For most people, they can tell you exactly where they were when they heard news that deeply touched them. A large group of people will always be able to tell you where they were today when they heard David Bowie died. For me, I’ll always be able to tell you where I was when I heard Exchange Rate died.
For many people, Exchange Rate was a very good racehorse who turned into an even better sire. I wrote enough press releases and brainstormed enough ads about the stallion to know that is true. But after spending hours with the stallion, Exchange Rate turned into more than just an exceptional sire to me.
When I started my internship at Three Chimneys in January of 2013, Exchange Rate wasn’t one of the stallions I expected to get close to. I respected the stallion and he was the sire of some horses I really liked by producing Xchanger, Reckless Abandon and Excaper (just to name a few) but with two of my favorite racehorses on the roster, my attention wasn’t focused on him.
That all changed the first time I went out to the barn.
Every Thursday at 5 p.m. when the office staff headed home, I headed to the barn with mints to hang out with the stallions. It only took Rate two weeks to learn that when I came to the barn, I had food. And for as much as Rate loved mares, he loved mints even more.
If I walked into his barn, he had to be the first horse to get at least one mint before I could move to another stall. He didn’t care that Point Given and Caleb’s Posse were the ones I was there for, he felt (rightly) that he was the star of the show. As the weeks went on, Rate trained me to the way it was going to be when I came down to the barn and I grew quite fond of the big gray.
In March of that year, I suffered an injury that kept me from Three Chimneys for a while and when I returned I wasn’t in the best of moods. But seeing what I started calling Exchange Rate’s “mint act” was enough to cheer me up. He’d nicker to me and god forbid he dropped the mint somewhere he couldn’t get to it, that was equal to the world ending. If I didn’t pick it up within about .02 seconds he’d make me feel guilty about taking so long.
Like things do, my internship came to an end and I wasn’t with the stallions every week. But over the past few years I’ve gone back to visit a few times, mostly at open houses. Even though I wasn’t able to give him the mints he obviously wanted whenever he saw me, I always felt like he was greeting me like an old friend when I walked into the barn.
With Exchange Rate shuttling to Argentina in 2015, I didn’t get a chance to see him when I went to visit last summer and that’s something I regret.
In the past few months I’ve heard the concern raised again by racing fans that horsemen and owners in horse racing are just in it for the money and don’t form attachments to the animals they see and work with all the time. But I can vouch that we do care deeply for these animals. For everyone who worked with Exchange Rate during his racing and stud career he wasn’t just a money maker who produced the type of racehorse everyone would love to have, he was a friend and one of the classiest horses anyone has ever been around.
So from the bottom of my heart, I say a final farewell to a horse who always got me to smile and helped me through some tough times. There aren’t enough mints in the world to express how much I appreciate everything you taught me but if we ever meet again, I promise I’ll have an extra-large bag just for you!