bet…maybe even get involved in a racing partnership. Zenyatta’s web site and page were very much written in HER voice and were embraced by well over 100,000 fans at the time so idiotic may not be the best word choice to describe it. I think its great!!!

    • nu-fan

      Candy:  You bring up some very good points.  At first glance, I thought these tweets were kind of silly but, at the same time, as you stated, this is a great way of connecting some fans to the horseracing industry.  And, it is pretty much harmless.  So, why not? 

      • Hazizaffieohome

        Only offical sites if speaking in the horses voice!! No one, but no one knows really anything if not with the horse.  Anything already published, etc can be put on a fan page.  Information only is fine. There are muliple web sites including The Blood Horse, DRF ,Equibase, etc. to get plenty of info.

    • Stanley inman

      Positive negative
      How about the truth
      And let fans decide for
      Themselves.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1398856676 Heidi Clarke Carpenter

         When is your book of poetry coming out?

        • Stanley inman

          When Ray Unbolts
          the door
          Takes this jacket off

  • Candy11275

    Anything that brings more POSITIVE attention to our industry is a blessing. I dont think fans should necessarily have the capacity to “speak” for the owners/their horse without ok but the reality is that many people NOT in the business look at the show LUCK or information handed out by PETA and think we are a bunch of crooks who abuse our animals. Nothing bad can be gained by using this opportunity to correct that vision and to market these wondeful animals to the general public. Those people are fans or could become fans who in turn show up at the track, bet…maybe even get involved in a racing partnership. Zenyatta’s web site and page were very much written in HER voice and were embraced by well over 100,000 fans at the time so idiotic may not be the best word choice to describe it. I think its great!!!

  • http://twitter.com/dawnallama Dawna Wood

    I love how O’Neill updates his page as well as the pages for his stable stars. They are factual, insightful, and offer insider information. I DO NOT LOVE fake unofficial accounts that tweet “good luck and I miss you” to other horse accounts or make stupid updates like “I just breezed 4 panels in 50 seconds WHEEEEE!” Sometimes fake accounts provide inaccurate info or post opinions that damage the horse’s/stable’s image (those who followed Street Life’s Twitter for a while might remember some of it). Social media that’s legitimate is great, everything else can take a hike.

    • MA

      Yes, those unofficial pages are a joke. I can’t believe how many people follow them and don’t notice (or don’t care) it’s just like a 13-year-old girl rehashing info available to the public at multiple legitimate news sites.

    • Hazizaffieohome

      I agree. I know intimately that some barns (trainers, owners, etc ) that do not like others facebooking in first person (horse person) about their horse or the barn. People need to be aware of this!! It is causing a bit of an uproar here in California.

  • http://twitter.com/dawnallama Dawna Wood

    I love how O’Neill updates his page as well as the pages for his stable stars. They are factual, insightful, and offer insider information. I DO NOT LOVE fake unofficial accounts that tweet “good luck and I miss you” to other horse accounts or make stupid updates like “I just breezed 4 panels in 50 seconds WHEEEEE!” Sometimes fake accounts provide inaccurate info or post opinions that damage the horse’s/stable’s image (those who followed Street Life’s Twitter for a while might remember some of it). Social media that’s legitimate is great, everything else can take a hike.

  • Lexington

    What is yours?  Just ballpark it.

  • HossBoss

    not much… most of these people grew up on Disney talking animal movies and have yet to graduate to reality…

  • MA

    Yes, those unofficial pages are a joke. I can’t believe how many people follow them and don’t notice (or don’t care) it’s just like a 13-year-old girl rehashing info available to the public at multiple legitimate news sites.

  • nu-fan

    Candy:  You bring up some very good points.  At first glance, I thought these tweets were kind of silly but, at the same time, as you stated, this is a great way of connecting some fans to the horseracing industry.  And, it is pretty much harmless.  So, why not? 

  • Dcurtis78

    I think the official pages are fun, horses do have personalities and the people close to them do a good job bringing them to light. To the negative comments… is your glass ever half FULL? I feel sorry for people that wake up each morning so sour.  

  • Dcurtis78

    I think the official pages are fun, horses do have personalities and the people close to them do a good job bringing them to light. To the negative comments… is your glass ever half FULL? I feel sorry for people that wake up each morning so sour.  

  • Stanley inman

    Positive negative
    How about the truth
    And let fans decide for
    Themselves.

  • Stanley inman

    Nucky, That’s interesting,
    Because
    Whenever my horse sees a needle or syringe he
    Smiles at me….
    gives me his happy face.

  • Circusticket

    Is that what you think of racing fans?

  • Clint

    Most of those horses are the most pampered horses in the world and they love to run, you can see it in there expression and ears. They get exersized, fed exactly the right amount of the very best and only run a race every now and then. If you or I had a derby horse, I know we would take darn good care of him.

  • Clint

    Most of those horses are the most pampered horses in the world and they love to run, you can see it in there expression and ears. They get exersized, fed exactly the right amount of the very best and only run a race every now and then. If you or I had a derby horse, I know we would take darn good care of him.

  • HappyHarriet

    Great article!  I personally enjoy following my favorite horses, jockeys, commentators, etc. via facebook and twitter.  Because of the interactive nature of these platforms, there’s a feeling of more connectedness compared to webpages which feel a bit stagnant unless there’s a blog for conversation.

    I’d like to say something here that I wish had been included in the article.  It was, I believe, Dottie Ingordo Sherriffs (sp?) whose intense and smartly executed Zenyatta blog got this ball rolling. 

    Dottie showed the power of fans collected in one place for one purpose and in my opinion she’s the Mother of Social Media for Horses.  She has been honored for this with commentary and awards, but completely pushed aside in my opinion by the Mosses who, as I understand it, ripped the Zenyatta blog from her hands the instant Zenyatta had her first foal and handed Dottie’s great works over to and entire cadre of internet gurus who collectively cannot begin to match the style, voice and verve of what Dottie accomplished with her one woman powerhouse of an idea.  The Mosses need therapy, but that’s another story.

    Hooray to Dottie – I hope she’s remembered and honored for what she started.

    • Unusual Heat

      The Zenyatta blog came long after stallions and other race horses were blogging and had a presence on social media.

    • NataliePR

      Thanks, HappyHarriet! Zenyatta’s blog and crossover social media presence are absolutely part of the overall picture. I chose to limit this story to social media content just to keep it more focused–blogs are kind of their own, more complex genre. Her fans clearly really connected with her blog posts, which is great.

    • Hazizaffieohome

      You are wrong about Zenyatta’s blog ripped from Dottie. I know that for a fact!

    • Hazizaffieohome

      Also it is Lane’s End who does her offical site. Those who are with Zen are the only ones doing official blogging. Any where else should be avoided.

  • HappyHarriet

    Great article!  I personally enjoy following my favorite horses, jockeys, commentators, etc. via facebook and twitter.  Because of the interactive nature of these platforms, there’s a feeling of more connectedness compared to webpages which feel a bit stagnant unless there’s a blog for conversation.

    I’d like to say something here that I wish had been included in the article.  It was, I believe, Dottie Ingordo Sherriffs (sp?) whose intense and smartly executed Zenyatta blog got this ball rolling. 

    Dottie showed the power of fans collected in one place for one purpose and in my opinion she’s the Mother of Social Media for Horses.  She has been honored for this with commentary and awards, but completely pushed aside in my opinion by the Mosses who, as I understand it, ripped the Zenyatta blog from her hands the instant Zenyatta had her first foal and handed Dottie’s great works over to and entire cadre of internet gurus who collectively cannot begin to match the style, voice and verve of what Dottie accomplished with her one woman powerhouse of an idea.  The Mosses need therapy, but that’s another story.

    Hooray to Dottie – I hope she’s remembered and honored for what she started.

  • James Staples

    Its a Joke…Isn’t It???…no ty…

  • James Staples

    Its a Joke…Isn’t It???…no ty…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1398856676 Heidi Clarke Carpenter

     When is your book of poetry coming out?

  • madprotester

    I had a horse I was trying to give away. Acouple of newspaper articles and we had over 300 calls and e-mails. When I found a good home the star did another story but those who missed it where sending me e-mails wanting to know how he was doing. People really care when it comes to animals. I’m still in touch with some of those people.

    • nu-fan

      Madprotester:  Interesting experience that you provided.  But, I wonder why it is that so many horses end up being neglected, abused, and slaughtered?  If more information is made available about some of these horses, would more people step up and help out with assistance?  It seems like so much of this kind of information flys under the radar of the public.  Your example demonstrates that there are a lot of people who did care.  Your horse was very fortunate that you made the ethically correct decision to not just “toss” the horse aside but, instead, to go that extra effort to make certain that he went to another great home.  Thank you for doing so!

  • madprotester

    I had a horse I was trying to give away. Acouple of newspaper articles and we had over 300 calls and e-mails. When I found a good home the star did another story but those who missed it where sending me e-mails wanting to know how he was doing. People really care when it comes to animals. I’m still in touch with some of those people.

  • Unusual Heat

    The Zenyatta blog came long after stallions and other race horses were blogging and had a presence on social media.

  • nu-fan

    Madprotester:  Interesting experience that you provided.  But, I wonder why it is that so many horses end up being neglected, abused, and slaughtered?  If more information is made available about some of these horses, would more people step up and help out with assistance?  It seems like so much of this kind of information flys under the radar of the public.  Your example demonstrates that there are a lot of people who did care.  Your horse was very fortunate that you made the ethically correct decision to not just “toss” the horse aside but, instead, to go that extra effort to make certain that he went to another great home.  Thank you for doing so!

  • casey

    IF more trainers would embrace the fans the way John Shirreffs and Doug O’Neill have, racing would have a much better fan base and more positive image.  As for the Moss’ pulling the blog from Dottie, I don’t believe that is exactly how it happened.  Dottie is a very busy woman- she is racing manager for the Moss’ and others.  She herself has said it was a very draining experience to write the daily blog, trying to come with information that was kept fresh.  As far as Zenyatta’s information, the staff at Lane’s End has provided photos, videos, question and answer columns for fans.  No, we don’t hear things from “Zenyatta’s voice” but we are kept a part of her life, her colt’s life and her soon to be Tapit foal.  All of this provides exposure to a different side of the business of racing.

    Doug O’Neill’s horses having their own pages (only the official ones, which are written by his team) is a great way to keep people involved.  He has personally welcomed many fans (I am one of them) into his barn, makes a point of saying hi, his grooms are very nice, assistant trainer, Leandro Mora personally brought I’ll Have Another out for me to take photographs of and allowed a group of us access to some great horses.

    John Shirreffs not only has opened his barn for Zenyatta’s fans, but also Eblouissante’s fans.  This openness and access to these horses gives the fans the chance to become “involved” with their favorite horses. 

    I personally am not much of a bettor, can’t really afford it, but by gaining access to horses, I have become even more of a fan, always having my camera with me.  The list of horses I have met grows on a weekly basis, as does the list of friends I’ve made with other fans, trainers, assistants to trainers, photographers, exercise riders, jockeys, grooms, grounds crew and gate crews and owners too. 

    Don’t knock something as being stupid, when it brings more fans to our industry

    • Terri Zeitz

      Well written {{{casey}}}.
      John Sherriffs, Doug O’Neil, and Dale Romans have done so much more to promote horse racing by being open to the fans and by posting on social media.
      Add to that list, Nick Zito, who is always there for those of us who belong to Thorofan.

  • casey

    IF more trainers would embrace the fans the way John Shirreffs and Doug O’Neill have, racing would have a much better fan base and more positive image.  As for the Moss’ pulling the blog from Dottie, I don’t believe that is exactly how it happened.  Dottie is a very busy woman- she is racing manager for the Moss’ and others.  She herself has said it was a very draining experience to write the daily blog, trying to come with information that was kept fresh.  As far as Zenyatta’s information, the staff at Lane’s End has provided photos, videos, question and answer columns for fans.  No, we don’t hear things from “Zenyatta’s voice” but we are kept a part of her life, her colt’s life and her soon to be Tapit foal.  All of this provides exposure to a different side of the business of racing.

    Doug O’Neill’s horses having their own pages (only the official ones, which are written by his team) is a great way to keep people involved.  He has personally welcomed many fans (I am one of them) into his barn, makes a point of saying hi, his grooms are very nice, assistant trainer, Leandro Mora personally brought I’ll Have Another out for me to take photographs of and allowed a group of us access to some great horses.

    John Shirreffs not only has opened his barn for Zenyatta’s fans, but also Eblouissante’s fans.  This openness and access to these horses gives the fans the chance to become “involved” with their favorite horses. 

    I personally am not much of a bettor, can’t really afford it, but by gaining access to horses, I have become even more of a fan, always having my camera with me.  The list of horses I have met grows on a weekly basis, as does the list of friends I’ve made with other fans, trainers, assistants to trainers, photographers, exercise riders, jockeys, grooms, grounds crew and gate crews and owners too. 

    Don’t knock something as being stupid, when it brings more fans to our industry

  • Bmcintosh24

    Ms. Voss, I enjoyed reading your article and learned background information about many of the Facebook/Twitter accounts I follow.  My interaction with these numerous websites has brought a knowledge about horse racing I did not expect.  

  • Bmcintosh24

    Ms. Voss, I enjoyed reading your article and learned background information about many of the Facebook/Twitter accounts I follow.  My interaction with these numerous websites has brought a knowledge about horse racing I did not expect.  

  • NataliePR

    Thanks, HappyHarriet! Zenyatta’s blog and crossover social media presence are absolutely part of the overall picture. I chose to limit this story to social media content just to keep it more focused–blogs are kind of their own, more complex genre. Her fans clearly really connected with her blog posts, which is great.

  • Terri Zeitz

    To Not too Happy Harriet:
    I agree with you that Dottie did a brilliant job and she really got the ball rolling for keeping fans informed of the great mare. Mares disappeared after their racing careers and no one ever followed them as they became broodmares.
    However, Dottie was not pushed aside. She gave up doing the blog as it was too much for her to continue to do on a daily basis. She has been the manager of the Mosses rather large stable of horses.
    Regarding the Mosses, many people who marry outside their religion chose not to have children together. Zenyatta is their surrogate daughter. And what an amazing surrogate “child” she is to have.
    I don’t have children; my animals and children I work with are my surrogate kids.
    Incidentally, horses are my therapy. One of my “horse therapists” is a 7 1/2 million dollar winning racing queen who is barefoot and pregnant and lives at Lanes End–LOL.

  • Penelope_Miller

    While I realize that it’s not for everyone, for those of you who want to follow tweeting horses we have a very robust list here for your convenience: https://twitter.com/ABRLive/horses/members 

    Personally, I think it’s a fun way get some inside perspective on what happens in a racing barn, especially when the accounts include photos and videos of day-to-day life at the track. 

  • Penelope_Miller

    While I realize that it’s not for everyone, for those of you who want to follow tweeting horses we have a very robust list here for your convenience: https://twitter.com/ABRLive/ho… 

    Personally, I think it’s a fun way get some inside perspective on what happens in a racing barn, especially when the accounts include photos and videos of day-to-day life at the track. 

  • Stanley inman

    When Ray Unbolts
    the door
    Takes this jacket off

  • Terri Zeitz

    Well written {{{casey}}}.
    John Sherriffs, Doug O’Neil, and Dale Romans have done so much more to promote horse racing by being open to the fans and by posting on social media.
    Add to that list, Nick Zito, who is always there for those of us who belong to Thorofan.

  • Hazizaffieohome

    You are wrong about Zenyatta’s blog ripped from Dottie. I know that for a fact!

  • Hazizaffieohome

    Also it is Lane’s End who does her offical site. Those who are with Zen are the only ones doing official blogging. Any where else should be avoided.

  • Hazizaffieohome

    I agree. I know intimately that some barns (trainers, owners, etc ) that do not like others facebooking in first person (horse person) about their horse or the barn. People need to be aware of this!! It is causing a bit of an uproar here in California.

  • Hazizaffieohome

    Only offical sites if speaking in the horses voice!! No one, but no one knows really anything if not with the horse.  Anything already published, etc can be put on a fan page.  Information only is fine. There are muliple web sites including The Blood Horse, DRF ,Equibase, etc. to get plenty of info.

  • Tgriffith65

    I enjoy the official tweets and pages. They are informative and even fun. On the flip side I find it pathetic and somewhat disgusting when certain horses are “jacked” by fans…or whatever you choose to call them. To those people I say….get a life.

  • Tgriffith65

    I enjoy the official tweets and pages. They are informative and even fun. On the flip side I find it pathetic and somewhat disgusting when certain horses are “jacked” by fans…or whatever you choose to call them. To those people I say….get a life.

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