The Harness Racing Youth League Camp
On Sunday, 10 August 2008, the 2008 Harness Racing Youth League Camp came to an end, and all the horses involved in the Harness Racing Youth League were being prepared to travel to Versailles where they spend the off season resting at Brittany Farms before being called into service again for the 2009 Harness Racing Youth League Camp. The summer camps, which are hosted by the Harness Horse Youth Foundation, are as fun as they are educational, with two levels available to teach children about the sport of harness racing and all aspects of the industry.
The camps that were held on the 2008 summer schedule included Odds On Racing in Illinois (18-22 June), Harrington Raceway in Harrington (29 June – 3 July), Vernon Downs in New York (6-10 July), The Meadows in Washington (13-17 July), Indiana Downs in Indiana (21-25 July) and The Red Mile in Kentucky (7-10 August). The Red Mile camp was for level two participants, while the rest were for level one. Level One camps are for children aged eleven to thirteen and Level Two is for participants between the ages of fourteen and sixteen. Ellen Taylor, executive director of the Harness Horse Youth Foundation, started hosting the summer camps nine years ago, and they have already seen approximately seven hundred children participate over the years. This year, there were almost sixty parents and kids attending.
During the Level One training of the Harness Racing Youth League Camp, children are taught the basic horse care skills and riding lessons are given. This gives them the foundation of the harness racing industry and each day, new activities and skills are added, but the most exciting part for participants is learning how to drive. Level Two addresses the older youth who have driving experience, and assists them in enhancing their knowledge and skills acquired during their previous training and educates them on the job opportunities and various sectors within the industry.
The big event for 2008 was the Harness Racing Youth League Camp race, which took place over a distance of a half mile, on the Red Mile, and drivers were cheered on by supportive spectators. Drivers, representing the different camps, included race winner Lauren Miller driving experienced Justaway, Sam Frarey, Taylor Davis and Eric Davis. The camps are not only enjoyed by the children and parents, but lasting friendships and bonds are formed. Many children attend each year or assist with the camps; even though they have moved on to begin carving their own careers in the harness racing industry. The Harness Racing Youth League is a marvelous initiative that continues to grow every year.