Women of Horse Racing: Do Be an Alpha Mare. Don’t Be a Queen Bee.

Marion E. Altieri Mommy's Little Horsie WriterAs the race toward the 2015 Saratoga meet reaches a fever pitch, I’m in the frame of mind to think about “Romper Room.”

Does anyone remember that show?  Miss Sandy–or whatever-was-the-name of your local hostess–instructed children, every day, “Do be a Do Bee, don’t be a Don’t Bee.”  The morality portion of the show sought to instruct children in correct social behavior–now, don’t get all crazy on me.   By “correct behavior,” and “morality,” I mean nothing Fascist, just basic manners.

No one wanted to be a Don’t Bee.  And yet, here we are–at least 55 years from when I was a “Romper Room” fan–and I’m seeing Don’t Bees all over the place in horse racing.  “Red flags all over the field,” as a friend would say.

We womyn–my preferred spelling of the word–we famale types are our own worst enemies. We don’t need men, of “society,” or corporations to hold us down.  Quit the Blame Game.

God, no.  Just put one of us at the top of the ladder, and see what happens.

Nine times out of 10, that woman at the top sits up there, breathing the rare air–and uses her stilettoes to poke out the eyes of any other females who wish to experience life in the stratosphere, as well.

The Queen Bee way of operating is very simple:  “I got here, you’re not going to.  Not if I can help it.”

This lousy way of thinking infuriates me.

“The Old Boys’ Network” long has worked to help advance young men as they strive toward their career goals.  Why is not “The Old Girls’ Network” just as famous?

I’ll tell you why: because there are far-fewer Alpha Mares than Queen Bees.

While, on the one hoof, Queen Bees are selfish, self-centered, jealous and paranoidAlpha Mares live by one mantra:  “Look out for the well-being of the entire herd.”

Now, many people see an Alpha Mare, and see an older female horse who kicks, bites and otherwise cajoles those who are weaker in ther herd, her tribe.

What they’re not seeing is the understanding in horse culture, that the Alpha Mare is their drill sergeant.  It’s her job to teach younger horses to submit, because their lives may depend on it one day.  The Alpha Mare will be the first one to recognize when a predator is approaching, or a life-threatening storm–and the salvation of her horses depends on them willingly submitting to her Wisdom, to obey her instructions to “RUN.  NOW.”

So here we are in horse racing–a sport in which many wonderful women work, every day, in virtually every job, career and vocation.

And unfortunately, we also live in a western culture that praises Queen Bee behavior and holds it up as an example to be followed.  To be a b***h is  a good thing, to too many young women.  And where did they learn that ME FIRST is the best way to run a life and a career?  Yes, of course, from older b***hes.  From Queen Bees, those womyn who’ve Made It, and refuse to do anything to help anyone else Make It, too.

Young women see this selfish behaviour–and the fruits of that poisonous tree (apparent success)–and decide that, hey, that works.

And of course, any older woman worth her salt knows that, in The Big Picture–that way of living stinks.  Eventually the Queen Bee’s “success” probably will fade and die, because really–it stinks when everyone hates you.  And what do you have then?  Only loneliness, and the mistrust and hatred of all the females whom you sacrificed in order to promote your own goals.

Horse racing needs more Alpha Mares.  Penny Chenery is an Alpha Mare–for decades, she’s looked out for the well-being of her entire herd.  She’s encouraged more females–both youngin’s and old Broads, like me–to follow our horse racing dreams.  She helped me live my vocation as a horse racing writer.  She’s encouraged thousands of women, not just me.  If she never did anything actively–she led the way by example. In the early 1970s, when women who wanted authority were mistrusted–Penny simply took the authority.  I don’t know that she thought of it as being a particularly “Feminist Thing,” I suspect that she merely saw what had to be done–and did it.

The fact that she wore a skirt wasn’t an issue here:  the simple fact was that she was Christopher Chenery’s child who loved Dad’s farm and his horses, and was determined to keep them together.  From what I’ve read and heard, her brothers didn’t care much for the horses or The Meadow–but to Penny, the place represented Life, Itself.  And the horses were those who provided the very oxygen that she breathed.

So Penny led the way, simply by living.  If she’d never done another thing, she served women who aspire to horse racing careers, just because we could read her story.  But she always has encouraged, cajoled and built up other females who are finding ourselves in this big, beautiful sport.  She always has been an Alpha Mare.  Like many other womyn, I will always be grateful to God for Penny’s influence in my Life.

But who’s on the flip side of Penny’s magnanimous Alpha Mare-ism?

I won’t name names, of course–I’m not a gossip columnist.  But I will tell you that every facet of horse racing has its Queen Bees, and if you’re a female–young or old–you need to grow the savvy to be able to identify them, and avoid like the plague.

Even in horse racing media, Queen Bees exist.  Off the top of my head, I could name five who’d slam shut the door for other females if they could.  Young, old, middle-aged–these misled females are all doing pretty well for themselves in racing media, and they’ll be damned if they’ll help YOU–or anyone else–to climb that ladder.

Or they treat other female writers/broadcasters/etc. with profound disdain–as if their disdain for what you’re doing–what I’m doing–is beneath them.  Your work is junk.  My work is useless. We aren’t them, so the things we’ve achieved mean nothing.

Of course, you do know that that’s just a silly weapon that Queen Bees utilize:  if they can knock down your self esteem–make you think that you have nothing to offer–then their work to cut you out, is cut in half.  If they can make you feel badly about yourself–your talents–your God-given abilities or your dreams–then, they know, that you will just back off, sadly, into the sunset.

Queen Bees must be very insecure, because, while their success AT their jobs does depend on their talents.  (Presumably)–once they’re up there, on the 71st Floor–they have to be paranoid, angry and cruel.  They won’t be #1, if there’s a chance that another female is just as talented, just as smart–and can replace them.  So, rather than having confidence in their own achievements and abilities, they spend inordinate amounts of time thinking about how much they hate other females, and how to assure that those others never Make It.

What a silly, puerile, sad way to live.  And yet, I see this in pockets of horse racing:  women who’ve made it–whether that’s as an administrator, owner, media pro–you name it–and whose ego apparently is so frail that its health depends on the killing of the dreams of others.

So, as Saratoga approaches, I encourage you women out there to pick a side:  If you’re petty, small-of-spirit and paranoid–grow your Inner Queen Bee.  Horse Racing doesn’t need you, but that won’t matter to you–because you’re more concerned about yourself than about helping the sport grow healthily into the 21st Century.

But if you choose to go The Way of the Alpha Mare–your rewards will be many, and frequent.  Womyn, young and older, alike, will flock to you for advice; for lively conversation and for a leg up.   If you’re an Alpha Mare, you do want to give a leg up to other women--to anyone, really, regardless of gender.  That’s what Alpha Mares do: look out for the well-being of the entire herd.

Alpha Mares want the sport of horse racing to get rid of the junk, and to usher in a new era of revived popularity.  You want to do all that you can to help make this sport beautiful, and wildly-popular again. Queen Bees, on the other hoof, seek only the best for themselves, only and always.

Do you get joy from seeing the joy of others?  Do you love horses simply because they exist-and not for how good you look, standing next to them?    Good.  Now, go out there–whether you’re at Del Mar, Arlington, Monmouth or Saratoga–and get your Alpha Mare on.  There’s a woman (or man) out there, today, who will find in you the Mentor that  you, yourself, may have lacked.

Like Time, The Circle of Life is just that:  it’s a CIRCLE.  It’s not a pinnacle, with room for only one at the top.   Someday, after they’ve grown an entire generation of selfish, self-centered Queen Bees–perhaps the “tastemakers” will turn around as they, themselves, seek an Alpha Mare to show them safely out of the woods.