KELVINGTON - Rick Althouse more or less followed in the family business when he picked up the reins of a racing chariot.
“My dad (Wes), raced for years. My younger brother Trevor raced for a few years,” said Rick Althouse in an interview between the chariot and chuckwagon races at Kelvington Fair Saturday. “My great uncle Fritz Althouse was one of the founders of the club.
So it was just natural Rick, who hails for Kelvington where he and his wife Connie operate a horse arena and training centre, would want to drive.
“I started sort of playing around when I was 15,” he said, adding his first run was a chariot in Uncle Fritz’s field.
Of course Althouse was soon racing chuckwagons too.
“Chariots are still pretty exciting racing at times but chuckwagons are what everybody kind of builds themselves up to,” he said.
Rick, now 59, is still at it.
Of course the sport has evolved in his roughly 45 years of racing,
“My first horse was 46-inches. But it’s come a long way. My biggest horse now is 61 and a half (inches), so times have changed,” he said.
One thing that hasn’t changed is a nomadic nature of the sport travelling event-to-event, weekend-to-weekend through much of the spring, summer and fall.
“Even at that time (when he started) we were all over,” said Althouse.
So what keeps Althouse on the road to the next dirt track?
“I don’t know,” he began. “It’s just something I’ve always enjoyed. It’s something I look forward to every year.”
But, there was a point Althouse decided to retire. He sold his horses to two son-in-laws and dropped the reins, becoming a fan.
It wasn’t necessarily an easy sale, having some very good horses, but Althouse felt it was time.
“With family involved we were still running to shows,” he said, adding he found himself always helping out at the track.
“I worked harder than any of the years of racing.”
So Althouse bought some horses – one that he had previously sold, and was back in the seat a summer later.
It helped that his wife came from a racing family, her father Dick Prouse racing, so she was easy to convince he should return to the sport he missed.
The appaloosa he bought back “is still in my pen today,” he noted with a smile.
Over the years Althouse has had some big moments, including spending a couple of winters in Texas racing indoors at Reliance Stadium in Houston.
But, most memorable was winning the North American Championship in 2012, racing three days in Melfort and three in Nipawin for the win.
“For me that was a pretty big event ... six days of racing ... It was pretty exciting,” he said.
So how long will Althouse continue to run?
“I’ll be 60 in March. I look at it as kind of like a job so maybe I’ll make it to 65, and then sit back and watch my grandkids in gymkhana, and a little fishing,” he said.