Alberta Harness Racing In The Spotlight

Published: March 9, 2021 04:07 pm EST

"It's a big family. We all have a common love of the animal."

Colleen Haining, who serves as project manager of the Alberta Standardbred Horse Association (ASHA), is tasked with representing Alberta horsepeople and promoting harness racing to a growing audience. As far as Haining is concerned, the family-oriented nature of the harness racing industry and the docile temperament of Standardbreds are major selling points toward growing the game.

"[Harness racing] is very family friendly," she said in a recent profile published in the spring edition of Alberta Bits, which is published by the Alberta Equestrian Federation. "There's no charge to park at a racetrack; there's no charge to come and watch the horses ... We like to promote 'Come and meet the horses,' because there's a lot of city people who never get to touch a horse."

In her work with the ASHA, Haining works to give as many of those "city people" — nearly 2.5 million people comprise the Edmonton and Calgary markets served by Century Mile and Century Downs, respectively – an up-close experience with Standardbreds.

"We're honoured for people to come into our barn and meet our horses," she said, adding that the versatility of the Standardbred breed lends well to a wide range of post-racing careers for harness horses, and that their approachability is a perfect link to potential new racegoers and horse lovers.

"They're people-pleasing horses," she continued. "My husband always says the only prerequisite to work with a Standardbred is you can't be scared of the horse."

Haining's husband, Harold, is active as a trainer, and their children Mark and Kaitlin work in the family business as well, serving as evidence of the strong family ties so prevalent in harness racing operations across Alberta — and Canada.

"It's a wonderful, wonderful life," said Haining. "We've been so blessed that our kids come to work with us every day."

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