Can you imagine what Elise Reed’s mom and dad thought the day she walked out of grad school and began breaking babies at Pin Oak Farm?
She doesn’t have to imagine, she knows.
Reed was two years into graduate work in molecular genetics when she walked out of a final exam. “I walked out, never went back and have never regretted it,” she said outside her barn at Canterbury Park this week.
Reed’s father was a psychiatrist and her mother had a law degree. Riding horses, or doing anything with them for that matter, was not something they thought of as a career.
“They told me you can’t make a living with horses,” she said. “They’re still telling me that and they’re probably right.”
Not that Reed intends to follow her parents’ advice any time soon and begin a search for “gainful” employment. After all, she’s not just a horse trainer. She’s also licensed, in Oklahoma anyway, to perform chiropractic on horses _ and people.
“I’ve looked into it, maybe I’ll get licensed here next year,” she said.
In the meantime, she has 11 racehorses to train, feed, nurture and race in Shakopee this summer
“All but one of them are ours,” she said. “That shows you how stupid we are.”
Reed’s husband, Scott Garrison, meanwhile, is home in Tahlequah, Okla., minding the cattle, broodmares and other horses on a 200-acre spread. Tahlequah is the Cherokee Indian “home base,” as Reed put it, “the end of the Trail of Tears.”
Reed grew up in Fredericksburg, Va., and is quite familiar with the grounds where the famous battle of the Civil War took place. “We used to ride our ponies through Battlefield Park and jump over the picnic tables,” she said. And right past the monument erected there to Stonewall Jackson, the hero of the battle of Fredericksburg. “I’ve been riding horses my entire life.”
Reed earned a degree in biology at the University of Virginia and started her graduate work at the University of Kentucky. Just too many horses nearby, apparently, for her to stay focused on genetics.
“I guess I’m the drop-out, the black sheep,” she said. “I couldn’t stand doing the research I was in,” she said. “I’ve always been involved with horses so I went and got a job. All I ever really wanted to do was ride horses.”
She has been riding plenty of them recently. She galloped nearly the entire barn the other morning, although her assistant, Mike Mitchell, is able to gallop once again after healing from an injury.
Reed is training at Canterbury for the first time, drawn here, she said, by all of the good things other horsemen have consistently told her about the place, how the backside is kept up and horsemen are treated well by management. “Randy Oberlander (a Canterbury trainer) and the fellow who gallops for him told us about this place. I’m very happy here,” Reed said. “You can sure tell that this place was put together by and is run by horsemen.”
She isn’t able to say that about other tracks where she’s trained. “Not many places have anyone in management who’s a horsemen or knows something about horses,” she added.
Reed has been involved in racing since 1989. She eventually moved from the farm to the racetrack and has been there pretty much since, although she started back to school to learn chiropractics in 2000. “I was 17 years older than everyone else,” she said. “But you get kind of beat up on the track, always hurting, and my back was hurting.”
Reed needed a chiropractor herself and after seeing one learned that the science could be applied to horses as well. So it was back to school, this time in the Chicago area.
Once finished, she gave the practice a try.
“I tried practicing on people for a while,” she said, “but I’m not good at the business end of it.”
So, her attention is squarely focused on horses and the business of racing.
It’s what she’s wanted for as long as she can remember.