The sounds of crashing metal and stern voices merge together as the final horse is loaded into the starting gate. Dallas Erickson can feel the rapid heartbeat of the horse beneath him intensify as he tightly squeezes the reins. While his horse and the color of his jersey may change with each race, the huge adrenaline rush remains the same. He takes one last look down the line and like an old school bell the familiar sound rings, sending the quarter horses and their riders speeding down the track.
Dallas Erickson, born and raised in Almo, Idaho, and currently residing in Malta works his “regular” job for the Raft River Highway District. But as spring starts rolling into southern Idaho, Dallas begins training for his second job: horse racing. Dallas races the Fair Circuit, traveling throughout Idaho from April to the end of August to race thoroughbreds and quarter horses.
Raised on a ranch, Dallas says he’s always been around horses, and started galloping in high school for his uncle. Before he knew it, he was riding for a few guys he knew in Burley, and “it grew from there.”
Dallas has raced off and on for 13 years, taking a brief hiatus from racing to start a family with his wife. They have five children together, and although he says he wouldn’t necessarily encourage his kids to get into racing, “because it is kinda dangerous,” horses are very much a part of the family’s life.
Dallas knows firsthand how dangerous racing can be, as he learned one fateful day in April 2009. During the Derby Trials at the Gem County Fair in Emmett, two horses got too close together, and their heels clipped. One of the horses was carrying Dallas, who sustained a broken collarbone, broken sternum, ribs and other injuries. He said while the event was scary, he went back to racing that August. “I was not gonna end on a note like that,” he says.
While many in the Idaho racing community wait to see what will happen with Les Bois Park in Boise, Dallas says that the track in Idaho Falls has helped bring horse racing back a little stronger in Idaho in the past year or so, adding dates and races to the season.
April marks the start of the racing season in Idaho, with races taking place all across the state:
- Emmett mid April
- Pocatello in May
- Jerome in June
- Rupert in July
- Malad at the end of July
- Burley (Cassi County Fair) August
- Blackfoot at the Eastern Idaho Fair
- Idaho Falls in June, July and August
Dallas races mostly quarter horses on tracks ranging from 220 to 440 yards. “There are not a lot of Thoroughbreds around,” he says. Dallas looks forward to another great racing season, having picked up titles in the past such as Leading Rider Oneida County 2008, Leading Rider at Rupert Downs 2010, Malad Futurity, Blackfoot Futurity, Intermountain Derby, and Skeet War Memorial.
Dallas chuckles as he says he has some weight to lose before the beginning of the season. “I didn’t think I was gonna race this year… I can’t give it up.”