Kerryn Manning (39) from Australia is the Mad Max(ine) of harness racing! A trailblazer since winning her first race at 16, Manning has since docked more than 11,000 races and 3500 wins. She is one of the top harness drivers in the world!
Harness racing showcases the abilities of Standardbred horses. Horses race around a track pulling a driver in a two-wheeled cart called a “sulky or race bike”. There are variations of racing from standing to moving starts and how the horse moves – trotters or pacers. The pace is very fast, up to 30 mph. In Australia there are more than 140,000 races per year employing some 1200 drivers, 4700 trainers and about 12,000 horses.
Harness racing came to Australia from America in the 1850’s. Originally, women competed against other women (no gender mixing allowed) until a driver was killed during a race in 1928. Women were banned from the sport until 1978 due to equal opportunity laws. Since then women have become a “driving force” in harness racing. According to Harness Racing Australia, last year half the top drivers AND trainers in the sport were women.
At the pinnacle of these accomplished women equestrians stands Manning. She was the first woman inducted into the Harness Racing Victoria Hall of Fame; the first woman to win 300 races in a season; the first woman to win the New Zealand Trotting Cup (2 miles or 3200 meters) driving Arden Rooney, a horse she trained herself.
“I remember watching this race as a child, thinking how great it would be to win, and now the dream has been fulfilled,” said Manning.
Already this year, Manning competed in the first International All Star Series. A week long series of races held at different venues to promote harness racing. Drivers from around the world were invited to compete. Who won? You guessed it – Kerryn Manning.
Manning trains from her Great Western stables, a family venture with her husband and father. Days are spent caring for the horses; exercise, baths, feed and acupuncture treatments to reduce swelling.
“The horses get treated like big babies,” says Manning, “like they’re our kids.”
Post note: Arden Rooney’s favorite treat is ice cream….mine too!
Photos courtesy: Pat Scala and Rob Gunstone