Support from sectors of the U.S and Ontario Standardbred industry, the arts and educational community , municipal officials, and strong participation by prospective young Derby hopefuls, is fueling the robust impetus of the Youth Literary Derby.
“The Youth Literary Derby is a genius idea that melds creative writing with an introduction to horses,” writes Betty Holt, Executive Director of the Harness Horse Breeders of New York State. To thrive, our industry must continue to be built on the foundation of our youth. To introduce young people to Standardbred horses and to educate them on the economic farming benefits is the only way to make that happen. The farming and breeding aspects of the horse industry are at least as important as the racing and betting, if not more so”, says Holt. “The best way to develop a love of horses is to be in contact with them and to get to know their personalities. To add in the benefit of high education is a win, win for all.”
The Harness Horse Breeders of New York State are so impressed with the idea they are looking to implement a similar program”.
Mike Simpson, of Hanover Shoe Farms and the Standardbred Breeders Association of Pennsylvania, is pleased to see that the Youth Literary Derby is offering an opportunity for today’s youth to express real world encounters with equine athletes in an imaginative way. “In a sport that is driven primarily by numbers, it is great to see physical interaction and creative writing be a part of the experience, as well,” he said.
“It’s a great initiative. I think that kids are very excited to get a chance to view horses and any time they are offered that opportunity they are bound to be excited.” offered Walter Parkinson, president of Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association. “I think the literary aspect gives them a way of connecting with horses that is unique.”
The Youth Literary Derby (www.YouthLiteraryDerby.ca) is an Ontario-wide, juried , horse themed writing contest carrying $2,000 in prize money and free, donated tuition from the University of Guelph for Horse Behaviour and Safety courses. It is designed to encourage writing and literary skills and reaches out for students’ evaluations and perceptions of their up-close encounters with Standardbred foals.
“Having students write poems about Standardbreds is fantastic. We should follow your lead and do something like this in the States,” writes Kimberly Rinker, vice president of the United States Harness Writers Association. “What a great program and incentive to get youngsters involved or interested in harness racing.”
When Standardbred owner-breeder, Tom Rankin greeted 300-plus, horse loving visitors to his spanking new broodmare facility on May 19th, St . Catharines Mayor Walter Sendzik was there mingling with mares, foals and excited youngsters anxious to get up close and personal with newborn foals and pen their impressions for the Youth Literary Derby.
Mayor Sendzik had high praise for the Youth Literary Derby. “It is a great opportunity for young people to connect their writing and literacy skills with their love of horses,” he said. “I encourage families with an interest in horses to get involved.Thanks to the Rankin family for opening their doors and sharing their love of horses with the community to support youth literacy.”
Enthusiasm and strong vocal support oozed from Caledon, Ont., Mayor Allan Thompson when he learned of the Youth Literary Derby. “Caledon is a proud equestrian community and as Mayor, I strongly support and endorse the Youth Literary Derby which connects young people to horses through stories and poetry”, he said. “It’s great to see the large number of partnerships involved from both the private and public sector, all promoting and supporting this incredibly enriching program.”
Following an early morning presentation May 23rd outlining the Youth Literary Derby concept to Mayor Bonnie Crombie and Councillors of the City of Mississauga, all assembled were vocal and unanimous, in their support and endorsement of the program.
The last of the scheduled 20 Open Houses at Ontario farms for Derby hopefuls is now complete. It is now time to put pen to paper and test their creative literary abilities in prose or verse about their impressions of one of God’s most beautiful creations, the newborn Standardbred foals.
The following words from Mike Douglas, executive director of the Mississauga Arts Council, ring clear and true, and might aptly describe the feelings of one seeing a newborn foal for the first time. “Essential to creative expression is the stimulating effect of experiencing something new, something that engages your senses and prompts you to think differently, see differently and feel differently.” As Mike Douglas said, “Sign me up.”
ENTRIES FOR THE YOUTH LITERARY DERBY MUST BE SUBMITTED BY MIDNIGHT OF JUNE 15TH, 2018