Harness racing rider in it for the long haul

·2 min read

Aug. 11—Brian Detgen emerged from the final harness race of the day at the Nicollet County Fair Wednesday dirt-smudged but victorious, taking a sit while being dealt his spoils.

"My dad had horses, so I started jogging when I was like 6 or 7," Detgen said. "During my first experience, I fell off and was dragged."

However, he clearly has the science down now, smiling warmly when talking about the sport he's been a part of the majority of his life. Right after his fourth race of the day, he makes guiding an unpredictable animal on a two-wheeled cart inches off the ground seem like the most natural thing in the world.

Originally from Michigan, Detgen now lives in Ham Lake, and participates in all the races he can around the state. He and other riders are part of a niche community, Detgen said, so while the competition is fierce on the track, they feel connected by their passion off of it.

"We might not like each other every once in a while, but we all get along," Detgen said. "It's a family."

While one might think the adrenaline rush that comes with this heart-pumping sport would be the biggest draw for participants, for Detgen it's more a sense of caring. He said he simply enjoys working with horses and carrying on his dad's work.

"For a few years here and there I did other things, but I always come back to it," Detgen said. "I love breaking and training babies, watch them develop into racehorses. Most of them don't make it, but when they do, it gives you a good feeling."

Detgen's love for horses extends past racing them. He puts himself directly in the business of their care as a blacksmith creating horseshoes, another skill he picked up from his dad.

"I guess it's just what I do," Detgen said, shrugging.

The Nicollet County Fair runs through Sunday.