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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
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Off to the races at Back to Batoche

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Off to the races at Back to Batoche
Chariot racers head for the finish during the opening day of races at Back to Batoche. -- Photo by Marjorie Roden

The first day of Back to Batoche Days was an action packed one, full of action at the rodeo track, the main stage, and also throughout the vendors’ village and the kids’ fun area.

Chariot races featuring members of the North West Saskatchewan Pony, Chuckwagon, and Chariot Association were the main event on Thursday. The top team was Jeff Britton, with an unofficial time of 64.04, followed by Clarence Mike in second at 64.04, and Phil Head in third at 64.40.

Mike, who is also the president of the North West Saskatchewan Pony, Chuckwagon, and Chariot Association, said it was a good day to be out on the race track.

“This was my first run today,” he said. “I’ve been busy trying to get these shows ready for the club, so it’s the first time I’ve raced my horses this year.

“I’m usually always racing, starting from the first show, but since Covid, we had to start from scratch getting these shows lined up again.”

Mike was a reluctant convert when it came to leading the organization. The club itself is located around the Meadow Lake area. Some members are also from Northern Alberta, but most of the membership is from Saskatchewan.

“This spring, they had their annual meeting, and they called me to go into their meeting, and all of a sudden, they voted me in for president,” Mike said.

“But now it seems, the shows that we had are already designed for next year, so all of the groundwork is going to be there for next year. Then I’ll have more time for looking after my horses. It’s something I really enjoy.”

Chariot racers head for the finish during the opening day of races at Back to Batoche. — Photo by Marjorie Roden

Mike said working with horses is therapeutic. If he’s having a bad day, he heads to the corral or barn to work with them. Working with horses is one of the main reasons he suggests youth get involved in chariot and chuckwagon racing.

“I don’t know what they do, but (the horses) sure look after you in certain ways,” he explained. “I want to encourage our youth to get into this because it’s something that’s a special thing.

“If a kid starts, they should have somebody they can work with, so they’re not just going into something that might cause them a wreck. If somebody’s helping them, at least the chances (of an accident) are minimal in that situation.

“All in all, I really want to see more young kids getting into this. In fact, our club, we’re going to start a ‘Young Guns’ program, where it’s just the young guys in the wagons, and there’s one last, one girl that drives chuckwagons, and she’s going into nursing, so we want to encourage that kind of stuff. 

“To me, that’s what it’s all about. When you get older, you want to retire, so we’ve got to start with the younger ones.”

In terms of how chuckwagon and chariot racing fits in with the Metis culture, Mike said “Horses are always the staple of when the settlers came in. I know lots of Metis people who’ve always had horses. 

“My grandmother was Metis, and she always had horses. She had a team of horses that she drove to town and things like that. To me, I think they always go hand in hand because we’re born with them. 

“If you have a love for horses, it’s always there. With that and caring about animals, it’s all good.”

Back to Batoche continues on Friday with the opening ceremonies. The event continues until Sunday.