If you’d happened to turn on the Discovery Channel on Nov. 30, you would’ve seen something very familiar to any horseperson—manure.
That’s right, the TV show “Dirty Jobs” visited the Kentucky Equine Research facility in Versailles, Ky., and spent a day with the staff there.
Research farm manager Jilanne Lange was the main guide for Mike Rowe, the star of “Dirty Jobs,” as he explored different tasks in the research barn. She’s a fan of the show and wasn’t offended at all that her job might be considered a bit less than clean.
“We think it’s kind of dirty, too! But compared to some of the other stuff he does on that show, it’s pretty tame,” Lange said. “It’s more the odor afterwards that makes ours a dirty job, and you can’t really capture that on film!”
Rowe assisted with manure and urine collection and sample preparation, and also with less unsavory jobs such as a treadmill test. Lange, then-intern Catherine Whitehouse and KER veterinarian Bryan Waldridge all participated in Rowe’s adventure.
Rowe gladly joined in for all kinds of tasks, and truly wasn’t afraid to get his hands, well, dirty.
“We just filmed multiple horses as far as changing nappies and collecting poo, and then in the editing they chose which one worked the best. We had three horses in nappies, so we filmed him doing all three,” Lange said. “He did end up spilling urine all over himself once. I was kind of surprised they didn’t put that in there.”
“I’ve been watching the show for years, so I thought it was great they were coming here,” said Waldridge. “One surprise was how nice everybody was—Mike Rowe and the whole crew. They were really fun people. The way they are on the show is really how they were in person. He’s just a nice, normal guy. He goes out of his way to make sure people feel at ease around him.”
A Sense Of Humor Is A Necessity
“Dirty Jobs” is known for its casual and funny approach to the day’s tasks, with Rowe cracking jokes constantly. “He’s pretty much the same in person as you see him on camera. He’s an instigator and a joker,” said Lange.
One of the funniest moments didn’t make it onto the final edit of the episode, according to Lange. At one point, they put the “Dirty Jobs” sound engineer—carrying all of his equipment—on the treadmill and turned it on.
“We quizzed him on horse trivia, and if he got the answer wrong, we turned up the speed on the treadmill,” Lange said. “He actually did pretty well with the answers. We asked questions about Thoroughbred racing like what the average height of a Thoroughbred is, or who won the Kentucky Derby this year. Some weren’t racehorse questions, just general horse questions.
“They seem like they have a lot of fun making the show. They’re always laughing in the background. Working with them was great because they have so much fun together,” continued Lange.
KER had been submitted to the Discovery Channel as a possible target for “Dirty Jobs” three years ago, and they got the call in April that they’d been chosen as a dirty destination. Rowe and the “Dirty Jobs” crew traveled to the KER facility in mid-July, unfortunately on one of the hottest days of the year.
The “Dirty Jobs” crew was only comprised of about eight people, in addition to Rowe. “I thought there’d be a big truck for all their equipment, and people everywhere, but they came in a mini-van and an SUV, and all their stuff was with them. I thought they’d have a lot more equipment, but pretty much whatever they carried on their back is what they used,” said Waldridge.
Just Act Natural
Lange was initially a bit reluctant to be filmed on camera, but once the day was underway, she adjusted to the cameras and extra people. “It’s just a little intimidating to have a camera right next to your face while you’re trying to pretend it’s not there,” she said.
Waldridge, on the other hand, enjoyed himself immensely. “I don’t mind acting stupid, so I was fine with it all!” he said.
Despite the light-hearted tone of the day, there was a focus on the serious science. Rowe always makes sure to highlight the true value in whatever dirty task he’s accomplishing. “They make a genuine effort to talk to people, and what impressed me was that they wanted to make sure that they showed the science part of it. They want to make it educational as well as entertaining. I was impressed that it’s about more than getting a bunch of manure all over you,” Waldridge said.
Rowe and the crew filmed from 7:30 in the morning until about 6 in the evening, but the fun didn’t stop then. The KER staff hosted a barbeque for the “Dirty Jobs” folk that went on until 10 p.m.
“If you drink with Mike Rowe, he’s even funnier!” Waldridge said. “[KER founder and president] Dr. Pagan went out and got about a dozen different types of bourbons, and Mike and most of the crew tried every one of them.”
KER didn’t have a viewing party for the premiere of their “Dirty Jobs” episode, so Waldridge watched at home with his wife. “I didn’t look as fat as I thought I would, and it was fun to see,” he said.
“When it aired, I kind of watched it by myself in my house, covering my face. They did a great job of keeping the fun stuff in but also keeping what we do the focus of it,” Lange said.
“I’m glad people can see what KER does. I think a lot of people know the company’s name, but they don’t know exactly what we do. It was a good way for people to take a peek at what we do every day,” she continued.