SARATOGA SPRINGS, N.Y. — Foal Patrol’s second season broke out of the starting gate in exciting fashion Friday, as kids from throughout the area enjoyed fun and games during a National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame open house.
Launched in December 2017, Foal Patrol gives fans a live view of broodmares during the entire foaling process, right up to and including births, through a series of webcams at participating farms.
More than a million people worldwide visited the website this year, and even greater outreach is anticipated in 2019.
“In season two we’re focusing on children’s education,” said Kate Johnson, Museum and Hall of Fame acting director. “So our website has a new component where we teach children about anatomy, pedigree, nutrition, aftercare – all things that go into the breeding and foaling process.”
Such lessons were also made available Friday with activities throughout the museum, including the Horse Play Interactive Gallery, where kids learn how to shoe a horse, dress like a jockey, and see what horses eat.
Kathleen Tomaski, of Saratoga Springs, attended the open house with her young daughters, Meghan and Beth.
“It’s great to have events like this, especially over vacation time,” Tomaski said. “We love the track during the summer so I thought this was a great way they could experience it a little bit in winter. The girls love the horses best, of course, but they’re enamored with everything in this museum, from the trophies to the pictures and they love the kids’ area, too. To have it in our backyard is wonderful.”
In the Hall of Fame Gallery, Maria Mangini taught children how to create a horse using Wacky Noodles. Kids could also pretend they were riding a champion stakes winner on a small rocking horse.
Debbie Pratt of Ballston Spa accompanied her 5-year-old son, Aiden, to the event.
“We go to the track a lot, but we’ve never been to the museum and thought we’d check it out,” she said. “Today was a perfect opportunity. We like to make sure we’re taking part in all the local things.”
Two-year-old Daphne McMahon was fascinated by a touchscreen exhibit that shows a horse’s skeletal structure.
“This is a great introduction for kids,” said her father, Ryan McMahon, the Saratoga Springs City Center executive director. “It’s a way to make it interactive and reach out to kids in a way they can understand. Being in Saratoga, we just want to learn more about horses and the racing industry.”
In addition to broodmares, the second Foal Patrol season also features Godolphin Racing’s well-known stallion, Frosted, runner-up, of the 2015 Belmont Stakes and winner of the 2016 Met Mile and Whitney Handicap. He’s stabled at Jonabell Farm in Lexington, Ky.
“We’re going to be showing live Frosted viewing throughout the day, his feed schedule and a little bit of his grooming and paddock time,” Johnson said. “Godolphin has allowed us to link to their website as well.”
In addition to Foal Patrol, the Museum and Hall of Fame is halfway toward its goal of raising $20 million for a new Education Experience scheduled for completion by the 2020 Saratoga meet.
The highlight is a 360-degree immersive theater that celebrates the spirit of thoroughbreds, starting as young colts and fillies on breeding farms, continuing on through their careers as champion racehorses.
Plans also call for new digital Hall of Fame plaques that will include an in-depth multi-media look at the lives and careers of each human and equine inductee.
“The museum is alive again,” said its president, John Hendrickson. “We’ve worked very hard with the staff and board to make sure this museum is relevant and growing. The National Museum of Racing is so important to our industry. I want to make sure we do it proud. We want this to be the best sports Hall of Fame in the country, a destination for everyone who loves racing.”
“We want people to get goosebumps, cry and pull out their money to donate,” he said, smiling.