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Barn Rat: Scenes from the Backside

Katrina Cramer, University of Nebraska - Lincoln


Barn Rat: Scenes from the Backside examines the world of horseracing from an insider's perspective, exploring that culture as a reflection of both family life and a microcosm of the larger world, then and now, where animals function both as a form of connection and as a commodity, expressing our most profound beliefs, and manifesting our darkest dreams. Barn Rat examines the less glamorous elements of Thoroughbred horse racing, attempting to both render the horse racing world of the average horseman, as well as to illustrate the range in lifestyles the sport attracts. The book focuses on the backsides of the three tiers of race courses, from the backside of Pimlico on the day after the Preakness Stakes, to the long cool summers at Minnesota's Canterbury Downs, to the underprivileged tracks on the rural Nebraska racing circuit. Barn Rat spans both time and place as it addresses the disappearance of the "middle ground" in thoroughbred racing. Using history, interviews, and personal accounts of the last twenty-five years, Barn Rat reveals the changing world of horse racing as race tracks and the ideologies of those who inhabit them continue to transform. Most notably, the book works around the most common landscape of horse racing, the "backside," and the lives of those people, specifically trainers and workers, who live and breathe the sport. The focus is on primarily trainers because of my own experience in observing my father, my brother and now my uncle, but also because trainers embody the true passion of the sport. They have the most to lose and gain at any given occasion. The "barn" functions as its own microcosm of American culture, and these chapters address universal themes such as: gender roles, man/horse relationships, animal and human ethics, disparity, family, class and racial tension, deviance, interdependency and survival, greed, power, aging, and coming of age.

Subject Area

Literature|American literature

Recommended Citation

Cramer, Katrina, "Barn Rat: Scenes from the Backside" (2007). ETD collection for University of Nebraska - Lincoln. AAI3252827.