Have you ever met anyone you idolized and you sort of lose consciousness and don’t know what you are saying or doing?  Well, I had that moment.

Vic Stauffer, John Shireffs and Steve Willard were nice enough to arrange a meeting with the great Zenyatta while we were in California for the BCS National Championship Game.  

Before I knew what hit me, I was ushered in front of a black horse with snow white blaze and the kindest eye.  She looked at me as if to say “You there, what have you brought for me?”  The only thing I had was peppermints and I had to be reminded I had those as I stood in total awe.  I think my head was spinning.


Here she is in all her glory with her plaid coat on like a little school girl.  Just as beautiful as I had imagined and just as sweet.  Mr. Willard brought her head down to me so I could scratch her nose and her forelock.  Then I felt I should talk to her so I told her just exactly what every other temporarily insane person would tell a horse.  “When Alabama played LSU I chose to watch you instead.”  Now that’s big for an Alabama fan, but I don’t think Zenyatta was particularly impressed, but she was polite enough to look intrigued by it. 

After petting her beautiful face I asked if she wanted a peppermint.  I couldn’t get the paper off.  Finally somebody got it off and I fed her a Bob’s Old Fashioned Peppermint ball, you know the kind you buy at the Cracker Barrel.  She took that from me and I heard her crunch it so I felt like I had been approved.

I fed her another one and she was getting into it now.  Looking in my hands for more.  She even licked my hand.


Zenyatta gives me a lick.

It was time to move on so as not to upset the routine.  Zenyatta was going to jog this morning.  Life is Sweet lives next door so we moved down one stall.  Zenyatta was pretty emphatic about what she thought of that.  Pressing herself against her stall restraint and pawing the ground with her right front as if to say “Get back here and bring those mints with you!”

We took a photo of Life is Sweet in the back of her stall.  We were thinking that was all we were going to get from her.  After all it was after nine and everyone knows from John Shireffs' video that she is not a morning glory. 

If you haven’t seen this video you need to
Life is Sweet sleeping and sleeping and sleeping.

Life is Sweet fooled us.  When the flash went off, the Breeders’ Cup champion rushed to the front of the stall and stuck her head out as far as she could to see just who these strangers were.  Another great highlight of my trip.


Life is Sweet

A short while later Zenyatta went for her jog and my husband and I were on the rail with Mr. Willard to watch.  We all shared an appreciation for her bountiful backside as she passed by us.

I asked Steve Willard if he thought she would run again, but he didn’t think so.  I asked wouldn’t she miss all the people and the hoopla that follows her.  He said she loves horses just as much as she loves people. 

When I asked him about the poses she strikes he told me the story of Zenyatta watching a possum walk along the top of a wall for a half hour without moving. 

This girl knows how to enjoy life no matter where she finds herself.  She knows exactly how to turn it on for the big events and how to have a Zen 'possum moment', the great power of small things.

When you tell your non-horseracing fans about meeting Zenyatta they don’t show the right amount of appreciation that I want them to.  This isn’t just another pretty face.  In fact, it reminds me of an I Love Lucy episode.  Fred Mertz replies snarkily when told that Ava Gardner is human just like you and me, “She may be human but she’s NOT like you and me.”

Zenyatta isn’t either.



Leave a Comment:


Beautiful story and how lucky to be in her company.

15 Jan 2010 5:42 PM

So jealous I want to give Zen a peppermint!!!

15 Jan 2010 6:03 PM

Congratulations Becky.  That is a VERY big deal to meet Zenyatta.  You deserved it for all your support of her throughout the year.  You are right, she's definitely NOT an ordinary being.    

15 Jan 2010 6:13 PM

Thank you so much for sharing your visit with Zenyatta. When I saw her for the first time at Hollywood Park to watch her run in the Milady. I had brought my camera and when she was brought out to the paddock. I was so awestruck I coudln't click fast enough. She is that beautiful. I will treasure the times I got to see her in person.  

15 Jan 2010 6:13 PM

Oh, you lucky thing, getting to meet both Zenyatta and Life Is Sweet!  I don't think I could've unwrapped the peppermint, either.... A day to remember!

15 Jan 2010 6:22 PM

Congratulations to you, Any one that gets to spend time with such a famous lady/mare Miss Zenyatta, and life is Sweet, how lucky you were. Zenyatta is "One for the Ages" and will never be forgotton, I don't believe Anne Moss will be able to bear seeing Zenyatta leave California, they love her so much. I know they are not in any hurry. I would love to see her first foal with Mr. Sea the Stars.

15 Jan 2010 6:33 PM
sweet terchi

Becky, you lucky girl!!! I've seen her in person and she is BEAUTIFUL!! But you got to TOUCH her! What a memory to treasure. Thanks for sharing!! :) (if I had that honor I think my hand would not be washed to this day!! :):))

15 Jan 2010 6:33 PM

Awesome !

15 Jan 2010 6:47 PM
Julie L.

Though I did not get to pet Zenyatta or give her a peppermint I totally understand about being awestruck. I, along with many others, waited with our breathes held for the grand lady to come into the walking ring the day of the Breeder's Cup, you know, the day she won that little race called the "Classic". Well anyways when she came in it was a true "superstar" that enter that ring with everyone forgetting about the other great horses there and only focusing on the dark beauty. I shook with joy and when that great lady blew past her competition and blew the minds of those who thought that she wouldn't (couldn't) do it and cried tears of joy. I waited for her to come back to that same ring and pass me as she returned to her barn and watching her she knew that we were all there for her and her alone. Seeing a famous celebrity (human) is not that impressive to me but to see Zenyatta and also to see the great Curlin in 2008 was one of the greatest moments for me that also goes right alongside my memory of seeing Seattle Slew run in the Swaps Stakes. The other wonderful horses that faced Zenyatta and Curlin were also great to see but those two are just so special especially for me.

15 Jan 2010 7:36 PM

You are the luckiest gal in the world, Becky!  I am sooooo jealous!  Wonderful video and music, BTW.  Thanks for the glance at our regal lady!

15 Jan 2010 7:52 PM
Karen in Indiana

Oh, how blessed you were! I know how you felt, I felt the same way when I went to Three Chimneys to see Big Brown for the second time. It was a large group on the tour, I was standing next to the fence and he walked right up to me and stuck his head over the fence. He wanted me to scratch his face. They don't want you to pet the horses (stallions are territorial) so I couldn't, but I didn't care what the other people thought - I had to talk to him. And he stood there and listened and then followed me down the fence when we left. I had been in kind of a down mood when I got there, but it was gone after our 'talk'.

15 Jan 2010 8:36 PM

I don't have any desire to meet any "human's" (except Steve Haskin) but I know I would be star struck in the presence of a number of equines and Zenyatta is at the top of the list. Consider yourself one of the lucky ones. Some of us will probably never get the opportunity to see the great "Z" in person. Thanks for sharing your experience with us.

15 Jan 2010 8:38 PM

Wonderful story, and I sure know how you feel! She captured my heart when I saw her before her Ladies Classic win. Then I hit the jackpot and got to see her win the Classic. She is, without a doubt, the Horse of the Year, and decade, as her jockey Mike says!

15 Jan 2010 8:52 PM

Well I can't stop smiling now! I feel starstruck just reading your article, haha. I'm jealous (in a good way) you met Queen Z as well as Life as Sweet, even if Her Highness didn't approve of you taking her peppermints away. ;) Thanks for this article!

15 Jan 2010 8:57 PM

I do know how you felt when you stood in front of the big Z. I had the greatest pleasure of seeing her, up close and in person, at Hollywood Park when they celebrated "Zenyatta day". Knowing she would be in the saddleing area before coming on to the track, I went down stairs and sure enough she was walking around waiting for her entrance. There were maybe 5 other people around that day, so I practically had her all to my self. She walked over to the railing where I stood, stopped and just looked at me! I was so nervous, I could hardly take her picture. My hand shook so much but I have a couple of wonderful pictures of her from that day.

My friends all knew I went to Los Angeles just for that occasion, first time at a race track in Southern California since John Henry retired. Thank you Vic Staufer for recognizing greatness from her very first race and for suggesting that Hollywood Park pay tribute to her in 2008. Like Zenyatta, you are the best.

Yes, I was there for the Breeders Cup, and went to the track both days. Standing at the rail, screaming my head off when she won. Got great pictures that day of all the big stars like Geo Ponti and Rip Van Winkle and of course Miss Z. It was my best birthday, ever.

I will remember and love Zenyatta for as long as I live and racing Gods willing, I hope to see and love her offspring as well.

16 Jan 2010 12:48 AM

What a wonderful opportunity; I am sooooo jealous.  I will say, however, the LAST critter I would ever want to see around a thoroughbred is an oppossum..

..much to viral for the horse.

16 Jan 2010 5:32 AM
Shelby's Best Pal

I loved this story.  I felt lucky getting to make the trip from Texas to Santa Anita on Dec. 26th so see Zenyatta's last parade.  As the song said, "Every step she takes is magic."  It was.  I was teary-eyed!

16 Jan 2010 10:47 AM

What a lucky gal to see two wonderful champions in one day.  I would love to see them, especially Zenyatta. I hope the farm she goes to will let visitors come to see her.  When I got to visit Alydar at his farm,I got to feed him carrots. He almost took a finger with it(my fault, too starstuck I guess!), but I would have been honored to be wounded by such a great horse. He died less than two months after that visit. I cried all day.

16 Jan 2010 4:39 PM

A big Yeeh haw!! The big mare will race again this year. I can't wait. I believe a great year of racing is infront of us. Time to get my camera out!!

16 Jan 2010 5:21 PM
Karen in Indiana

Looks like a great year of racing is shaping up!

16 Jan 2010 7:43 PM

Somethingroyal, on a personal note, I shiver a bit every time I see your name.  Besides always enjoying and respecting your posts, I just think your 'nom de plume' is a spectacular choice!  You gave yourself a lot to live up to, and you do.

Just sayin'

17 Jan 2010 12:10 AM

I have to say that I feel like this whenever I go to see Funny Cide at the KHP. I was lucky enough to see him run here at keeneland towards the end of his career. I couldn't take my eyes off of him in the paddock, and got teary eyes watching him put a show on for everyone. He didn't run well that day, but I could have cared less.....I ran to the rail to watch him come back, and cheered him on and could hardly contain myself! The one thing is.....I certaintly wasnt the only star struck person that day. The crowds gave him a roaring cheer as he cantered back, having finished well back in the pack. People cheered him as he was untacked, and given big pats by all of his people. People had crowded the paddock rail to see him in being saddled. It was if the other horses in the race failed to exsist that day, before, during and after that race, regardless of the outcome. I felt a bit silly while sitting at the horse park hall of champions watching him pose in front of everyone. I couldn't keep the tears back! I also couldn't get my camera to work using shaking hands....

17 Jan 2010 9:50 AM
mary glynn

Lucky you sounds like you had a blast, I love all horses and Zenyatta is special I am so glad that we will get to watch her run again, She has my heart win lose or draw, Dance zenyatta Dance!

17 Jan 2010 6:16 PM


Thanks for the compliment. I chose Somethingroyal out of honor to the prince she bestowed us with, the mighty Secretariat.

17 Jan 2010 9:16 PM

Speaking of "Star-Struck":

A new Zenyatta video from the same girl who did "She's a Freak".

Nicely done!

18 Jan 2010 1:58 PM
Judy G ~ Burbank, CA

Becky this is great! Lucky, lucky you!!

I have to share a story about the first time I met Ron McAnally. For those of you who don't know Ron, he trained the legendary John Henry. I have a fond attachment to John Henry.

On Big Cap Day at Santa Anita in 2007, I introduced myself to Ron who was in the signing booth for the Final Call print done by Fred Stone.

However, before I ever got the nerve to go meet Ron, I was sobbing!! Just meeting him brought out such emotions, that I even surprised myself!

I've often told people: You'd thought I met a rock star!! ;-)

His wife, Debbie, was also there. I will never forget her kind words and how sweet she was to me.

Jerry & Ann Moss remind me of the McAnallys. Big hearts.

20 Jan 2010 12:45 AM
Between Friends

Thanks for sharing your story with us. What a great experience and everyone of us reading about your visit to Queen Zenyatta felt like we were there,too.

When I was a child, we went to visit Faraway Farm and the groom allowed us to pat War Admiral. (At least we were told it was War Admiral. Learning some years later what a feisty horse he was, I wonder if it might not have been another quieter horse.) It's a great memory as your visit with Zenyatta will be.

I enjoy your blog and look forward to more this year about Queen Zenyatta.

20 Jan 2010 12:23 PM
Karen in Indiana

nonnonheinous, love the video. I've been sending links to 'She's a Freak' to friends who aren't horse people to explain why Zenyatta is special. NTRA should hire the girl that does these as a one person marketing department. She does fantastic videos.

20 Jan 2010 10:11 PM

Yep, I know that feeling. People might think we're crazy...but we aren't. When I went to meet Funny Cide at KHP, I walked very slowly up to where he had his head out the window at the end of the barn, talking to him softly, holding my hand out, with all the reverence I'd hold for the Pope. That sounds bad...doesn't it? And then he slobbered all over my hand and let me stroke his face, and I told my relatives later, "He didn't know he almost won the Triple Crown...he was humble". These horses bring out so much in us (and not just the big time ones, my uncle's claimer, our riding horses. Praise horses!). Then I met Da Hoss, who was showing off in a paddock. I wanted to rush up and give him a huge hug. So I understand how amazing it must have been to meet the Zenyatta! She has one of the most charismatic and outgoing personalities of any horse I've ever seen. Live is Sweet on the other hand, takes her own Sweet time. xD. I don't know how I'd handle meeting Rachel or Curlin. Probably faint.

21 Jan 2010 9:53 AM

You got to meet Zenyatta the best horse in the world and the 2010 "Peoples Choice as HOY" in person and to top it off Life Is Sweet the second best Filly in the world. That's what I call a great day!!  

26 Jan 2010 11:26 AM

I need to stop reading this site during my lunch break at my desk--here I am with tears down my cheeks and you all know there's really know way to explain to non-horse people what it is about these celebrity horses!

03 Feb 2010 3:43 PM
Carolyn in ND

Awesome story!  A great memory you'll have!  It dawned on me recently that I saw her make some history in Winning both Classics!  She was poetry in motion.  Thanks for sharing yor meeting with her.  Moments like that are so special!

09 Feb 2010 3:23 PM
Mike S

I have met and seen so many famous people it's unreal. Carly Simon, Michael Stipe, Jon Voight, Phyllis Diller, Mel Brooks, Desi Arnaz, Burt Bacharach, Mary Tyler Moore, Tori Spelling, Diane Lane, Josh Brolin, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, Latoya Jackson, Tobey Maguire, Dick Van Patten, Hugh Jackman (yuck), Quentin Tarantino (yuck), etc., the list just goes on.

I am almost not star-struck at all. However, when it came to getting to go to Hollywood Park to photograph and pet ZENYATTA I was thrilled beyond belief.

29 Apr 2010 1:33 PM

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