Harness racing driver for the long haul
Aug. 11—Brian Detgen emerged from the last harness race of the day at the Nicollet County Fair on Wednesday, dirty but victorious, sitting down while receiving his spoils.
“My dad had horses, so I started jogging when I was 6 or 7,” Detgen said. “During my first experience, I fell and was dragged.”
However, he clearly has the science in hand now, smiling warmly when talking about the sport he’s played most of his life. Fresh off his fourth run of the day, he makes guiding an unpredictable animal on a two-wheeled cart inches off the ground the most natural thing in the world.
Originally from Michigan, Detgen now lives in Ham Lake and races in all the races he can in the state. He and other riders are part of a niche community, Detgen said, so even though the competition is fierce on the track, they feel connected by their passion off of it.
“We may not like each other once in a while, but we all get along,” Detgen said. “It’s a family.”
While you’d think the adrenaline rush that comes with this thrilling sport would be the biggest draw for participants, for Detgen it’s more a sense of attention. He said he just loved working with horses and carrying on his father’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 up and training babies, watching them become racehorses. Most of them don’t make it, but when they do it gives you a good feeling.”
Detgen’s love for horses goes beyond racing them. He puts himself directly in charge of their care as a blacksmith creating horseshoes, another skill he learned from his father.
“I guess that’s just what I do,” Detgen said with a shrug.
The Nicollet County Fair runs through Sunday.