Youth in Action: Day at the Races

AQHYA members trade the show ring for the racetrack for a day and get a taste of life on the backstretch.

By Leigh Lepinski, Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association president
The American Quarter Horse Journal
October 28, 2013

louisiana youth day

Prior to the first race, the entire jockey colony put on their silks for a photo in the paddock with the youth, who were so anxious and excited to see their horses on the track for the first race. (Hodges Photography photo)

Gates loaded, horses tensed, muscles bunched. The next thing you know, bells are ringing, dirt is flying and hearts are pounding. Down the stretch they go, racing to the wire. 

That’s the scene that comes to mind for most when they think of the racetrack. It’s not every day you have the opportunity to see what goes on long before the horses ever load in the gate. 

During the Quarter Horse meet at Fair Grounds Race Course in New Orleans, the Louisiana Quarter Horse Breeders Association hosted Youth Day at the Races on August 31. AQHYA and 4-H members traveled from across Louisiana and Mississippi to attend this educational, yet fun-filled day and got a taste of life on the backstretch. 

The day started just like any day at the track: observing morning works. The young horsemen learned the in’s and out of morning works, starting gates, the clocker’s stand, and even got the chance to the visit barns. They received explanations of different types of equipment used, observed a farrier; discussed racehorse health with a veterinarian, then met a jock agent and jockeys. The participants were thrilled to receive their autographed goggles from the current leading rider in the nation by races won, John Hamilton. During the lunch break in the track kitchen, the youth discussed pedigrees and were taught how to read a catalog page.  

After lunch, the focus was on the “front side.” There were guest speakers, including Fair Grounds management, the racing secretary, stewards and horsemen’s services. Everyone shared information about their roles and how they became involved in racing. A guided tour was provided of the silks room, the jocks room, photo-finish booth, steward’s area, placing judges and media production.      

The first race in the program was fittingly named the Youth Day Classic, and all participants drew a horse that would be their horse for the first race. The participants had the chance to meet their trainer, jockey and horse. They were able to observe the horse being prepared for the race at the barn, then walked over to the paddock with the horses. 

Prior to the first race, the entire jockey colony put on their silks for a photo in the paddock with the youth, who were so anxious and excited to see their horses on the track for the first race. 

Indeed, it was an educational race. The first race, a horse broke through the gate, a horse scratched at the gate and at the end of the race, there was an inquiry and a disqualification. The winner was presented a trophy by the youth participant who drew that winning horse. Although the youth are involved with horses in some capacity at home, the majority of them had never been to the races. This group was so enthusiastic and eager to learn.  

Leverne Perry, LBQHA executive director, said, “This was one of our best youth days at the races. I truly believe this program is an important way to educate young people about Quarter Horse racing and the opportunities available to them in this industry.  
“It is our duty to share our collective wealth of knowledge and experience in this industry. By doing so, we are hopefully preparing the next generation to get involved in Quarter Horse racing and breeding.  

“Through our youth day at the races and our scholarship program, we are able to give back to the future of our industry.”

Opportunities abound for horse-interested kids and a new AQHYA blog, Youth in Action, is going to chronicle those ventures. Learn more about the endless prospects for young horsemen through AQHYA at www.aqha.com/youth-in-action