YORKTON - For Shane Hue racing pony chariots and chuckwagons was a childhood dream that became a reality because of the people around him.
“I started in 1994,” related Shane Hue the new president of the Eastern Professional Chariot & Chuckwagon Association.
While Hue said it was “typical” for racers to get their start following in their father’s footsteps, that was not the case for him.
“I was always into saddle horses,” Hue told Yorkton This Week as the first drops of rain started Wednesday morning on the backstretch where the horses are stabled for the summer fair.
As a youngster Hue admitted “I was always interested in racing . . .I just loved the sport. I remember when I was little sitting on the end gate (of a truck) and just watching. I was always in awe.”
That was where Kirby Kleibor came into the picture, a neighbor who raced.
Kleibor was heading to the United States to demo race chuckwagons, and he told Hue, by then a bit older he could go and get his chariot and give it a try.
“He (Kleibor), got me into racing. That was how I initially got into it,” said Hue.
The first drive of a chariot was interesting to be sure. He had the team hitched and took them off the road into the ditch. It was sandy, with a bit of a trail visible, so off he went running with the team.
Next Alvin Hardy, again with a helping hand in terms of horses and gear, and soon Hue was set.
“Alvin used to have a breeding program,” explained Hue, adding that gave him access to some ponies to run.
Hailing from Hudson Bay helps. The town has a good track anyone can use, and Hue said it does get used.
“There’s always someone there practicing,” he said.
And whenever racers gather, whether at a practice track or a race event like the one in Yorkton, there is lots of help for a new driver.
“The biggest thing I find with our sport through the years, it’s competitive, but everyone looks out for everyone,” he said.
Hue said those in the EPCCA know they have to help, especially new drivers, to keep the sport going. He added the sport is not low cost to get into, so a helping hand is a near must along the way.
Hue said you might buy a horse to run for $1500, but such horses don’t usually win.
“Top competitive horses are in the $8-12,000 range for the proven ones,” he said.
So with a top chuckwagon team valued at near $50,000 the cost is indeed high.
But, there are new drivers taking the plunge.
“I think in our club we have a lot of promise,” said Hue, adding he counts five rookie chariot drivers and two new chuckwagon racers this year.
Most drivers start with chariots and move up. Hue himself spent six seasons racing chariots before moving up to chuckwagons.
“I didn’t have enough horses coming out of high school and working,” he said.
Today, racing is a family affair with wife Jen helping train, daughter Mackenzie often working the infield at races, and son Cooper, 18, in his first season driving a chuckwagon.
“It’s a big family sport,” said Hue.
Having his son competing makes Hue smile too.
“His rookie wagon year – that’s definitely one of my highlights,” said Hue.
And then there was the 2014 season.
“I had my hook really going good,” offered Hue with a smile.
It was indeed going good as he finished second overall in the EPCCA that year, including winning his first show at Preeceville.
Later that season a 10-day championship was held with races split between Prince Albert and Saskatoon.
“I won that one too,” he said.
So what keeps the 44-year-old racing?
“I think it’s just the people you meet,” he said, then adds there is the competitive nature too of “always trying to get better.”