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McDougall A Man Of Many Talents

Published: October 24, 2021 1:00 pm ET

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The Alberta harness racing scene is the subject of a country music song and video that has been attracting attention and accolades outside of the industry at a variety of film festivals.

Calgary-based Standardbred owner Dan McDougall recently turned his focus to the local harness racing industry for one of his latest projects as a musician, actor and filmmaker.

McDougall wrote the song “One More Trip in the Bike” and directed its accompanying music video that has been named a finalist at the Director’s Cut International Film Festival in Vancouver. It’s also a semi-finalist at the Vancouver Independent Film Festival and an official selection at the Las Vegas Music Video Awards.

The song and video were inspired by his appreciation for the hard-working industry that he’s experienced first hand and come to love.

“I know most of the drivers, a lot of the trainers, quite a few of the owners,” said McDougall, “so when the COVID thing was going on and everybody was stuck at home and wondering where their next cheque was going to come from or how they were going to feed the horses, I decided to write a song… These are great people and I wanted to do something for them.”

McDougall was introduced to racing back in the 1980s when he would attend Stampede Park to place a few bets and have some fun with his brothers and friends. After retiring from a 31-year career in education as a biology teacher in 2014, McDougall ventured into horse ownership with his brother Don, who is the current president of the Alberta Standardbred Horse Association. McDougall also took an interest in working at the barns, learning to groom from trainer Gerry Hudon. He currently owns pieces of eight Standardbreds, racing with Hudon and Dave Kelly in Calgary.

Among the horses he’s owned, McDougall fondly recalls his connection with Metajka Road, a retired son of Northlands Park track record holder Tajma Hall. He still visits his buddy, who is enjoying his new role as a trail riding horse outside of Rocky Mountain House with former outrider Janice Lea.

“'Taj' was my buddy,” he said of Metajka Road. “He made great money, but he was just such a nice guy. I’d come in and his head would come out right away.

“I usually go up there at least once a season to ride him and it was quite hilarious the first time… I wondered if he'd remember me and I walked into the barn and out comes the head and his muzzle went right to my chest. It was like, ‘Where have you been?’”

It’s those connections that make working in the barns so enjoyable for McDougall.

“'Taj' is definitely my favourite. We’ve got lots of other horses and I'm an animal guy, like my degree is in biology, and so I love being at the barn. I think actually, I probably have more fun in the barn just wrestling and patting them and brushing them down and stuff than I do watching the races.”

A man of many talents, McDougall has written and recorded his own songs, produced his own web series and has had speaking roles in movies and television series like Brokeback Mountain, Hell On Wheels, Fargo and Jann. Combining his professional experience in the music and film industries, he decided he would write a song and shoot a video for the Alberta racing community when the pandemic wreaked havoc on the industry.

“I've been a musician longer than I've been anything,” said McDougall, who previously joined forces with trainer/driver and musician Jamie Gray to help record the horseman’s song “Look to the Sun” along with trainer Joe Ratchford -- the trio known to many as ‘The Backstretch Boys.’ “I've been playing clubs in Calgary ever since about 1980, all the pubs and bars. I'm a guitar player and a singer and I do some writing.”

In addition to writing his homage to Alberta horse racing, McDougall recorded the vocals and played the guitar himself for the track. He also stars in the music video, which includes racing and behind the scenes footage.

“Actually, Brandon Campbell was nice enough to let me come out to their training facility and so that's where I shot some of the footage,” he explained. “Then I shot more clips at the racetrack and at some of the barns and then kind of threw it all together.”

The music video has received positive feedback while circulating on social media and the exposure for racing to different audiences through the film festivals has been an added bonus.

“I'm doing this for the horsepeople in Alberta – all of them, not even just the Standardbreds,” said McDougall. “Those are my friends and my contacts. I was at the Super Finals [last weekend] the whole time and we had a horse in one of them and that was the first time I'd ever had a horse in the Super Finals. I love the environment; I really like the people. I'm just trying to do something to bring some attention to how hard they work and what good people they are.”

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