As one of two head outriders for the Maryland Jockey Club responsible for keeping order on the racetrack, Kaymarie Kreidel has to be mounted on a horse that is alert but calm.
But Kreidel has a secret weapon that helps keep the eight horses in her stable relaxed and entertained — a knee-high, fuzzy critter with a tan stripe on his back and the longest, softest ears imaginable.
Meet Butterscotch, a four-month-old Nigerian dwarf goat.
“Being an outrider is a really demanding job — not just for me, but the horses,” Kreidel said.
“I rotate them in and out, and I have four horses working the tracks at all times. Goats don’t get rattled and spooky like horses do. When my horses get upset, he just looks at them like, ‘What are you doing that for?’ and he’ll walk right between their legs. All eight of my horses just love him. Butterscotch calms them down.”
If you tune in for the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, chances are that you’ll see Kreidel or her co-head outrider, Lisa McKlveen, running operations on the track with to-the-second precision. It’s the outriders who are responsible for leading the horses to the gate and (for the biggest races) escorting the first-place finishers to the Winners’ Circle. They also capture occasional runaways before they can hurt themselves or anyone else and strive to start the race on time — a matter of critical importance to NBC, the network broadcasting the event.
That’s more of a challenge than non-racing fans might think. Horses are large, powerful and easily frightened. They know when they’re about to race, and just like their riders, their nerves are on edge in the moments before the gate springs opens.
One stallion or another is forever acting up — either attempting to break out of line or rearing at the gate. The race can’t start until every horse in the field is enclosed in a metal stall, settled and with all four hooves on the ground.
“The Preakness is supposed to start at 6:05 p.m.,” Kreidel said with obvious pride. “The latest we’ve ever been is when the race started at 6:05 and 32 seconds.” (Post time for this year’s Preakness Stakes is 6:45 p.m.)
Though Butterscotch is never at the park himself, he does his part by keeping his stablemates — both two- and four-legged — loose.
Kreidel bought Butterscotch when he was an 8-week-old kid, and said she soon realized that he shared certain traits with human toddlers.
“He’s kind of a cross between a dog and a child,” Kreidel said. “He wants to be the center of attention at all times. He gets jealous like a kid and throws tantrums like a kid. Whenever I sit down, he tries to crawl into my lap.”
Though Butterscotch is on friendly terms with all the horses, Kreidel said he has two favorites. He likes to play head-butting games with Wolf Trap, a 6-year-old bay thoroughbred gelding and a former race horse.
“When Wolf Trap has had enough, he’ll nip Butterscotch gently on the top of his head,” Kreidel said. “He knows to go away then and play with someone else.”
And Butterscotch sleeps curled up next to Styles, a 17-year-old bay thoroughbred gelding and former race horse, and the most laid-back equine in Kreidel’s stable.
“Butterscotch likes to eat the hay and oats that I put out for the horses,” Kreidel said. “I’ve seen my ponies nudge some of their food on the stall floor so Butterscotch can get to it. He is the barn mascot.”