Alex Brown, the outspoken British exercise rider who came to the states 26 years ago to ride at Fair Hill, but wound up becoming known for the social media community he fostered, is planning to ride off into the sunset.
Brown, 49, announced this week that he intends to hang up the tack and return home to his native England to pursue a full-time teaching career centered around social media.
And of social media, he became pretty expert in the subject in 2007, after Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro broke down at the Preakness, and the Internet savvy exercise rider began covering the story, blogging like mad.
After Barbaro succumbed to laminitis a year later and was humanely euthanized, Brown wrote coffee table book Greatness & Goodness: Barbaro and His Legacy which captured the horse’s rise and fall, and included in depth discussion of horse welfare and slaughter.
In this week’s Clubhouse Q&A, Brown discusses his future plans and his thoughts on horse welfare.
Q: You’ve been such a fixture in the American Thoroughbred world—you’re leaving?
It’s always been in the back of mind, at some point, to move back to England. Now is a very good time for me because I’m not locked into a full-time career. I’m going home in January for a month for some information interviews and plan to hopefully move to Cornwall by the end of the next year.
Q: Will your decision impact the social media outlets you created, such as the Alex Brown Racing Forum?
I would presume that the discussion forum will continue. My involvement with that at this point is very minimal. I read it and contribute occasionally.
From a leadership standpoint, if you’ve done some stuff, whether it’s in an organizational setting, I think it’s incumbent that whatever stuff you’ve done can persist in your absence.
You need to create a culture or a framework where it continues without you. I hope I’ve done that with the forums.
Q: You’re circumspect about your role creating communities online to discuss or become involved with horse welfare.
In what we’ve been able to do, I’ve been a smaller part than what some people would probably make out my role to be. Any successes have relied heavily on the large community of those in horse welfare, whether they’re the Fans of Barbaro, or others.
There’s a lot of people now doing a lot of cool things.
Q: Who do you think is making a difference today for the horses?
Jen Roytz, for one, and the stories she does for the Paulick report, has been great. And Caroline Betts on the west coast (who founded Southern California Thoroughbred Rescue in 2008), and Steuart Pittman (founder of the Retired Racehorse Training Project)—he comes at it from a whole different angle, it’s fantastic.
I’ve been lucky to meet a lot of great people who work with racehorses in my travels across the country, and I believe there’s an increased consciousness about the issue of horse welfare, and collectively, there’s a lot of good things occurring, despite obstacles.
Q: Now you hope to parlay your experiences here to teach young people in England the tools of social media and community building.
I’ve been teaching digital marketing, and the way that technology intersects with marketing, since 1997 at the University of Delaware, and students seem to like it. They’re into it at first because they all use social media. But as they get deeper into the class, they begin to appreciate it for how it can be utilized from a business standpoint.
And I spend a lot of time discussing building community online and I use the story of Barbaro as a case study to help explain it.
Right now we focus on Social Media, and search engine optimization, and the shift to mobile, and big data. It’s interesting stuff.
Alex Brown leaves a large community of Facebook fans and supporters, of people brought together by Barbaro, who worked doggedly to help racehorses. Off-TrackThoroughbreds.com is among the fans of Alex Brown, and we wish him the very best success on the other side of the Big Pond.
22 responses to “Barbaro author Alex Brown to return to England”
I hope he can help to stop horses in England from being hauled across borders to be slaughtered. I hope he knows that Princess Ann seems to be a advocate of eating horse meat and horse slaughter. At least with Alex being in the UK he will be a voice for the horses.
Knew this day would come eventually. Like others here, I hope to stay in touch through social media. I first “met” Alex online two days after Barbaro’s Preakness, when I was desperate for news. Many years later, I remain a proud FOB, as well as a part-owner of a horse and a mule, both born from rescued slaughter-bound pregnant mares; and am a long-time supporter and advisory board member to a wonderful horse rescue. It all started with Tim Woolley Racing and Alex and Barbaro. I have no doubt that equines in the UK are going to benefit greatly from Alex’s homecoming, and I look forward to following Alex’s new endeavors. And I am so grateful I got to meet Alex in person, thank him, and just hang out at the Mid-America Horse Rescue two years ago. A true hero!
Alex you have made the world a better place. particularly where horses are concerned. I wish you, all the very best!
Love Alex. We are so happy to have him as a celebrity guest at the RMR Fundraiser at LSP on 4/18. I guess it will be one of his last appearances. We are going to miss him. Thank you Alex for all that you do! BTW, lol, You are one of the only people I have ever heard Steve Asmussen say nice things about… God Bless You!
WE GONNA MISS YOU HERE..I GOT YOUR BOOK AND I LOVE IT, I WISH YOU THE BEST OF LUCK, AND KEEP IN TOUCH, WITH US AT WOODBINE RACETRACK..ALL THE BEST.
Add me to the list of people whose coffee was spilled when reading this news. And ditto to what Jen and the others said.
What I always like about Alex’s way of communicating is that he mixes his advocacy messages with little epistles from his position as an exercise rider. We came to know the horses he rode in the morning, and the pub he drank in, as well as the causes he supported or initiated.
I loved it when he went on his walkabout to all those racetracks and rode mornings on the road. I thought there must be a book coming from that–maybe someday!
Thanks to social media we shouldn’t be losing Alex at all, just gaining a new British-based p.o.v. Good luck, Alex, and thanks!
Thanks Alex. I first met you at the silent auction at Barbaro’s first birthday party. You have brought me to the horse world as you have so many others. I wish you well in your travels. I am sure your family is glad you are coming home. Your legacy here will carry on, the FOBs wouldn’t have it any other way.
Alex, you have absolutely changed the world for so many people who now have this wonderful connection to horses and, by extension,to other animals. Barbaro, through you, will always be in our hearts. I wish you all the best in England, my favorite place in the world. Thank you for your devotion to horses and the Fans of Barbaro.
Thank you Alex for everything you’ve done for the horses and for those who love them.
Me too, SusanA – I started following Alex’s reports about Barbaro which led me later to become interested in Zenyatta, who I still follow. She was able to have the fantastic career and retirement that Barbaro was denied, but I think he somehow felt the love of so many people who read Alex’s updates religiously and wanted him to heal and have a long life. Thank you Alex for helping us through that time and I wish you all the best in your future endeavors. And I of course bought your wonderful book!
Thanks for all you have done for the horses Alex. And for bringing together The Fans of Barbaro. Without you, we would not exist as a group. Please check in on us when you have the time. Please keep fighting to abolish horse slaughter everywhere. You will be sorely missed friend. Best of luck to you in your future plans. Thanks again for all that you have done for all horses, especially Barbaro’s legacy. He does live on in all our hearts.
I have to second what Jen Roytz posted: “what Alex has done”!
Oh what he started!!
The timing of Alex’s announcement nearly took my breath away, as there’s a particularly meaningful TB now leaving racing and getting ready to enter his next career. This horse’s new opportunity would not have occurred without Alex’s forum. I know this to be true.
Alex’s site showed us all what we can do for and with horses, how to get involved with horse rescues both nearby and across the country, how to advocate for horse welfare, and how to take action on behalf of the various state and federal bills banning horse slaughter.
Cheers! Thanks for everything Alex!
It is sad when a person you meet becomes a friend and that friend is moving away. Alex is person I can say has become my friend. I wish him the best.
“Goodness and Greatness” lies on my coffee table and will forever. It took me a long time to get through the book, as every time I started reading it I started to cry. “Barbaro” literally changed my life in 2006-07 and caused me to find my passion…. horse racing and which led me to a whole new world….of Zenyatta, Curlin, Colonel John, Rachel Alexandra, Awesome Gem, Wise Dan, Groupie Doll, and the list goes on… and Old Friends and a visit to Lexington twice a year! I could go on and on, but it all started when I began to follow Alex’s blog about Barbaro daily! Thank you Alex for your passion and love of the thoroughbred and passing it on to others! You will be missed!
It’s very nice of him to return England. Did the Queen know he’d taken it?
(This is why editors exist)
Sue, thanks. 🙂
I guess confiscation of your passport is not a viable option? On a serious note, thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you have done to advocate for the horses – the true stars of our sport. You have done so much to put the spotlight on them, as it should be. Best of luck in your new endeavors and I can understand you wanting to return home!
Your constant, illuminating eye on all things equine around the country, which informed, enlightened and inspired us, will truly be missed. But thanks and, hopefully, because of the very thing you promulgated, social media and digital information technology, you won’t be a stranger to us. Thanks for all that you have given us and for so beautifully carrying the flame of Barbaro. Safe travels.
You have made a big difference, Alex, and although you will be “across the pond”, your impact will carry on. Equine welfare has come a long way thanks to you. Best of luck to you!
Safe travels! Nothing quite as sweet as a homecoming! But you will be missed! And please come back someday! Thank you for being by Barbaro’s side and making him legendary! XOXOXOXO!
You’ve done good, Alex, nothing but good, and I’m sure you’ll continue to be a force for change no matter where you’re based. The Internet doesn’t have geographical barriers. Good luck to you!
This is definitely bittersweet to read, as our industry is losing a fearless advocate when Alex steps on that plane (I assume you’re flying, Alex – can’t see driving to England from the US being a viable option). 🙂
You’ve done so much to both educate the public and also to encourage horse lovers to be both racing fans and grassroots leaders to right the wrongs that compel them. At the same time, you elevate the sport of horse racing – that’s a tough and delicate balance to attain. I have tremendous respect for you, and hope that our paths cross again sooner than later.