I’ve talked to several Hall of Fame jockeys and trainers along the way as well as other people connected with the horse business, and in my experience, most horse people are very happy to help a writer out, especially when it comes to a horse that was really special to them. If you’re in the position of needing to talk to someone, a few courtesies can make the whole process easier and keep people willing to provide you with information:
1) If you make a contact in written form (mail, e-mail, text), introduce yourself and explain why you’re trying to make contact. Be specific about what information you’re wanting and for what purpose. If you’re wanting to set up a time for a phone call or videoconference; say so; if you’d be happy to have your questions answered by e-mail or letter, specifically offer those as options. Try to make it as easy and convenient as possible for the other person to provide what you need.
2) If you contact someone by phone and you haven’t already set up an appointment for the call, introduce yourself up front and your purpose for calling. Then ask, “Is this a good time for you?” If the other person says “no,” see if you can set a time to call back that will be more convenient, and be sure you let your potential source know how long you think it will take to discuss the needed information.
3) Don’t ramble, and don’t get personal. Stick to the business that you’re trying to conduct.
4) Always express appreciation for being allowed contact, and say “thank you” in closing. This person’s doing you a favor—be grateful.
5) Never betray a confidence. If someone tells you something on the understanding that it won’t be made public, honor that understanding and don’t quote the information or gossip about it. And if you have contact information for someone, don’t pass it on without getting the owner’s permission first.
6) If you have permission to quote, be sure and cite your source properly.
Ultimately, it’s a matter of the Golden Rule—treat others as you would like to be treated if the situation were reversed. Be known for courtesy and professionalism, and chances are, you’ll have better luck getting what you need. And maybe you’ll even make a friend or two along the way!