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Horses Are Treated Like Family By These Successful Chuckwagon Racers

By Judith Trimble, Elmwood ON

Obrey and Angie Motowylo from Bluffton Alberta spoke to a full house on “Horse Day” at the Elmwood Community Centre and described in detail their horse management practices and the new era of the Chuckwag- on Racing business.

Genetically bred to run, many older racing thor- oughbreds find themselves at auctions. Obrey buys these horses and finds that many of them can continue to do what they love to do into their very senior years when stress, health and nutrition are managed.

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Spring brings a long, slow training process for the wagon and outriding horses. Using an “Equiciser” the

horses build strength. Walking and then trotting for no more than 10 minutes each session their fitness increas- es. A lot of time is spent getting the harness to fit per- fectly for each horse and to find the pairs that work well together. A 1325 lb. wagon is an easy pull for 4 large fit horses. The trick is to train a cooperative team to manoeuvre around barrels and then speed to the finish line without causing interference with the 3 other racing chuckwagons.

The first of many carefully planned steps to reduce stress is winter turnout on a quarter section. Hay is always in front of these horses. The horses get to be horses.

Angie works with the outriding horses. These horses need to be fit to run and catch up to the wagon team after allowing the 2 outriders time to do ground work, load the traditional stove into the back of the wagon and then leap onto their backs. This training pro- cess is offset by lots of turnout time and unlimited hay to reduce stress.

Health care consists of de-worming and teeth float- ing. Obrey does the hoof care and shoeing. On ranch massage therapy and chiropractic is available to help manage strains and injuries if needed.

There is no secret nutrition program for the horses. Lots of fresh water and good quality alfalfa and grass mix hay is available at all times as race season begins. Three small meals of oats and a canola oil mixture are fed on race days. Obrey likes to use Equine Choice pro- biotic supplement for these performance horses. He feels it increases appetite and is great for nutrition absorption and really promotes a healthy digestive tract during a rigorous summer race season.

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Treating their horses like family has paid off for Motowylo Racing Inc. Obrey and Angie have won over 150 show championships between the pony and the thoroughbred chuckwagons, including three Equine Awards of Excellence. Motowylo is one of only 36 race teams that qualify for competi- tion within the World Professional Chuck- wagon Racing program.

The WPCA sets the standards for racing and the care of horses. Safety is the biggest concern. Gone are the heavy wood- en wagons. Today’s wagons have cables tying together the metal undercarriage to prevent the possibility of any broken parts from taking flight. The overhead wagon hoops are now welded. Stringent inspec- tions of all equipment help to ensure that drivers, horses and spectators are better pro- tected.

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Horse health and safety are strictly enforced. Horses in transport must have rest stops, proper ventilation, appropriate foot- ing and restraint. Horses cannot be trans- ported and raced on the same day. At the competitions a vet is available at all times and there is continual drug testing. Use of whips and line ends on horses are not allowed. Drivers can write up other drivers seen to be abusive. Fines are $1000.00 and up. Horses must have 2 days rest after 4 days of racing and one day of rest after three days. This is strictly enforced. Compliance means that Obrey and Angie will need to transport about 20 horses to most fairs and competitions. At the ranch located northwest of Red Deer they main- tain about 30 head. Most of these horses are alternate racers but some are there to enjoy retirement.

Motowylo Racing won the “Dash for Cash” for $50,000 in 2009 and last year they were semi-finalists at the Calgary Stampede.

In spite of the awards and successful wins, Obrey was quick to point out the high costs associated with chuckwagon racing. He expressed how important support is for Motowylo Racing and gratitude for the sponsorship they receive.

Contact Grey Ag Services at 519- 986-3756 or go to

“Horse Day” program of speakers and lunch occurs every year during the first week of January as part of Grey-Bruce Farmers’ Week.

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