Gina Stratton has been named Minnesota HBPA Groom of the Week. With a spirited personality and loyalty to her craft, Gina has dedicated herself to putting her best work forward each and every day. Growing up, her dad was a jockey and the rest of her family was always a part of the track so at the age of 16, she got her first job at Mountaineer in West Virginia as a hot walker, cooling out horses. Gina takes great pride in her work and the connections she makes with the horses she interacts with. “The reason I work so hard on making them look good when they come up [to the paddock] is literally the kids that run up and say how pretty my horse is. Because that’s what they see, and that sticks in their head – We don’t have the generations in racing like we used to. And if three little girls see them and go ‘Look how neat’ and it sticks in their head, maybe they’ll come do this.”
Some days Gina will be grooming before dawn, just to ensure that every horse looks their very best for the day. Gina has worked in Michigan, New York, Delaware, Kentucky, West Virginia, Florida, New Mexico, and Arizona. For a brief period Gina left the world of racing to become an equine vet assistant for five years off the track. “My son started high school and I wanted to stay in one spot because obviously my other job was very nomadic so I was an equine vet assistant and he went to school. Now he’s a sophomore in college,” she said.
After finding that she missed the tracks and the connections she’d make with the animals, Gina found her way to Canterbury Park, where she continues to make a lasting impact for each and every horse she works with. “I feel like I make a difference in the horses’ lives. It all boils down to the trainer but I at least feel when you go with the vet, you’re literally just kind of holding the horse and you don’t know the horse. When I’m grooming them or the assistant, I know them.”
Canterbury Park applauds Gina for the work she’s done this season and offers congratulations for being recognized as the Minnesota HBPA Groom of the Week. She was presented with an award last night during the races.
Photograph and story by Megan Bormann