The Horseman - By Will Alberts

 (Originally published in the May 21, 2011 issue of The Blood-Horse magazine. Feel free to share your own thoughts and opinions at the bottom of the column.)   

Will Alberts is the son of trainer Nancy Alberts, who died May 3 from complications following a stroke. Nancy Alberts finished second in the 2002 Preakness with Magic Weisner. She remains the only woman to be the owner, breeder, trainer, exercise rider, and groom of a contender in any of the Triple Crown races.

On a typical day my mother, Nancy Alberts, rose at 4 a.m., battling to get out of bed with her two chocolate Labs Hersh and Cocoa. After the dogs and many cats were fed, she would head to the barn on her farm in Sykesville, Md., to feed more cats and her horses—retired racehorses, horses on a break from training, and a yearling.  

She arrived at the track by 5 a.m. daily. She would feed, knock off her horses, put on her riding boots, and gallop or work her horses as necessary. After training and cooling out the horses, she would check her hay, straw, and feed levels to make sure she had enough to last a few days, check with the vet, enter horses to race as needed, set up feed for the afternoon, and feed the cats at a different barn. She’d offer assistance to other trainers to sew blankets, clip horses, make bandages, or fix a pair of jeans and then head back to the farm.

There was always something to do, someplace to go. She looked forward to attending annual parties for the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) or other events at a local farm or the track. When people would call, they would often have to ask her to stop, just for a moment, to talk to her. Most of the time she would be under a horse picking a hoof, clipping a horse, sewing a blanket, feeding the dogs, driving a tractor, or heading to the races. She was organized and managed to get what she needed done when it needed to be done.

Her drive and determination were always to do the best she could with what she had in any circumstance. She never missed work—every holiday, even Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter. She worked on her birthday. Records were kept dating back 30 years that detailed daily activities of each horse, her social calendar, and even remarks about the weather.

I found this note the other day:
Tuesday April 5th 2011
• Diamond – galloped 1 mi
• Ginger – galloped 1 mi
• Weber – galloped 1mi
• Happy – galloped 1 mi – in April 7th – eating great!
• 86 degrees – nice warm day
• Dr. Tanner @ farm
• Hale Bopper – 4 in 1 (West Nile)
• West Nile – Clark, Ferry, Howie (Howard County)
• 
Howie – ECG today + 3 more Sat, Tue, Sat to make his testicle drop
• Manure to dump
• Perm today at 10:30

In addition to notes about her horses, dogs, and cats she also had remarks in her books about people that rented a room in her home. People like Katie Scally, Craig Gibbs, Jonathon Joyce, Joe Clark, Chip Vanharsel, and currently Whitney Valls. In the past, she even took in close friends of mine like Erin Mace and Mark Day.
I don’t know how the boarding began at my mother’s, but I am told that she typically heard that someone needed a place in a pinch, or was just passing through, or was just starting out on the track, and her place was recommended as a good place to start.

“On the go” was her motto. Our daily calls lasted only a few minutes; short conversations on how her horses were, where I was or where I was going, and ended with a simple, “call me later” or “night.” We would always talk before and after the Triple Crown races as well. She would tell me who she liked, and there was always some back story about why one horse would do well or why another horse wouldn’t. How she managed to do it all I will never know. What I do know is…she did it, and she did it pretty well.

There was only one time she stopped working—when she was kicked and in a hospital. While her recovery was long, I will never forget the day she was well enough to come back to work. She took control of her barn as if she hadn’t missed a day of work.

She cared for all horses equally. It didn’t matter if one was headed to the Triple Crown or running at the bottom. She gave the best to all of them and always expected others to do the same.

To never give up hope and never stop trying to do the best she could was all that mattered. She was a horseman and proud to be part of the racing community.

10 Comments

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SUNNY FARM

DEAR WILL ; I am greatly affected by all your mother did & as proud of her as you are. Nancy embodies the total and pure spirit of what a REAL HORSEMAN IS. I am so sad that she has moved on May 03. but please know that Nancy has left a BIG mark during her life and for someone like me who does aspire to the same goals, she is a real hero & one to look up to. I wish I had been able to know her and had been her neighbor.I cry for your loss and for her horses loss of her.

Will, you are so fortunate to have such a MOM. All she is and all she taught you will remain forever.

WHAT A WOMAN !!!!!

17 May 2011 9:34 AM
Rachel NH

Sounds like a winner to me...♥

17 May 2011 12:29 PM
denver oaks

My husband who had a stroke 3 years ago and is turning 86 next week...remembers your mother when he was training at Laurel, MA many years ago. He remembers watching her gallop horses at the track and was at the Derby when she had a winner back in 2002...she was one in a million when it come to lovers of horses, according to him! So sorry for your loss, it was way toooo soon! She will always be looking down at you and her horses! Take care and God Bless!

17 May 2011 4:38 PM
Katherine

You are so blessed to have had her for a Mother. Wish I could have known her! My sincere condolences.

17 May 2011 5:48 PM
WillAlberts

Thanks for the comments. I really appreciate all the kind words. I'm trying to carry her business but thus far have hired 8 people and had to take her horses not in training to 4 different farms. I still can't imagine how she did it all every day. Not only is it obvious her horses miss her, her dogs and cats do.....and so do I.

Will@AlbertsRacing.com

17 May 2011 7:45 PM
WT

Thank you for sharing, Will, and for your determination to carry on for her. God bless.

18 May 2011 9:59 AM
edrul427

What a woman,i know you must be very proud of her.Our condolences to you and the rest of the family.

18 May 2011 11:04 AM
JB

Will,

Bless your mom for who she was and you for carrying out her wishes as best you can.  I was fortunate enough to have mailed and emailed your mom a few times after 2002 to keep up wwith Magic Weisner and his progress.  I can only imagine how amazing she truly was.  I sent an email just after she passed for you.  Our industry dearly misses the real horsemen like your mom, the ones that put their knowledge, best efforts and heart into the business. She is still one of a kind.  hope Magic is still well cared for.  He helped her achieve her dream farm. Take care, Will, my heart goes out to you.

18 May 2011 3:03 PM
Linda in Texas

Will, even your name projects her spirit. Her never stop energy was abundant and others were blessed with it.

She had time for everything that needed her and she was rewarded with their that was spent time with her. It was a give and receive sort of thing.

I always knew that ambition is not learned, you are born with it or you are not. We all know she was born with it and it came natural to her. Her horses, her faithful dogs and cats, the wonderful people she dealt with in her daily routine all shared her dreams and helped her with them.

But Wills, as a mother of a wonderful son who i am as proud of as your mother is and always will be of you, be strong in the knowledge that she showed you the way as you follow in her gallant and truly decent footsteps.

I noted that the date you chose to publish the notes she wrote was my birthday, April 5 and many on Steve Haskin's blog wished Steve, Zenyatta and myself a Happy Birthday. I wished i had known of your mother's illness, i would have sent blessings to her. I do that now and also to you.

Wills, be proud young man as there is no relationship more dear than a mother and a son, and a father and a daughter. May you be always be successful in everything you wish for in life and thank you for telling us about your mother. I did not know her, but i do now and admire her immensely as i do you.  

18 May 2011 8:37 PM
Linda in Texas

Will, forgive me for putting an S on your name in a couple of places, i have now elevated you to be the future King of England!

In the second paragraph, i tried to say to you that your mother spent time caring for all of the animals, and that was their reward for allowing her their companionship. She would have it no other way.  I know of what i speak, i do the same thing.

God Bless you, Will.

Linda

18 May 2011 10:19 PM

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