Tuesday, July 13, 2010

All The Pretty Horses

There are so many wonderful places to visit on Prince Edward Island and we have seen a number of them this past week.  But if I had to choose my favourite it would have to be the races at the Charlottetown Driving Park (aka Red Shores Racetrack).

I had a dim view of horse racing prior to arriving on PEI.  I lumped it in with casinos and thought there would be a lot of drinking, smoking and gambling going on.  Not really my idea of fun.  I now admit to being a convert.  One evening my husband and I happened to be driving by the track while a race was in progress.  I was struck by the view of the horses racing under the lights on a warm summer evening and yelled at hubby to stop the truck.  We pulled over and the rest, as they say, is history.  Here on PEI they practice harness racing where the rider sits in a sulky and the horses race at a specified gait.  There's a technique and skill to this type of race and it's beautiful to watch the horses doing their stylized run.  Harness racing is a tradition on this island and a fun one.  Many families own a racehorse and it's the families who come out to watch.  It's not unusual to see a couple with a few small children and the family dog at the track cheering on their favourite horse or driver.  Grandma and Grandpa often have their comfortable lawn chairs with them and sit in the shade of the trees to watch and socialize with neighbours.  And when a horse wins a race you will see the entire family run out to have their photos taken with the prize winner.

I'm always oohing and aahing over the beauty of these horses with their wavy manes and tails flowing in the wind but we also find ourselves laughing at their names, from "Unfluffnbelievable" to "Whos Smiling Now".  The real joy though is in spending a lovely summer evening standing at the fence watching these gorgeous animals strut their stuff and getting swept up in the moment cheering for your favourite.    Hope to see you there soon.


  1. You know, Marguerite, it's going to be interesting watching you see PEI with eyes that aren't jaded from rolling over things like Green Gables, etc; stuff that we take for granted because we live here on the East Coast. Your post on the racing is a great case in point. It's sad though, that many of the racetracks that once were in this region are now gone; there used to be one in Lower Sackville, for example, but it's long gone (a shopping mall there now, naturally), and I don't know if the one in St. John's, Nfld is still there or not. And so on. Yet there ARE still many many people passionate about the sport. I'm glad you had a good time.

  2. I would love to drive one of those rigs and get the feel of the horse. I have a friend who used to Standardbreds in Canada and moved down to North Carolina and brought her mare with her. Awesome horses.

  3. I generally think of horse racing as you used to. Those lowered seat (?) things the rider has to sit on look neat! I think I would much prefer watching that style.

  4. I have to say that I was one of those families that would go out on the track to get my pictures taken. My dad always had standbreds, we used to go to hundreds of races. His last was named "Judge Bozo", not a great name, lol.

  5. I have only been to a horse race once- my sister who lives in Ireland took us when we went for a visit. We had such a great time.My husband even won some money on the horses he placed a modest bet.
    Love the post about your parent's visit. My 89 year old Mom who lives in N.S. still gardens. The first thing she would do if she came here would be to head out into my garden.

  6. @Jodi, Last year there was a great debate here as the name of the racetrack changed from the Charlottetown Driving Park to Red Shores. A lot of the debate was over the history of the name but I believe one of the great pitfalls is that they are attempting to promote the casino portion of the Park over the horse racing. What a shame! I'm not entirely opposed to casinos but it's not a place I spend any time at and I feel that they are a poor reflection on the racetrack. What I like about the track is the family atmosphere. Sure there's betting but you can also sit in the sun with a basket of fries and a pop and let your kids run loose with their friends. I've found PEI to be very family oriented and perhaps that's why the track has done well here as the atmosphere is still a pleasant one.

    @Cheri, I thought of you while writing this post. From what I understand standardbreds make very good riding horses and pets after their racing careers are over which is wonderful, knowing that they are likely to find homes and have long happy lives.

    @Laura, Jody always calls those Chariots and I have to remind him that we are no longer in Roman times!

    @Kilbourngrove, those are exactly the names I love, the sillier the better!

    @Three Dogs, I notice there's a lot of gardeners out there with gardeners for parents! We seem to have that in common.