Jockeys, Arabian Horse Association members visit patients at Children’s Hospital | TheFencePost.com

Jockeys, Arabian Horse Association members visit patients at Children’s Hospital

Kelli Heitstuman-Tomko

There was no dust, no cheering crowd, no roses at the end of a race. There were only children who needed a little hope and maybe a gray crayon.

The Arabian Horse Association and Children's Hospital Colorado on Anschutz Campus in Aurora came together to bring a taste of horse racing to the child patients at the hospital. Sitting at tables in the first floor atrium, young patients colored pictures and created horse masks from paper plates while visiting with three horse jockeys.

"Smile, Kaley," Paul McGill told his 8-year-old daughter. It was a needless request. Despite an apparatus that kept her head in traction and unable to tilt down, Kaley McGill grinned as she colored a paper plate intended for her horse-mask muzzle.

Mikayla Boge, an AHA marketer, said the AHA is a breed association that educates people about Arabian horses, helps them network with other Arabian owners and has different levels at which people can become involved with the association.

"The AHA encourages members to do something to give back to their community," Boge said.

AHA volunteers manned a table of supplies, sanitizing trays, markers and scissors as young crafters finished with them. Horse mask colors ran the rainbow from brown to pink to black, but, overall, gray seemed to be the favorite horse color.

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Jockeys Nathan Haar, Mike Ziegler and Dennis Collins circulated around the tables, talking with some young patients and coloring with others. While many of the children were too young to fully understand what was going on, others were old enough to ask a few questions of their visitors.

Ziegler and Collins have both been racing for 29 years, with Ziegler wracking up 2,425 wins throughout his career. Most jockeys, he said, race only a few years before leaving the profession.

"Usually it's an injury," he said. "But sometimes it's the weight, and they have to stay safe."

Ziegler said jockeys must weigh between 110 and 120 pounds to race.

"Some of these guys start young," Ziegler said. "As they get older and fill out, it becomes unsafe for them to keep their weight so low, and they have to move on to something else."

Haar was the youngest jockey at 22 years old and has been racing for five years. His father, he said, is an announcer at a local racetrack in South Dakota. Haar said he grew up running around the track chatting with jockeys. He said he expressed an interest in racing, and his father, a large man, told him he should consider another career path.

But Haar took after his mother instead.

"She's only about five feet tall," he said. He rode in his first race when he was 17.

Hollon Kohta, spokesperson for Children's Hospital, said the hospital helps sponsor several events a year for the patients.

"It gives local businesses and organizations a chance to give back to the community," Kohtz said. "Not all of them come in. Some of them donate money or craft materials. Sometimes they donate things that can be raffled off."

Each child was given a burgundy ribbon similar to those awarded to horses. Children also received a get-well card inviting them to Arabian Horse Day, June 18, at Arapahoe Park.

Not everyone will make it. Sophia Rose, 7, of Boulder sat next to her mother Lisa Rose coloring and watching horse videos with Collins on his phone.

"Today," Lisa said, "we're just glad to make it downstairs." ❖

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