07/06/2017 3:43PM

Macedonio: Developing a youth entrance to Harness Racing

Harness Horse Youth Foundation

Why aren't there any competitive, youth Harness Racing leagues, circuits, or races?

I look around at every other sport and they are literally cultivating their future. Baseball has Little League, AAU, Pop Warner, etc., and the list goes on. The competition is what makes the sport attractive to the kids and keeps the kids coming . . . not starting car rides, or bouncy castles, or meeting their favorite drivers.

The Harness Horse Youth Foundation is a great educational camp and base for introducing kids, but it's not even close to being enough for the youth experience.  So for once, let's actually focus on something that we can create as an industry to cultivate our future. Let's make this idea happen, and work out the kinks. (And please read the entire thing before you start hyperventilating with negativity).

All age groups will have competitive races at a racetrack, not a county fair. They will race for purse money, but no wagering. Purse money can be $500-$2,500. Each kid and family has their own horse that they are responsible for. We want the kids working with their horses as much as possible, practicing, going to the barn, training and driving them just like they would do in any other youth sport. All horses must be at least 10 years old and retired horses will be permitted to compete.   Races will be contested at either a 1/2 mile or 5/8 mile distances depending on the track. All jog carts/race bikes will have a speed resistance setting depending on the age bracket, as to control the safety and risk of the races. 

The age groups would be as follows: 4-8, 9-12, 13-16. All jog carts can have a remote contingency resistance switch that can be activated in case of emergency.

(4-8) Group - Full resistance jog carts and a driver will sit alongside in the race to help assist

(9-12) Group - Full resistance jog cart, no driver sitting alongside

(13-16) Group - Minimal or no resistance jog carts

This idea not only helps to stimulate youth interest in the sport, but will provide older horses a new career and purpose.

We want this to emulate a professional atmosphere, not an exhibition show. These kids should feel like they are the main event and be treated like the main event. They can have their own colors, helmets, t-shirts, etc. Parents will spend stupid amounts of money to give their kid a hobby.  This is a good way to introduce everyone to our industry and give them a true idea of what our industry can be.

If we dish out some purse money, parents are more likely to gravitate towards our industry because very few youth hobbies actually give a parent a chance to earn back some of the expenses. Finally, it's widely known that all of the slot revenue will not be handed out to national marketing or promotions, but it is distributed to purses. So are you going to tell me that we can’t find $10,000-$15,000 on a race night to distribute among these youth races? Are you going to tell me that politicians aren't going to back the idea of promoting another youth hobby that will keep even more kids out of trouble while giving them a possible career path?