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Horse racing experience offers youth opportunity to learn about the industry

by Wyoming Livestock Roundup

Youth who are interested in the horse racing industry have an opportunity to learn more about the business during a three-day clinic offered by the Wyoming Horse Racing Association.

The 2015 Wyoming Youth Racing Days will be held June 26-28 at Wyoming Downs in Evanston. All expenses for the clinic including meals and lodging are paid. The youth must provide their own transportation to Evanston. The deadline for applying for this year’s event is June 22.

The clinic is mirrored after the National American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) Challenge of Champions Youth Horse Racing Experience. This event is held each year at a different track at the end of October or the first part of November. It is an all-expense paid trip that students can apply for after they complete a state or regional experience, such as the one offered in Wyoming.

Youth opportunity

According to coordinator Judy Horton, the Wyoming experience gives students a behind-the-scenes look at the state’s horse racing industry. They will learn about the routine of a “typical” day, racing or non-racing, at the racing stable.

When the students arrive in Evanston, Horton will take them to the racing office so they can become licensed. Then, they will be go to the barn early Saturday morning where they will work with the trainer assigned to them.

“They will experience whatever that trainer exposes them to,” she said.

They will see the routine from the time the first person arrives at the barn in the morning, until the last person leaves in the evening. This includes how many people it takes to run a barn, and what their specific responsibilities are.

The students will also learn about finances, especially the expenses and revenue associated with owning or training a racehorse. They will see what costs the owner pays, and what the trainer pays.

During the event, the students will also visit the test barn and the jockey room and learn about the identifier, the starting gate and the headstarter. They will watch the horses break out of the starting gate at the start of the races, and visit the mutual windows to watch people make wagers.

They will also visit the steward area where the officials judge the race and the racing office, where contenders will go to nominate the horses they want to race.

Real-world experience

“I try to give the kids as much of a duplicate of what they would see at the national challenge as I can,” Horton explained. “They will walk away with a huge understanding of how the industry works and that training racehorses is not easy. My hope is that they can apply some of the things they learn to their own equine interests, like the importance of feeding horses on time, and how to wrap the horse’s legs.”

Horton said she can take up to 15 students for the three-day experience, and they don’t have to be from Wyoming to apply.

“In the past, we have had kids from Nebraska, Montana, Idaho and Utah. We don’t really screen the kids about their knowledge of horses, but it is better if they have some experience,” she explained. “There have been kids at past clinics who didn’t have any horse experience, and they just didn’t get as much out of the program. If the student isn’t really comfortable around horses and is afraid, the trainer won’t let the youth hold the horse or wrap a leg. Racehorses have an energy level that is really high, so it is better if the students have some equine experience.”

Developing leaders

Some of Horton’s previous students who have taken this clinic have gone on to become racing secretaries, writers and involved in other facets of the industry.

Liz Lauck, who is now a freelance public relations consultant and farmwife, was a student in the Wyoming Experience about 12 years ago. Horton encouraged her to apply.

“I was accepted to attend Wyoming Downs for an immersion experience in the horse racing industry,” Lauck explained. “Later, I was accepted to represent Wyoming at the MBNA Championship Challenge in Los Alamitos, Calif.”

“During both programs, I worked with trainers and learned from professionals in the horse racing industry. It was a wonderful experience and something any young equine enthusiast would benefit greatly from,” she added.

Horton said many Wyoming youth have been selected for the AQHA Challenge of Champions Youth Horseracing Experience after completing the state experience.

Students who want to attend the national event have to first qualify by completing a workbook that is similar to a test. Only a handful of these students will be selected for the national program from those who attend a state or regional program.

“It is quite an honor to be selected,” Horton said.

Those students will also be eligible for college scholarships given by the AQHA.

For more information about the 2015 Wyoming Youth Racing Days, or to obtain an application, Horton can be reached at 307-331-0747 or by email at

Gayle Smith is a correspondent for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to

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