Friday, 31 May 2013 11:51

2013 Olds College Graduation - HRA Racetrack Programs

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Outstanding Exercise Rider Award Winner - Manon Magnon Outstanding Exercise Rider Award Winner - Manon Magnon

The graduating class of the 2013 Olds College - Horse Racing Alberta Racetrack Programs took over the Paddock Theatre at Northlands Park on Monday afternoon.

Both Mara Coote-Freeman and Sarai Danby welcomed guests to the event, with Jim Haggan taking to the podium to say grace before a fabulous meal.

Coote-Freeman acted as the event emcee and began with a huge thank you to Groom School instructors Theresa Sealy, Deb MacLeod and Kathy Bueler. Exercise Rider instructors Nancy Huston, Twylla Bensmiller and fitness guru Rebecca 'Becky' Neergaard, plus a host of others, were also acknowledged for their hard work in looking after the students this year.

Olds College Dean of Agriculture, Tanya McDonald, then took to the podium to congratulate the grads with a very special message. "It's now been 100 years of Olds College and this is one of our Centennial Graduating Classes. This is very special to us!"

Valedictorians Darby Bell (Groom) and Fay Grant (Exercise Rider) then addressed their fellow students - remembering the good times and passing along best wishes to all going in forward.

In speaking with Groom School Grad Hannah Twomey of Thunder Bay, Ontario... She'll stay on with the popular Rod Cone Stable. "I've worked around horses most of my life and definitely picked up on so much more from the Groom School," she says. "There's more maintenance and attention to detail when working with racehorses," she continued. "They're a high performance animal and each one is different. It's been a lot of fun!"

Twomey has more than one favourite racehorse, in the Cone barn, that she looks after. "Paseo Alegro... he knows he's good and he's got attitude. Road King... he's a little more fun and likes to snuggle."

Twomey, 18, is already looking ahead to next year when she'll return to Olds College for the Exercise Rider Program. "I'd like to become a jockey," she smiles. "That's what I'm going to do!"

Exercise Rider Grad Manuel Amado, 29, of Lima, Peru... He's been involved in Alberta racing for the last four years, spending the last three years with the Craig Smith Stable. "I've worked hard," he says. "And I'm still learning too, but this is a big accomplishment for me."

Amado has enjoyed working and learning with veteran racehorse Salton Chief in his time with trainer Craig Smith. "He's my favourite," he says. "I still learn from him."

The Success of HRA's Olds College Programs

Theresa Sealy has been there since day one. "Groom School began in 2003 and Exercise Rider came along in 2005," she says. "In the beginning it was racing organizations like HBPA, Horse Racing Alberta and the CTHS talking about how they could get qualified people to come and work at the farms and the track. ASHA was supportive from the get-go on the implementation of the Groom School program as well."

Though the programs are very different, in many respects, the graduates that move on from these programs are held in high regard when it comes to horse racing in Alberta and beyond. "As far as the grooms go - they have always been the unsung heroes. Some of our jockeys have been, and still are, in the spotlight - those are the ones that we see all the time. Some of our grooms that have done really well for themselves - they're in the barns and though we may not see them - you can bet that we're just as proud of them too."

  • Omar Mareno (Class of '07) was both a Sovereign Award and Eclipse Award winning 'Apprentice Rider'. He now rides full-time at Woodbine (Ontario).
  • Jennifer Reid (Class of '08) and Scott Williams (Class of '09) were both up for the Sovereign Award this year, as 'Apprentice Rider', with Williams capturing the Honour. Reid currently rides out of Assiniboia Downs (Mantioba), while Williams is at Hastings Race Course (B.C.).

Exercise Rider and Jockey Training Program - This program will give you the confidence, fitness and skills to be an entry level exercise rider and jockey at Alberta Horse Racing tracks. Under the instruction and supervision of professionals, in horse racing, you will learn the theory and practices to develop your riding skills.

Race Horse Groom Training Program - This program is a serious introduction to horse racing in Alberta and the basics of working as a groom. The information in this course has been validated with the horse race industry to teach you skills that you are required to perform when working for a trainer, breeder or horse owner in their industry.

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