By Katie Ritz
How do we market racing to the younger generation?
It seems to be the million-dollar question, but an exercise rider named Electra Boone may be nearing an answer. In just two years, Boone has reached an audience of millions on TikTok.
The assistant trainer for Palm Meadows-based trainer Carlos David posts videos on the popular social media platform showcasing her daily life on the backstretch. Today her account, @electraboone, has 150,500 followers and has received 6.4 million likes. Each of her videos receives thousands of views and some of her most popular clips have reached up to 10 million viewers.
TikTok, a short-form, video-sharing social media network, has exploded in popularity in the past year. Although known as the app for Gen Z, TikTok has over a billion monthly active users of all ages. Unlike many social media channels where a user's feed is based on the people they choose to follow, TikTok users scroll through videos created by strangers from around the globe based on a feed individually formulated by the app's algorithm.
Boone said she originally started her TikTok account to create fun videos with a friend just as the app was on the verge of popularity in the U.S.
“I got TikTok two or three years ago when it wasn't anything special,” she recalled. “I just made videos for fun. I had maybe 10 followers and was just posting videos of my dog or a random horse. My friend and I started making cool horse racing videos and we randomly had one video blow up really big and we both gained a huge following at the same time.”
Boone realized they might be on to something, so she began editing her videos further and getting more creative with her content. Soon, she had gained nearly 100,000 followers.
“I was thrown off by that because I was just doing it for fun; I wasn't trying to get attention from it,” she said.
Boone's videos range from hilarious to artistic to informative. Her audience has grown attached to some of the stable's stars, with Boone often posting progress videos on many of their trainees. One dark bay mare, Jost Sayin (Big Drama), is known as the 'Black Beauty of TikTok'.
Viewers followed the saga of Boone's favorite horse getting claimed and later returning to the David stable, but were confused by the concept of the claiming game. In response to many questions from her followers, Boone made three extensive videos teaching the ins and outs of claiming.
Many viewers ask questions based off Boone's videos and she will post response videos explaining everything from why horses wear nasal flair strips, how to wrap a leg or why a horse is hosed off before a race.
“I get a lot of questions regarding how to become a jockey,” she said. “A lot of people want to ride and they ask me about weight and height requirements because they've always been told they have to be the size of a jockey to ride, which isn't true if you just want to gallop. So I try to answer the questions on how I got started riding and the best ways to get into it and I try to steer them on the right path in that way.”
Boone had no familial connection to racing when she first started her career in the industry as a photographer at Churchill Downs as a teenager. She had ridden horses all her life and dreamed of one day becoming an exercise rider. She moved on to a job as a hotwalker and then later a groom, working for several trainers in Kentucky, New York and California. After making a trip to Dubai at the age of 17, she was ready to take the next step towards her goal.
“Dubai was a surreal, crazy experience, but when I came back I was so tired of hot walking and ponying, I just wanted to ride,” she recalled. “The man that galloped California Chrome, Dihigi Gladney, is a really good rider and runs Doug O'Neill's baby farm in California. I started breaking babies there and he taught me everything. He built my foundation as a rider.”
After six months, the racing stewards came out to the farm to give their approval for Boone to move on to the main track.
“Once I started galloping on the track, I rode for a lot of different trainers,” she said. “I went to Saratoga, which I probably wasn't ready for, but I did it anyways because I'm pretty headstrong. I rode for Todd Pletcher, Brad Cox and Jeremiah Englehart and it was really neat to see how the bigger barns work.”
A year and a half ago, Boone decided to move to Florida despite the fact that she'd never before visited the state. But the decision proved favorable when she met her boss, and now boyfriend, trainer Carlos David.
“He completely changed my form and made me a better rider. He has taught me everything,” she said.
Although Boone's TikTok influence has grown significantly since her move to Florida, she still says that she uses the social media platform to post fun, non-equine content.
“It's more of a personal account,” she said. “I don't have much of a filter and will be very straightforward with people about it. I try to be very positive on the app and shift people away from the idea that horses are mistreated. There are a lot of bad apples in the industry, but I try to show that there are a lot of good trainers out there, too.”
Still, Boone said she does receive a lot of hate and negative feedback because of her involvement in racing.
“A lot of the comments I get are super nasty because people have completely the wrong idea about the industry,” she said. “A lot of people have no idea and assume horses are slaughtered when they're done with racing. So I try to show how we re-home all of our horses to good homes and how they look now.”
She added that she has had to learn to cope with the ongoing malicious comments.
“I think the hate has gotten to me a bit,” she admitted. “I try to take a step back from TikTok because there is a lot of hate, but then I come back and bring a lot more content.”
TikTok's algorithm offers some insight on Boone's audience.
“I mostly have female followers and I do get a lot of horse people follow me,” she said. ” It's a lot of younger people, I would say mostly 14 and 15-year-olds, but I do get a lot of adults and a lot of equestrians that do show jumping and stuff like that. Everyone is super curious. From what I've gained from TikTok, I've learned there are so many people who have the wrong idea about horse racing and actually have no idea how it works. I try to inform them in that way and that's how I use my platform.”
As Boone's account has grown in popularity, she is now considered a TikTok influencer and gets paid for the videos she posts based on the number of views they receive.
“I never expected to be paid to post things that make me happy. I just post whatever I'm feeling and I get paid for it, usually like $200 a month.”
Boone offered her insight on how the industry can best bring in a new audience based on her experiences.
“I think the biggest thing is people want to be exposed to what's happening and how our days go,” she said. “I've had countless people ask me to make a YouTube channel and show a whole day of what I do. I think my race-day videos get so much attention because I'm showing every aspect from bridling the horse, getting him ready, saddling and everything else. People want to see everything to do with the horse. Racing coverage, you don't get to see much of the actual animal, but people want to really see what we do with them. Social media is huge. People want to see more videos of the backside.”
While Boone has fulfilled and surpassed her dream of becoming an exercise rider, she said she now has new dreams in the making as an advocate for the industry on TikTok.
“I'd like to take it bigger and have a more positive voice,” she said. “I'm trying to bring in younger people. That's my big thing is making that good impression about the industry on younger people.”