QHRAI Hosts Youth Racing Experience at Indiana Grand

The event took place on Saturday.

Press release

Participants in Saturday's Youth Racing Experience at Indiana Grand post in the winner's circle. PHOTO: Linscott Photography

The Quarter Horse Racing Association of Indiana (QHRAI) hosted their annual “Youth Racing Experience” event at Indiana Grand Saturday, June 30.

The program provides an extensive look at Quarter Horse racing in the state for teenagers with the opportunity to take home scholarship money at the conclusion of the program. A total of eight girls from across the state of Indiana spent the day at Indiana Grand learning about Quarter Horse racing. Their day began at 8 a.m. with morning training on the track followed by trips to the starting gate, jockey’s quarters, barns and other various departments with guest speakers explaining the work that goes into preparing horses for competition and presenting a racing program at the track.

“I really enjoyed watching the exercise riders during morning training hours,” said Gabbi Paxson of Portland, Ind. “That is possibly something I would like to do one day.”

Paxson learned about the “Youth Racing Experience” from a neighbor and family friend, Theresa Myers, who was one of the adult volunteers for the event. Paxson is currently heavily involved in eventing with her Thoroughbred, which includes a three-part series of dressage, show jumping and cross country. Quarter Horse racing is another avenue for her to consider as a profession once she graduates from high school.

Alex Kerlin of Tipton is also a horse enthusiast, participating in barrels. She learned about the program in the Barrel Horse Magazine and wanted to learn more about Quarter Horse racing.

“My family used to own some Quarter Horses that raced here,” said Kerlin. “I currently ride a Quarter Horse when I run barrels, so I wanted to attend this program.”

Those in attendance completed their day at the track with an interview and an exam on what they had learned throughout the day. Two scholarships are offered to the individuals with the top prize being $2,000 while second place will receive $1,000. The top student will also be nominated to attend the national “Youth Racing Experience,” which is part of the Bank of America Challenge each year. If selected, the student will receive an all-expenses paid trip to participate on a national level and vie for additional scholarship money. The 2018 event will be held at Los Alamitos in California in October.

“My hope is to breed Quarter Horses and run them some day,” said Natalie Dayharsh of Coatesville, Ind. “I’ve always had a Quarter Horse that is bred to race, but hasn’t been on the track. I have one off the track too and I just really like Quarter Horse racing.”

Dayharsh doesn’t have family ties in the industry, but she has become acquainted with several Quarter Horse racing enthusiasts, who also compete on the show and contest circuits in the Hoosier State just like fellow “Youth Racing Experience” attendee Krista Standeford of Atlanta, Ind.

“I’m currently barrel racing with an off the track Indiana bred Quarter Horse,” said Standeford, who will be a senior at Hamilton Heights High School. “I know Stephanie Duke from the Indiana Barrel Racing Futurity committee, so that was my connection to this program. I’m hoping to go on after high school and be a veterinarian and hoping to attend Purdue.”

The students finished up the program by shadowing four trainers who were racing during the evening program. After being recognized in the winner’s circle, the group went back to the Quarter Horse barn and watched all the preparation needed to race a horse. Trainers who assisted with the program included Tim Eggleston, Karen and Butch Yike, Tony Cunningham and Bart Sachleben.

The six students that worked with trainers at the conclusion of the “Youth Racing Experience” included Krista Standeford, Natalie Dayharsh, Tabitha Bond of Kempton, Ind., Alex Kerlin, Gabbi Paxson, and Sarah Schwieterman of Portland, Ind.

“My dad went to school with Rodney Prescott (who is Indiana’s all-time leading jockey and current top five Quarter Horse jockey),” said Schwieterman. “I heard about this event originally online and then through my friends Alex (Kerlin) and Gabbi (Paxson). It’s been a lot of fun and I learned a lot.”

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