Day At The Track

The "Hands on Horse Program" review

04:04 PM 21 Jan 2015 NZDT
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Fan petting Hollywood Ham at Grand River Raceway Debi Moran-Obrien giving fans rides at Dresden Raceway Stacey Reinsma giving a fan a ride at Leamington Raceway
Fan petting Hollywood Ham at Grand River Raceway
Debi Moran-Obrien giving fans rides at Dresden Raceway
Stacey Reinsma giving a fan a ride at Leamington Raceway
The double-seated jog carts of the Hands On Horses Program racked up a ton of miles during the 2014 season thanks to a variety of events at racetracks and functions across the province.

Thrill seekers literally lined up when given the opportunity to jog a horse in those carts in what turned out to be a record-breaking year for the program. Ten racetracks hosted a total of 23 'Wanna Drive' events, with more than 1,200 fans hopping in the jog cart for a tour of some of Ontario's popular ovals.

The program, which is administered by the Ontario Harness Horse Association and funded through the Pari-Mutuel Tax Reduction funds allocated to the Ontario horse people, also branched out beyond race nights at the tracks thanks to a variety of special events which included a radio broadcast from a retirement community, an equestrian parade down the main street of Elora, a corporate team building event, a youth day camp, Fall Fairs and an open house at Grand River Raceway.

"We had terrific turnouts at each of the events this season, and the reaction from the riders was awesome," said Stacey Reinsma, program administrator for the Hands On Horses Program. "Children, parents, grandparents - they all showed up through rain or shine to take their turn at the lines."

"One of the best parts were all of the inquiries from people asking where the next event was going to be so they could return and bring more of their friends and family members," added Reinsma. "With so many of the tracks coming on board to host events and working with us to establish a schedule it was easy to direct people to those upcoming events. It's a great way to expose new fans to the excitement of horse racing."

"It is so enjoyable to share in that unbridled joy and excitement that an individual experiences the first time that they sit behind a racehorse", stated Ontario Harness Horse Association General Manager Brian Tropea. "This program provides an extremely positive memory of the racetrack and hopefully encourages those fans to make return visits to the tracks."

Thousands of photographs were taken over the course of the season at the 'Wanna Drive' events, and those photos were extremely popular. Many participants took their own mobile phone photos and shared those on their social media pages.

"We handed out business cards to direct fans to our social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook so they could retrieve their photos to share with their friends and family members," said Reinsma. "It was another great way to create added exposure to the program and to the province's racetracks. In addition to the word of mouth advertising that is stimulated through this experience we were able to offer another platform for the participants to share their unique opportunity.

"One family that visited Flamboro Downs for an event did so because of a request from their son," added Reinsma. "He had been to an earlier event, and wanted the chance to do it again. His mom and dad were quick to honour the request and they all thoroughly enjoyed the experience. It's important to make a lasting impression to visitors, and it's equally important to be able to tell them when and where our upcoming events will be. The management and staff of the racetracks we visited last season did a great job in getting the word out, and we can't thank all of the volunteers enough for all of the hard work they did in ensuring our guests had a great experience."

The Hands on Horses Program is looking forward to 2015. 'Wanna Drive' events have already been scheduled for January 31st, February 21st and March 21st at 6:00PM at Flamboro Downs. Visit our website for more information and to view pictures of the events.

Stacey Reinsma

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