Donna Barton Brothers – Inside Track

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I’m always looking for interesting riders to question about their riding habit and when I saw a recent article about Donna Barton Brothers I thought, of course, I totally want to know what she wears while riding! I whisked off an email to her via her website and hoped for the best. She responded with a polite decline, claiming she just wears “normal clothes” so it wouldn’t be interesting. Once I got over the excitement that she actually responded, I replied with a persistent “yeah but…” and a flurry of questions about the tack she uses and the gear she surely needs for doing her job. She always looks great, comfortable and camera ready; besides years of experience, I wanted to know if she had any tricks and secrets for staying balanced and getting the interview of the moment in the midst of so much action.

HRH: Yes, you are so right, you wear “normal” clothes and look great.  I was thinking your “must haves” might be more about your tack, helmet, boots, etc.  I’m always wondering, “why the goggles”?  Have you ever needed to use them? DBB: Habit. I started wearing a helmet when I started galloping horses at the track back in 1984 and, yes, I needed them then because I would work horses in the morning (breezing them at something near race speed) and needed goggles. And then, of course, needed them riding races. Do I need them for what I do on tv? Absolutely not. Would I feel naked without them? Absolutely. 

HRH: You are in a western saddle, is that dependent on the horse or is it yours and can carry all that you might need? DBB: Generally speaking I am riding someone’s “pony horse”, the term we use at the track for saddle horses that accompany the Thoroughbreds to and from the track in the morning and to the starting gate in the afternoon. Most of these saddle horses are ridden in a western saddle and when I borrow the horse the saddle comes with them. I don’t even own a riding saddle anymore.   

HRH: You have a bag hanging on the saddle, same bag every time?, is it for emergency personal equipment or your audio visual equipment? DBB: My “saddle bag” is a make-shift crossbody bag that I’ve fashioned into a saddle bag. When I’m on a horse I have a microphone, a racing program, our show’s production format, usually a couple of other relevant notes, a pen and, of course, peppermints for my horse! Sometimes I even have my phone with me. Since I can’t hold on to all of these things and, simultaneously, ride my horse, I needed a saddle bag.

HRH: You have a camera mounted to your helmet, typical go-pro or NBC Sports issued camera and does it create an unbalanced situation with the helmet? DBB: This is NBC’s “lipstick cam” and comes with a full motor/battery pack. Anytime I’m wearing the helmet cam I’ll also be wearing a “fanny pack” with a rather fat cable that runs from the camera to the motor in the fanny pack. I never even notice the camera as it is very lightweight but the motor in the bag can run very hot and on hot days is very noticeable.

HRH: Is there any other special equipment you rely on? DBB: Yes, I sew buttons into the insides of my pant’s legs—one at the inside seam and one at the outside seam at the very bottom of my pants. I had a special strap made, about 6” long, that has a button hole on each end. I use this “equipment” to keep my pants legs down while riding. Nothing more uncomfortable (or sloppy looking!) than having a pant’s leg half way up your leg while riding.

HRH: Any other special adjustments you make while on horseback to conduct the on track interviews? DBB: Yes, I have to ride right handed when interviewing. Like most riders, I was taught to ride left handed (presumably from the working horse days when a farm hand needed his/her right hand free to do the farm work) so I have to make a conscious effort to get the microphone into my left hand and the reins in my right hand before interviewing (the rider is almost always on my left side). One time I rode up next to the rider and asked a question before realizing, as I went to extend the microphone to the rider for his answer, that the microphone was in my right hand. My transition was just a bit awkward. 

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