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BE barber owns race horse

By Staff | Jun 8, 2009

The thundering of hooves, the grace of glistening muscled bodies and the thrill of victory make horse racing an exciting sport.

But owning a winning thoroughbred makes the sport even more appealing to local barber Mandy Huntington who not only is carrying on her family’s barbering tradition but also that of horse racing.

Huntington’s six-year old thoroughbred, Caleb Boy, is in his second year of racing at Canterbury Park in Shakopee where he had a winning 2008 season.

A cut above his recent competition, Huntington’s horse, Caleb Boy, clipped around the Canterbury Park’s one mile and 70 yard track in just one minute and 47.2 seconds to take the first place purse on May 16, during his first race of the season.

“It’s like watching your kid win the state tournament,” explains Huntington of her reaction to Caleb Boy’s winning run.

“Only one in 1,000 thoroughbreds ever make it to the track,” says Huntington who is thrilled to own one of these.

There is a lot of money and time tied-up in readying a horse for the track. In fact, Mandy’s husband, Sean Groe, spent all winter working with Caleb Boy, even though he never grew up with horses.

Boarded in Winnebago by the Huntingtons, Caleb Boy was trained by her husband who would take the horse indoors to trot and also to lunge him. Because of this, Mandy says the horse was in good shape when they put speed on him.

Huntington says she and her family are trying to keep Minnesota horses here, that’s why they bought Caleb Boy, since he is a Minnesota-bred thoroughbred.

“We’re trying to support what we’ve enjoyed,” says Huntington about the sport of horse racing. “It’s good family entertainment and Canterbury Park caters to families with weekly themes. They also have a large park for kids and great junk food.”

Since the Huntingtons generally have a racing entry, Mandy says they buy a table at the Club House, but she goes to the first floor to actually view the race. Another option for people at Canterbury Park is to watch the races on a large plasma TV while hearing the play-by-play.

“We are very personally involved in these races since Caleb Boy is like a family member,” says Mandy. In a sense the horse is, because he is owned by the Huntington Partnership and trained by her uncle, Dougie Huntington.

In order to enter a horse, Huntington explains one must have a licensed owner, trainer and jockey.

“This is a very organized sport,” explains Mandy. “The owners, trainers and jockeys are required to have background checks and be fingerprinted and the horse must be veterinarian checked.”

The Huntington’s silks, worn by their jockey, Adolfo Morales, are pink and blue.

“These were the colors of our trainer and we chose the pink helmet,” adds Mandy.

She says they selected their jockey by talking to other trainers and examining his track record.

Mandy’s love for horses started in earnest when she was just three years of age. She began showing horses at this time. By the age of seven, she was showing her horse at the State Fair.

“As kids, we would show every Sunday from Mother’s Day to the week after school began,” she says. At this time, she did a lot of riding in Western Pleasure and Gaming Events before participating in rodeo events and eventually showing mules.

She recalls her father, Craig Huntington, and his friends Allen Erichsrud and Elmer Lehman had five race horses when she was 13.

“My sister and I kept them in shape by riding them five days a week,” she recalls with a smile.

“Those five horses got me interested in racing. When my Dad’s health declined, I wanted us to do something together, so we bought Caleb Boy,” she says.

Horse racing has proven to be a good run for father and daughter, but it is not the only thing the pair shares. She is also a third generation barber.

“My grandfather, Jerry Huntington, owned a basement barbershop in Waseca,” says Mandy. “His three sons – Craig, Dougie and Kent all became barbers. At one time, there were five Huntington Barbershops operating in Southern Minnesota. In fact, there has been a family-operated shop in business for close to 70 years in the state. Alone, my Dad and I have had a barbershop in Blue Earth for 29 years.”

Her grandfather also trained horses, so his sons grew up with horses and raced them as well. Barbering and race horsing have become a Huntington family tradition.

Mandy bought her father’s barbershop four years ago. She is the only one in her generation who currently cuts hair.

She attended the Minnesota School of Barbering in Minneapolis. This is a 1500-hour course which takes about one year to complete. Right out of school she became an Apprentice Barber under the direction of a Master Barber. She had to put in another 1500 hours in this capacity before she could test-out to become a Master Barber. These hours may be acquired over a four year period she explains. The last step before one can begin barbering is to pass a State Board Examination.

“Barbering is a solid profession,” says Huntington. “It is a service people need. Tons of communities would support you if you went into barbering.”

Unfortunately, she says barbering is becoming a lost art form because people now go to cosmetologists instead of barbers. In fact, she fears in another 20 years there probably will not be any barbers in the area.

“Blue Earth’s Dale Bleess is the traditional ‘walk-in’ barber,” says Huntington. She too is trained in the art of barbering (shaving, tapers, clipper and haircuts) but she adds her own personal twist and is a little more diversified since 45-50 percent of her clientele are women.

“I take the time for the customers and they enjoy it,” says Huntington who confesses she can do a haircut in seven to ten minutes, but if she talks too much it takes her 15.

Although Mandy has her shop, Huntington’s Barber-Stylists open Tuesday through Saturday, she tries to keep her hours somewhat open so she can go to the races and see Caleb Boy run. She also likes the flexibility of her job as she can spend more time with her 3 1/2 year old daughter, Chloe.

It is no surprise the fourth generation Huntington, young Chloe, has already been in two horse shows. Last year, she participated in lead-line.

As for Caleb Boy, Mandy says the Huntington family will race him as often as they can and for as long as he is well. This will depend on his genetics and how much he is raced.

“We have to be responsible with our animals,” adds a sincere Mandy.

The Huntingtons enter Caleb Boy the week of a race, but he must fit into a certain level such as a short or long distance race. There are about eight horse races scheduled on each of the days (Friday-Sunday) at Canterbury Park. Anywhere from seven to 12 horses are entered in each race.

“A horse can scratch at anytime,” says Mandy, so the numbers in a race vary.

“Racing is one of the most dangerous sports there is to both the horse and the jockey,” says Huntington. “If you can imagine, there is 40,000 pounds of pressure coming down when the horses are going racing speeds.”

With the sound of pounding hooves in one’s ears and the image of a pink-helmetted jockey atop an exquisitely muscled steed, it is no wonder the Huntington family has had a lifelong love affair with the animal and the sport of horse racing.

As long as there is a Huntington, there probably will be a connection to a horse or a barbershop. It seems to be a family tradition.