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Faces Of Racing: Ryder Rennison

Published: July 3, 2018 10:51 am ET

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Leading up to the National Caretaker Appreciation Day event later this month, Standardbred Canada will be profiling caretakers from across the country in our Faces of Racing series.

As many Maritime horsepeople can attest, being born into the harness racing industry is predetermined – it’s in their blood. This narrative rings true for Truro, Nova Scotia, horseman, Ryder Rennison.

“I was born into the industry on both sides of my family,” Rennison has said, “both of my parents were involved in the industry, as well as their parents before them.”

Rennison’s family ties in the industry don’t end there. At 18 years of age, he works alongside his father, George, at the family stable, which is comprised of nine actively-racing Standardbreds. “Without a doubt my father has been a great and prominent influence in my experiences as a caretaker. He has taught me the majority of what I know today and was one of my biggest motivators for getting into the industry.”

One of Ryder’s most memorable moments as a caretaker is also a satisfying feat for the entire Rennison clan. During the 2017 edition of Old Home Week, on Prince Edward Island, Distinctiv Rusty – a seven-year-old horse who was owned by Ryder, his mother Andrea, the late Cathy Benedict and trained by his father – was victorious in the respected Papermaker Pace while in rein to Louis-Philippe Roy. Old Home Week is a special time for maritime racing and many vie for a trip to the winner’s circle, which Ryder was happy to attain. “Almost everyone from the Maritimes gathers at one track to celebrate the sport, which usually leads to awesome experiences, intense racing and all around good times.”

Ryder credits the chance of getting to work on Standardbreds and trying to get improved results with them as one of the most enjoyable aspects of the sport, whether it is in the barn or on the track. “I don’t think there is anything more rewarding than working your hardest all week and pushing yourself to your limit and then having it pay off on race day.

“Personally, I like to put my all into figuring out each horse and fixing their issues. So, when I can’t figure one out or fix their issue, I tend to dwell on it and make it more than it has to be. But in the same sense, I believe this is also what has helped me achieve success in the industry by motivating me to learn as much as possible to avoid such dilemmas.”

Following in his father’s footsteps, Ryder aspires to become a Standardbred trainer. He currently holds his ‘F’ license, which permits him to train horses that he owns or that are owned by his immediate family members. This August, Ryder plans to upgrade to an ‘A’ license, which will allow him to operate a public stable.

When asked if there was a theme song he would consider for his role as a caretaker, Ryder considers the parallels between his work ethic and Bachman-Turner Overdrive’s ‘Taking Care of Business.’ His day starts at 5:30 a.m., and his responsibilities include jogging, training, turning out, walking and putting away. As the song implies, he’s an ordinary man taking care of business and enjoying every step along the way. “For me, good horsemanship is built from hard work and dedication, but it has to be matched with compassion for the horses and a competitive attitude.”

“If you really want to be in the business, commit yourself. Wake up as early as need be, study up on all the ailments you see, learn everywhere you go, work harder than you did last week and never give up.”

“[National Caretaker Appreciation Day] is a great opportunity for me and many others. I greatly appreciate the work that has gone into everything that is being done for caretakers. We don’t really get a chance to shine, we make the horses we look after shine, which is usually enough but its special getting the personal attention for the work we put in.”

Standardbred Canada along with the horsemen’s associations and tracks across the country will partner on National Caretaker Appreciation Day the weekend of July 20-22 at racetracks across the country.

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