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  • Writer's picturedinasutherland

Let the Racing Season Begin!

Well, it is that time of year. We are settled in at beautiful Evergreen Park in Grande Prairie, AB and in less than one week’s time the first race of the season will begin. There are so many questions to be answered. Will all our hard work in spring training pay off? Did we buy the right horses in the fall? Are the horses as fast as we think they are as we race ourselves around the training track? Do we have enough budget to get us through the entire racing season? Is this the year we win the big one?

This time of year, drivers and their families are eager, exhausted, anxious and inquisitive–eager to get on the road and have the race season start, exhausted from the long training days in the snow, mud, and rain, and anxious and inquisitive to know if this is the year that all their hard work pays off and they win the big one.

We have spent the last few days preparing and packing to hit the road, driving to Grande Prairie (a seven-hour drive) and then unpacking everything, all while still training and taking care of over 30 head of horses.

What does this look like you ask? It means you pack about 50 laundry baskets of stuff that you just have to have on the road, into the holiday trailer (I never have enough closet space…, but in my defense, remember that we race in Alberta and we could have four seasons of weather in one summer; that is a lot of clothes to pack!). I also found it interesting that the High-tech Redneck (aka Mark) needed to pack four cowboy hats when he barely wears one. Anyway, you also make sure you have enough hay and oats to feed about 30 head of horses. You have to make sure the horse liner and semi are all serviced and ready to hit the road, plus all of the other trailers and trucks. You need to have enough drivers for all of the vehicles and equipment you plan to haul. How many vehicles? One semi truck (driven by Mark), one horse trailer (driven by Dina), two holiday trailers (one for us and one for the crew), one wagon trailer and possibly the Bobcat trailer to make the work a little bit easier on the road. Yup, that is at least FIVE vehicles on the road for the Mark Sutherland Racing Team. Anyone want to be our fuel sponsor for the year? 😊

What else is there to pack? Harness, brushes, hoof picks, ladders, portable fence (rope and posts), fence pounder, shoeing equipment, medicine, buckets, pitch forks, rakes, generators, endless amounts of water hose and extension cords, wheelbarrows, tarps, feed tubs, water tubs, feed and straw, the mixer for the feed, tools for repairs (there is always something that needs fixed), multiple types of boots for the horses, racing jackets, cowboy hats, saddles, saddle pads, bridles, extra bits, collars, racing lines and of course don’t forget the duct tape — it can fix anything! Now do you see why we are tired?

Even though we are tired, it is an exciting time of year. When we get everything packed and that train of vehicles head down the driveway I always start singing (sorry Brooke – she had to ride with me and listen) “On the Road Again.” It is a great theme song and an exciting time when we hit the road.

The barn set up at Evergreen Park in Grande Prairie, AB.

Our holiday trailers are our homes away from home and the first time you set it up for the season and sleep in it on that first night still feels like when you were a kid going camping for the first time. I love my holiday trailer so much I keep telling Mark that we could sell it all and live on the road. Needless to say, I haven’t quite convinced him this is a solid plan.

Moving days are always exhausting. Not only do you have to pack all of that stuff mentioned above, but when we get to our destination, a seven hour drive to our first show, you have to unpack it all, unload the horses, set up the corrals and barn and then get the horses ready for bed. It is a long day!

So, what have we been doing to get ready for the first race meet of the year? By this time of the year we have been training every day for about 60 days. There are no days off when you are taking care of animals. On training days, we usually start by 8:00 am in the barn, turning the horses out or truck training (our way of providing the horses their cardio workout), getting the barn ready so the boys can come in for lunch, driving a few outfits in the afternoon and then getting the barn ready again for supper. Did I mention we put 23 horses in the barn this spring? Which, ironically is the least we have had in our entire career. That is a lot of sh** to shovel, a lot of horses to brush and a lot of oats and hay consumed. I laugh because I cook supper for 23 horses and roughly 10 humans each night.

Don’t forget that the preparation for this season started last fall when we traveled to race tracks all across North America to buy the prospects. Mark watches horses all summer long; he tracks certain blood lines and analyzes their race records to see if they are a fit for our team. When the horses come home, depending on the fall we are having, they may go into training that fall or given time off to rest up and get ready for the spring. This is why we feel a bit anxious. Did we select the right horses? Do we have the right players in the right position? Are they going to be as fast as they feel when we are racing on the training track (everyone thinks they are fast racing by themselves)? Is everyone going to stay healthy all summer long? What unexpected costs are going to pop up this season?

All settled in at Evergreen Park in Grande Prairie, AB in our home away from home.

There are a lot of unanswered questions heading into that first race of the season and only time will tell. Wish us luck!

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