Inside a barnlike shelter, horses stand in numbered stalls as they get saddled and await their races. Then, one by one, Mark Bader checks to make sure each horse is where it’s supposed to be.
And who it's supposed to be.
For two years, Bader, 60, has served as the identifier at Canterbury Park, a job that requires him to inspect the mouth of each horse for an identifying tattoo before it races to make sure it matches what the program says. Bader, who trained horses for 35 years, used to train at Canterbury Park before coming into his current job.
Each horse has a tattoo on the inside of its upper lip, which has a letter followed by five numbers. The letter helps identify the age of the horse. Once a horse is put in a stall, moments before it makes its way to the track, Bader walks around and asks groomers to lift the lip, exposing the tattoo.
Bader isn’t allowed to touch the horses himself because of fear of cross-contamination. If a tattoo is too faint to be seen, he will then look for other identifying qualities, such as body markings and color.
His appreciation for horses was passed down from his father, who trained them, Bader said he likes being around the racetrack in whatever capacity that may be.
“There’s electricity every day,” he said. “There’s a little bit of danger in here. If you get hit with one of these horse’s legs, it’s like getting punched by a boxer with a metal plate in his glove.”