It all started last week with a group of friends sitting around Christina Blacker's dining room table, drinking coffee and empathizing with one another. They felt defeated by the recent media uproar and public backlash over the spate of equine deaths at Santa Anita Park, but no single person was quite sure what to do to start to change the public's opinion about horse racing.
“The implication was that, as a group, we don't love these horses,” said Blacker. “We were tired of hearing the negativity. Instead of getting defensive we wanted to demonstrate the positive aspects of our sport.”
Blacker is an easily-recognized on-air personality for TVG, and each of the other friends at the table also had “a stake in the game,” like fellow TVG host Brittney Eurton and camerawoman and editor, Anna James.
“We were all just friends who wanted to change something,” Blacker said. “We wanted to educate people and to give all those hardworking grooms, exercise riders, and everyone else on the backstretch a voice to talk about this industry that means so much to every one of us.”
An idea was born around that dining room table, and less than one week later the team had assembled enough material to take “I am Horse Racing” public.
Blacker appears on-screen in the first video, describing the goal of the grassroots social media campaign.
“'I am Horse Racing' was created with a simple goal in mind,” she said. “A group of industry employees came together to share the stories of those who dedicate their lives to horse racing. From grooms to hot walkers, jockeys, vets, exercise riders, and everyone else in between, we are all here for the horses. These are racing's stories.”
Each day, the “I am Horse Racing” team plans to release a new video documenting one person's role in the industry, and especially how much that person cares about the horses. Early videos have included exercise rider Kelsey Faucon, owner Billy Koch, trainer Anna Meah, and assistant trainer Carlos Santamaria, and Blacker said the team has assembled “several dozen” more videos yet to be released.
On Twitter, the first video has over 60,000 views, and each of the successive mini-documentaries has achieved over 10,000 views so far. Several thousand more people have watched the same videos on Facebook and on YouTube, but the most impressive thing is how quickly the idea has expanded.
“People really latched on,” said Blacker. “We are hopeful that people want to share their own videos, hopeful that other organizations want to get involved. We'd like to get some funding and other people involved, to make the content as sophisticated and advanced as possible.”
Across the industry, individuals have taken to Twitter to share their own photos, stories and videos embodying the “I am Horse Racing” theme. Individuals and groups from overseas have already reached out, and the momentum continues to grow stronger.
“It's a community, a family, and we're all in it together,” said Blacker. “We hoped that if it was a unifying and big enough message, that people across the industry would want to be involved.”
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