Photo credit from left to right:
Photo 1 and 2 taken in Nipawin, Sask. by Kara; Photo 3 & 4 taken in Invermay, Sask.: Photo 5 taken in Porcupine Plain, Sask. by Lorelle.
HorseOwnerToday had the opportunity to interview Blair Braaten. She is an accomplished chariot and chuckwagon driver (or is the term driverette?). Her positive attitude and humour are obvious, and the fact that she is a fierce competitor.
She just "likes to go fast" and be safe.
1) Blair, tell HorseOwnerToday.com about your journey into the chariot and chuckwagon racing world.
I am a 3rd generation wagon driver, so I guess you could say I was born with racing in my blood. My journey into the racing world began when I was 8 months old being hauled to the stands in the stroller to watch the races. As I got older I was able to help with little things like doing up the harness, taping the tugs, and holding the lines. Soon I was old enough to start driving a chariot (2 horses) for practice at home in the field. At age 15 I started racing chariots competitively. After 5 years of racing chariots I picked up the wagon lines. I still love racing just as much today as I did when I first started 9 years ago.
2) HAVE YOU EXPERIENCED RESISTANCE FROM YOUR COMPETITORS BECAUSE YOU ARE A WOMAN?
I have experienced very little resistance from my fellow competitors because I am a female driver. There is the odd person or two who don’t believe girls should be competing in the sport, but the majority of the drivers are very supporting and encouraging…. Even when they do get beat by a girl!!!
3) WHAT CHANGES HAVE YOU SEEN IN THE CHARIOT AND CHUCKWAGON RACING IN THE PAST 5 YEARS?
Previously each club had their own measure. Horses were measured with a bar that would have to pass over the horses wither in order for them to be eligible to run. Now horses are measured with a laser system (a beam of light that travels from a stationary tripod). It is standard across Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Alberta at 58½ inches so now if your horse is branded you can go run in any club. The other changes are: number of lady drivers has increased, as well as the youth participation.
4) WHAT CHANGES DO YOU PREDICT FOR THE FUTURE OF CHARIOT AND CHUCKWAGON RACING IN THE NEXT 5 YEARS?
Chariot and chuckwagon racing is a very family and friend oriented sport. As long as promotion of the sport continues, good sportsmanship amongst the drivers, and providing the public with the best races possible, I predict that racing will continue for a long time.
5) WHAT CHANGES DO YOU PREDICT FOR THE FUTURE OF BLAIR BRAATEN RACING IN THE NEXT 5 YEARS?
It’s hard to say exactly what the future holds, I hope I have the opportunity to try new horses to see what can be made of them and that I can continue to drive safe, have fun, go FAST,
6) IS IT EXPENSIVE TO GO DOWN THE ROAD? TRAIN 12 MONTHS OF THE YEAR? HOW DO YOU FINANCE YOUR RACING TEAM?
It is an expensive hobby. The cost of fuel, feed and maintenance adds up pretty quickly. When top day money only pays $100, you realize then how important your sponsors are. In order to finance your summer racing, you work the rest of the year.
7) TELL ABOUT YOUR HORSE PROGRAM – RAISING, SELECTING AND TRAINING. HOW DO YOU KEEP THEM HEALTHY, DISEASE FREE AND RUNNING THEIR BEST?
On average we raise 10 colts/year. Most of the mares are horse/quarter horse/thoroughbreds who’s racing career have ended. They are bred to either a thoroughbred or a quarterhorse. At weaning time (approx. 5 months old) they are halter broke and handled. They are sent out to pasture as yearlings and brought back in as 2 year olds. It is then that we take a good look at their size and body build. The bigger ones are then selected to start being broke to drive. Most of this training of the young ones is done during the winter months. Training/conditioning of the mature herd begins in April (depending on the weather). They are put on a monitored diet consisting of oats, canola oil, molasses, and a vitamin/mineral supplement (powder and pellet form) and hay. Our conditioning program begins slowly, with the emphasis on preparing/achieving speed and endurance. They are kept healthy by proper feed and exercise, regular shots, and massage/treatments when necessary.
2004 – Most Sportsmanlike Driver
2006 – High Point Jr. Chariot
2007 – Most Sportsmanlike Driver
2008 – Rookie Wagon Driver
2008 – Most Sportsmanlike Driver
2009 – Penalty Free Wagon
Numerous Best Dressed Chariot & Chuckwagon awards