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Faces Of Racing: Gena Anderson

Published: October 5, 2018 9:12 am ET

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Gena Anderson’s love for harness racing came naturally. Born into a harness racing family, there was no denying she would develop a passion for the standardbred. “Both sides of my family have been involved in the harness racing industry for many years, including my grandparents. Both of my grandmothers were drivers.”

“Early on in my involvement in the sport I credit my knowledge to my mom, Merla, and my father, the late Alan Anderson. They both taught me a lot of things I still use day to day in the barn.”

“I remember a lot of summers as a kid, my parents would wake me up early to catch the ferry over to Victoria Island to race at Sandown Park. We would ship there, race and catch the boat back that evening,” recalls Gena.

With her father’s passing and her mom leaving the business, Gena has expanded her circle of knowledge around the track. “I have learned a lot from my uncle, Mark Anderson, and his spouse Debbie McCarthy. I also never turn down advice from older horsemen. I love learning new or old tricks and different ways of doing things.”

Now 29 years old, Gena is employed by the Anderson Stable at Fraser Downs in Surrey, British Columbia. As with any job, her role as a caretaker comes with challenges and rewards. As Gena points out, a challenge can be a reward in itself. “Patience (is a challenge working as a caretaker). Some horses can definitely push your buttons more than others...I actually enjoy taking on some of the more challenging horses in the barn -- mostly the ones that are kind of crazy, goofy, or have some quirks to them.

“The best part [of being a caretaker] is watching a horse you have worked so hard on all week go out and race well. They don’t even have to win, just seeing an improvement makes me feel like I did something right.”

Along with being a caretaker, Gena also holds the ownership to Golden Time, an 11-year-old pacer by Western Ideal. “Obviously, my horse is very spoiled and can do nothing wrong, but there are quite a few in our barn I love and get away with nipping or biting at me. I like when the horses have personalities.”

When asked if she had any advice for the up and coming generation looking to pursue their interest as a caretaker in the harness racing industry, her passion for the sport does not go unnoticed. “Listen and take advice from the older horsemen and women of the sport. Put time, love and dedication into your horses and they will, in return, give it back.”

“My dad [always] said, when you think you know everything you need to know in this business, you’re wrong. There is always something new you can learn in the most unexpected ways,” recalls Gena.

“I think [National Caretaker Appreciation Day] is a great way to recognize the people behind the scenes who work hard and spend the most time with the horses- loving and taking care of them day in and day out.”

Three racetracks that didn’t have summer harness racing seasons will host National Caretaker Appreciation Day events during the weekend of October 5 - 7 to recognize caretakers racing at their tracks.

Fraser Downs, in co-operation with Harness Racing BC in Surrey, B.C. and The Raceway at the Western Fair District in London, Ont., will host events on Friday, October 5 while Flamboro Downs near Dundas, Ont., will have its event on Saturday, October 6.

Earlier this year, during the weekend of July 20-22, racetracks and associations across the country participated in the inaugural edition of National Caretaker Appreciation Day.

(A Trot Insider Exclusive by Christina Gillis)

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