Monday, November 10, 2008

The Story of Mini Racing in the West

     My name is Rose Pope. My husband and I have been involved with chariot racing for over 50 years. I see you have an interest in the racing aspect of the minis. I will give you some information on chariot racing in general. 

     Many years ago, in western Wyoming and eastern Idaho, feed teams went out every day to feed and on the way home, stopped at different restaurants and bars to warm up. They would talk about their runaways and fast work horses. 
     They started having races with work teams up and down main street. It caught on and they got lighter horses and built lighter wagons to improve their speed. Now days, the horses that race can be seen on the flat track in the summer. Very expensive horses, some of them. 
     Those first horses ran on sleighs, as there was lots of snow and fewer ways to clean it off the roads. In later years, there was less snow and more equipment to keep the roads free of snow. 
     The chariots now run on wheels and the chariots are made of aluminum and fiber glass. The typical chariot can weigh as little as 45 lbs, most being around 55 lbs or 60 lbs. Those first chariots were built mostly from 50 gallon barrels, cut in half. The tongue was welded on. There were Associations formed, that traveled to different towns on the week-ends and they held match races. Gradually, they formed a set of rules that would match teams according to their wins and losses. 
     Idaho at one time had 18 associations, more that any other state. Wyoming, Washington, Montana, Utah, Colorado, Nevada and California also had associations. Each state formed a State Assoc. and held State Finals meets. Then a World assoc. was formed, The World Championship Cutter and Chariot Racing Association. 
     In 1975, the WCC&CRA finals were held in Pocatello, Id. There were 48 races, most with 4 teams. In early days, races were run lap and tap. Randolf, Utah was the first association to build gates. Now, all associations have gates, some with 2, some with 3 and some with 4. Some associations still run on a win/loss rule. 
     Richfield, ID runs on the point system, with 3 points for first, 2 points for 2nd and 3rd. They have 3 gates, so there is never a by as can happen with the win/loss system. In(1999), 9 years ago, Darcy Hiatt (who by the way, is a girl), 12 years old at the time and Adonna Boyer, 14 years old, decided to race their miniature horses. They formed an association, racing under the same rules as the big teams, but with height divisions, A, B and C. The big teams, 3 years old and up race 440 yards. We also race colt teams, which are coming 2 years old (starting in Dec.) They race for 350 yards. 
     The minis race for 200 yards and they still do go lap and tap. It can get pretty exciting, because these teams are fed and exercised just like the big teams. They have headers, who have a tough time holding them on the line. 
     Darcy's mother, Marsha Hiatt takes pictures of all the teams, for herself and for the newspaper. Darcy started driving big teams when she was 14 years old, in the warm up circle and racing them when she was 16 (the age you must be to drive on the track). Richfield has a straightaway track. About 900 yards before you go around a fairly sharp corner and cycle back onto the track, so the drivers have to be adept at what they do. (most Assoc's have an oval track, at least 1/2 mile). 
     We race 3 teams at a time and it can get pretty close. Sadly, Adonna was killed in a car crash at 18. Darcy goes to college at the University of Idaho. She is a senior this year. She gets to drive a team when she is home and drives at Jackson Hole every year, both a big team and minis. 
     The paint horse team (John and Jake) are undefeated. They are a beautiful parade team, having won Best of Parade in Oregon this year. 
     The Shriners hold a 2 day meet each year at Jackson Hole, Wyo. to raise money for the Shriners Children's Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah. This year will be their 37th or 38th year. In those 2 days a year, they have raised over 1 1/2 million dollars; quite an accomplishment. They do still race on snow. And the weather can be very cold. 2 years ago, it was up from -27 to +11 when we started racing. They have had as many as 5000 spectators at the races. You wouldn't believe the tail gating parties. 
     Their races will be held this year on February 14 and 15. Buses run from town to the race track at the edge of town for the races. If you have opportunity to come and watch the races, these would be the ones to come to. 
     I announce the races at Richfield (Silver Creek Chariot Racing Assoc.). We are a small town of 400 odd people, but we have 12 to 14 aged (big) teams and usually 5 or 6 colt teams and as many as 14 mini teams, the only Assoc. with an Assoc. of minis. 
     The World Finals are held the last 2 week ends of March in Ogden, Utah. They race Sat and Sun. the first week end and Fri, Sat. and Sun. the 2nd. A marathon for the horses.
     I hope I have explained and made our sport a little clearer in your mind. If you get the chance, come see us. If I can be of any help to you in the future, please give me a shout.
Rose Pope

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