Hooves fly in chariot races
Shane Yeager has a challenge that he knows you won’t win.
He’ll give you a baseball bat and let you stand at the starting gate for a chariot race. When the gate opens, your only job is to hit the horse.
With a good chariot racing horse, that’s impossible, because the horse’s reaction time is faster than yours ever will be, Yeager said.
The key to a good chariot race is getting out fast, he said. Horses that know the sport will be on the ball and storming down the racecourse before you can blink your eyes.
In the 20 to 25 seconds it takes to finish a race, Bobby Yeager said there are dozens of thoughts that fly through his head.
Bobby drove a team of horses called The Alternates that placed second overall in the chariot races in the Winter Carnival on Sunday.
Members of the Yampa Valley Cutter and Chariot Racing Association came out Saturday and Sunday to send their teams down a 440-yard track in a flash of power, speed and snow.
Race times from Saturday and Sunday were combined to come up with final results.
The winner of the event was T. & D. Racing, driven by Jeremy Decker, with a combined time of 48.35 seconds. The Alternates came in second with 48.54 seconds, followed by Decker, Hoffman, Elkins, driven by Kat Elkins, with a time of 48.73 seconds.
For the Yeager family, racing chariots is a hobby, but one that involves days of training and traveling to competitions.
“Some people get snowmachines and motorcycles,” Shane said. “We run chariots.”
It’s the sort of hobby that is quickly addictive, he said.
“I can tell you, if you ever tried it, you’d want to do it again,” he said.
Shane and Bobby started driving horses when they were children on their family’s ranch, The Bar Lazy L. They have been doing it ever since.
It takes 90 days to get a Quarter Horse in top shape for the events, Shane said. Many teams begin early and shoot for the World Championships, which take place in March. The Yeagers have been to the event about a half dozen times, Shane said.
For Shane, one goal is searching for the perfect race, which he said he has yet to achieve. That sort of race would mean both horses start out perfectly, in stride together, take every bump the same through the race, then beat the other racing chariot by only a fraction of a second.
Jeremy Decker said that the races were good Saturday and Sunday, though the track conditions were kind of slow.
He said it was good to have the crowds of spectators who always come out for Winter Carnival, especially those people who have never seen the sport before.
“They get pretty excited once they figure out what it’s all about,” Decker said.
Decker is somewhat of a newcomer to the sport — he’s run horses for the past six or seven years. He was watching a race when Shane Yeager told him he should try racing, and the next day, Shane Yeager brought a team for Decker to race.
“I’ve been running ever since,” Decker said.
As for his win on Winter Carnival weekend, he said simply, “My horses were just up to the challenge, and they ran really good today.”
The State Championship chariot races are in Steamboat Springs at noon Feb. 26 and 27 in the track behind the Brent Romick Rodeo Arena.
— To reach Susan Cunningham, call 871-4203 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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