Challenge: Youth Racing Experience

The Youth Racing Experience offers youth a chance to get hooked on racing.

Q-Racing Journal

Elizabeth Seeley walking hots at Prairie Meadows. PHOTO: Andrea Caudill

The youth that are selected to participate in the national AQHYA Youth Racing Experience are usually tough, dedicated people with an interest in horse racing.

Elizabeth Seely, of Auburn, Indiana, is a particularly strong example of that toughness – she had brain surgery nine weeks before the event, but still made the trip to Iowa.

Seely is very familiar with many aspects of the American Quarter Horse. Her family races some and Elizabeth herself also has a broodmare, shows and rides over fences horses. She attended the regional experience at Indiana Grand, which funneled her into the National Experience. But a few months ago, she fell while riding and had a life-changing experience.

“I don’t know quite what happened, but he went up and I went down,” she says of the accident. “We went in to (the hospital to) see if I had a concussion, and they saw a shadow.”

It was a tumor, and doctors quickly operated. She spent a few weeks recovering, but said she wouldn’t miss this event.

“This is an awesome experience,” she notes.

On her second full day at the Racing Experience, she was walking hots around the barn of Jason and Amber Olmstead.

“It’s been really great,” she said of her education. “I love how we can be hands-on, and ask questions of the trainers. You just don’t realize certain things, but you get to ask those questions because you’re right there. And they have great answers.”

She said one of her favorite experiences was the trip to Iowa State University Veterinary Hospital, where the youth were given a thorough tour.

“I want to be a vet,” she says. “So that was kind of cool to see how that worked, how vet school was and seeing how they work on the equine there.”

She is one of 12 youths selected to participate in this event, which is being held in conjunction with the Bank of America Challenge Championships at Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa. The AQHYA Racing Experience gives a hands-on introduction to the sport of racing. The youth were all mentored to trainers for several hours, and got to be involved in educational chores like wrapping legs, hot walking and grazing. The trainers who welcomed them into their barns answered questions and gave them overviews of the racing life. In addition, the youth are given tours of common backside and frontside activities that make racing happen, as well as the tour of the Iowa State Vet School.

The other youth attending the event include Alatia Babin, of Nampa, Idaho; Amber Battles, Greenbriar, Arkansas; Megan D’Andrea, Fowler, Ohio; Ali Fratessa, Wheelock, Texas; Maura Hynes, Shiloh, New Jersey; Cheyenne Isles, Dayton, Iowa; Omar Lorta, Tucson, Arizona; Katherine Meyer, Wilmar, Minnesota; Shiloh Morales, Eagle Pass, Texas; Ann Elizabeth Tebow, Piedmont, Oklahoma; and Codi Uecker, Lewistown, Montana;

“This year we have an amazing group of kids from all over the United States,” said AQHA Youth Manager Robin Alden. “It’s so neat to see them work with top trainers and be able to go from cleaning a stall to ‘oh my gosh my horse won!’ ”

These youth were picked through a nomination and application process for this all-expense-paid trip. Many of them participated in racing experience events held by their state affiliates and racetracks.

In addition to the first-hand education on racing and the racing industry, the youth competed for $6,000 in scholarships, based on their overall scores from a pre-experience notebook and the second half of the notebook completed at the experience.

The top winner from the scholarship contest was Ann Elizabeth Tebow, who earned a $3,000 scholarship. Codi Uecker was second, earning a $2,000 scholarship, and Seely was third, earning $1,000.

Race Track Industry Program Associate Coordinator Wendy Davis has attended each of the Youth Racing Experience events held since it began in 1998.

“Over the years, it has been really nice to see that this program has made a lot of difference in the lives of the youth who have attended,” Davis says. “Some of them have gone into racing, some of them have changed their careers because of what they’ve found. One student decided to change from being a lawyer to being a doctor because they worked with a vet. There are folks who are the up-and-coming of the who’s who in the racing industry, and they found racing through this program.”

The Bank of America Challenge Championships are October 18 at Prairie Meadows in Altoona, Iowa. Stay tuned to complete coverage from the Q-Racing Journal at