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Faces Of Racing: Ashley Hudon

Published: July 8, 2018 10:40 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.

The last name ‘Hudon’ is a very familiar name in Canadian harness racing. The family ties to the industry spans generations and continues to move forward into the future. So, it comes as no surprise that 19-year-old Ashley Hudon, daughter of horseman Gerry Hudon, finds herself immersed in the sport and passionate about the Standardbred. “My dad was born into the industry, so I was brought into the racing world through him and have loved every minute since.”

Given her family’s background, one might believe Ashley had an easy transition into day-to-day life in the barn. But that wasn’t the case. At a young age, Ashley found out she was allergic to horses, and at one point she wasn’t able to spend time in the barn without jeopardizing her health. With a friend’s help, she explored alternative options to ease her allergy symptoms, and, as luck would have it, she was successful in finding relief and was able to pursue her love for the horses.

Despite her allergies, Ashley still accompanied her father, Gerry, to the races. Competing predominantly at Century Downs in Calgary these days, she recalls travelling to Northlands Park in Edmonton regularly throughout her childhood. “I have been going to Northlands since I was a baby and it’s a second home for racing. It’s always going to be a place that I hold in my heart. I have seen my dad win the Canadian Derby and the Filly Pace there, and I’ve seen him in serious accidents, so it holds so much emotion and memories for me.”

Ashley credits Gerry for the knowledge she’s acquired in relation to her work as a caretaker. When she speaks of the wisdom he’s passed down to her, she oozes pride. “He has such an amazing eye for detail, which in this business you kind of have to have. All my knowledge comes from him, whether it was learning how to wrap legs or how to know where horses are lame and how to treat it.”

There’s no doubt that ‘patience’ is a virtue in the sport of harness racing. Seeing as though patience is one of Ashley’s character traits, it surely doubles as an asset in the game. She admits that her favourite horse in her care, Just A Dragon, has tested her patience wholly. “From the moment we got him, putting on a simple halter to a bridle was a struggle. I remember telling my dad to give me some time with him and I’ll get him there. Now he’s racing at Century Downs and has come full circle. Well, we still have to put the bridle on him differently than you normally would, but he made it and is doing quite well!”

What makes working with Standardbreds so enjoyable? “They all have different personalities and not one of them is the same,” said Ashley. “For example, Mystic Island is like the class clown; he loves attention and people. Then you have True Horizon, who has so much sass and always stands at the edge of her stall because she wants to stand out.”

In an industry that has its highs and its lows, Ashley has learned the importance of being able to control her reactions to the changes around her. “My dad always told me, ‘you’ll only get bad outcomes if you have a bad attitude in this business, you have to have a positive outlook because it’s never the same.’”

“Always give your all to the horses you’re looking after. They rely on you for their well-being and they trust you. If something isn’t working one day, don’t worry, there are many more days to come where it will make that one bad day seem so small.”

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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