AQHYA Members Enjoy Unique Racing Experience at Lone Star

(November 9, 2006) - Trainer Melinda Garcia, who will saddle This Snow Is Cold in Saturday’s MBNA America Challenge Championship at Lone Star Park, was eager to participate in the AQHYA Championship Experience that got underway Thursday at the racetrack. The program gives 14 members of the American Quarter Horse Youth Association an opportunity to spend four days with a trainer at Lone Star to learn how racehorses are prepared for a major event and to see how a racetrack operates from starting gate to photo-finish camera

“I have a daughter who is in 4-H and into horses,” said Garcia, referring to her 11-year-old daughter, Jody Mendez. “And I think (the AQHYA Championship Experience) is so awesome because I hope one day she’ll be here like these girls are.”

For the program, Garcia was teamed with Cara MacDonald, a 17-year-old high school senior from Connecticut, and with Jayme Hostetter, a 17-year-old freshman at Midway College in Kentucky. The other participating trainers are Dwayne “Sleepy” Gilbreath, Bill Hoburg, Judd Kearl, Benny Pennington, Bret Vickery and Kevin Willis.

With chaperones Ward Stutz, AQHA’s director of education, member programs and youth activities, and Wendy Davis, associate coordinator of the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program, the AQHYA members are spending three mornings working with the trainers. Their full schedule includes touring Lone Star before and during the races and attending selected events of the AQHA Racing Conference.

During the first morning at the track, Garcia taught MacDonald and Hostetter to wrap a racehorse’s legs, showed them how a horse is saddled and took them to the track to watch horses break from the gate. The two AQHYA members quickly gained a greater appreciation for the sport.

“On the surface, you think you just run the horses, but it’s a lot of work,” said MacDonald, who like Hostetter participates in all-around events with their American Quarter Horses. “It’s a lot more challenging. Trainers have to be worried about a lot of different things.”

“I want to own a racehorse now,” Hostetter said. “It’s pretty cool.”

AQHYA members who are participating in the AQHA Championship Experience are Kaley Boehmer (of Waverley, Iowa), Rachel Bergren (Villisca, Iowa), Amanda Byers (Queen Creek, Arizona), Jayme Hostetter (Raeford, North Carolina), Hannah Koch (Litchfield, Minnesota), Victoria LaBelle (Springfield, New Hampshire), Cara MacDonald (Pawcatuck, Connecticut), Tony Magnusen (Perkinston, Mississippi), Noel Saenz (Eaton, Colorado), Victoria Smith-Baldizan (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma), Siina Swanson (Elbert, Colorado), Clay Thompson (Ada, Oklahoma), Sariah Tolsma (Henryetta, Oklahoma) and Dana Weiser (Wheatland, Wyoming).

Meanwhile, four AQHYA members are in the running for $19,000 in college scholarships through the AQHYA Ownership Prep Course. The program requires participants to complete a workbook with 23 sections on all aspects of American Quarter Horse racing, take a barn test with both oral and written sections, and own or lease a horse that will compete in Friday’s $15,300 AQHYA Youth Claiming Stakes. Scholarships are awarded based on their scores from the workbook and the barn test as well as how well their horse performs in the 350-yard race.

“We try to make it so they have an appreciation of what goes into (racing),” Davis said about the requirements of the AQHYA Ownership Prep Course.

Participating AQHYA members are Karissa Baumann (of Sallisaw, Oklahoma), Cooper Newcomb (Elk City, Oklahoma), Matthew Okeson (Kingwood, Texas) and Jesse Ullery (Avondale, Arizona). Their horses will face horses owned by AQHYA members David Dennison (Woodward, Oklahoma), Alyssa Johnson (Spanish Fork, Utah), and Caitlin Smith and Jeanie Knuchell (Los Alamitos, California) in the AQHYA Youth Claiming Stakes.

-- By Amy Owens

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