The 2016 harness racing season got off to an emotional start tonight at Kawartha Downs when an 89 year-old woman was able to fulfill a lifetime dream of petting a horse.

Last week Iris Hodgins’ daughter, Cheryl Quinn, sent email to the marketing director at Kawartha Downs which read in part: “I was sitting with my 89 year old, pretty much housebound, mother today talking about her excitement at our plans to attend opening night of racing next week; she loves horse racing of any kind and is usually only able to watch it on TV.  Today she said that petting a horse is on her “bucket list” and to be honest, I don’t know if she ever has petted one.

“My mom is nearing the end of her life and I would love to give her this chance.  Her mind is intact but her body has betrayed her.

“Is it possible to find a way to arrange that she get this wish? To pet a horse just once?”

Fortunately Kawartha was also hosting the Hands On Horses program tonight which offers fans a trip around the racetrack behind a harness horse alongside a qualified driver. The Ontario Harness Horse Association provides the horses, two quiet Standardbreds and following race six OHHA’s General Manager, Brian Tropea, who had been one of the drivers tonight, unhooked his horse and walked it over to Iris’s wheelchair so she could pet it.

There were many tears shed and spontaneous applause as onlookers witnessed the happy moment when Iris was finally able to scratch petting a horse off her bucket list. “Thank you so much, this means the world to us,” said Cheryl who also noted that her father’s cousin was Hall of Fame horseman Clint Hodgins.

Racing continues at the Fraserville oval every Saturday night through the summer with a 7 p.m. post time.