By Mari Ballinger
It all started at the age of five, Ray Hashimoto would tag along with his dad to the racetracks in Northern California every Saturday. While his dad spent most of the day betting on horses, Hashimoto ventured straight to the paddock where he dreamt of becoming a jockey.
Although his jockey dream never worked out, Hashimoto inserted himself into the racetrack in other ways. He started as an exercise rider for trainer Richard Leavitt in California. In fall 1984, Leavitt proposed the idea of moving Hashimoto to Minnesota, where a new racetrack was opening. On June 26, 1985 Canterbury Downs opened its doors, with Hashimoto ready to lend a helping hand wherever it was needed.
Ray spent some 25 years galloping horses at tracks around the country. Two decades were in the employment of Canterbury Hall of Fame trainer Doug Oliver. He exercised some of the best horses to set hoof on the Shakopee oval: Honor the Hero, Thatsusintheolbean, Valid Leader. He even traveled by plane with Honor the Hero to Japan for the 1994 Grade I Sprinters Stakes.
Hashimoto fell in love with Minnesota and stayed for the next couple of years, even during the off-season, assisting with the rebuilding of stalls. Although he enjoyed spending his summers fishing on any lake he had access to, he often questioned why he put himself through the harsh winters while he worked on those barn repairs.
“The snow was beautiful, I didn’t have a problem with that,” said Hashimoto. “But the freezing temperatures, why does anyone live here?” He cracked a smile.
Just over 10 years ago, Hashimoto was involved in an accident that resulted in a ruined left shoulder. Even after surgeries and physical therapy, he said his shoulder just wasn’t the same. During the recovery process, Hashimoto was asked to step in and run the exercise wheel for the horse workouts.
When asked about his recovery process, Hashimoto explained it involved many push-ups and chin-ups.
How many push-ups can you do?
“A lot,” he chuckled.
With no longer being able to gallop horses due to intense pain, Hashimoto filled that racetrack void with new responsibilities: controlling the exercise wheel, working the test barn, and supplying the horses with water at various locations around the track on hot summer days.
Today, Hashimoto still operates the Equi-Ciser, or Ray’s Wheel as some call it, at Canterbury Park. The Equi-Ciser is a free-run horse exerciser that has a wide range of speed levels to increase training capabilities. The wheel is designed to help with the training and rehabilitation of horses. Hashimoto runs the wheel seven days a week from 6 a.m. – 11 a.m. It’s obvious that Hashimoto is a Canterbury favorite, with owners and trainers smiling and waving whenever they pass by his operating stand