Learning from the horses

by Andrea Patterson

I learned so many new lessons at this camp and harness racing was just one of them.

July 21st-25th was the best time of my life. I’m a thirteen year old girl who lives in Southwest Michigan, and I traveled almost ten hours to go to the Harness Horse Youth Foundation camp at Pocono Downs Racetrack in Pennsylvania. My interest in harness racing sparked from watching our own family horses race at The Meadows in Pittsburgh, PA. Their names are Glister Hanover, Risky Roe and our new one – Pinehall Lady.

I went to this camp because I wanted to learn everything and anything I could about harness racing, and to learn about the proper care of a harness race horse. Finally, I went because I wanted to also meet new people that were involved in the sport – because not that many people from Southwest Michigan have harness race horses.

I learned so many new things about horses. I learned all the parts of their body and their expressions, and how to tell if a horse is sick too! We learned so many new and interesting things, not only about race horses but about horses in general. This experience will really help me in the future with Harness Racing.

In this camp we talked about the history of harness racing and some very famous horses. Throughout the week groups of two kids would work on a report about a famous horse of their choice. My partner and I chose “Bee a Magician” and the other groups picked “Foiled Again” and “Captaintreacherous.” We teamed with our partners for the week and we would clean stalls, and were responsible for two to three horses a day!

Going into camp I expected to learn the basics of harness racing and a day to day schedule of horse care and I wasn’t let down one bit. I learned how to:

  • harness and un-harness a race horse
  • how to groom and bathe a horse
  • and learned all the parts of a horse

A typical day looked like this: feeding the horses and re-filling water buckets, scooping poop (eww!), grooming the horses, harnessing and un-harnessing, lunch, grooming (again), jogging the horses, bathing the horses, then jogging and bathing again! After that we had to clean equipment, clean the stalls, and finally re-feeding. We were interviewed by two different TV Stations, and a newspaper…that was really neat!

The HHYF has seven trotting bred horses. Five of them are pacers and two of them are trotters. The horses are Ima’s hit, Sweet Karen, CD’s Miss Me, Little Hicktown, Jandi Tuff as Sky, Royal Attire, and LR Trixie. They were so easy to work with and are all amazing animals. Trotting breds are easier for kids to work with because they are smaller than Standardbreds.

Every night we would have an evening activity. On Monday, we had a pool party! Tuesday and Wednesday we went to the races at Pocono and also rode in the start car (which was the coolest thing ever!).  On Thursday we had a break from horse stuff and went bowling!

Friday’s are race day. We wore colors (just like the real drivers) and had a professional driver help us. I drove Royal Attire – we called him Roy – in my race. We only saw the horses in the morning, but when we went to the paddock we got to be with our driver. The driver who helped me was Simon Allard and he is very nice. It was just like a real race with the start car and even the track announcer. Roy led the entire race, and we won! It was so cool going to the Winner’s Circle, and our whole group had pictures taken there.

I had so much fun and met so many great people. I enjoyed every moment from sunrise to sunset! This camp was such a great experience and I look forward to attending Leadership Camp next year. I recommend this camp to any kid with the slightest interest in harness racing. I would like to personally thank Ms. Ellen Taylor and Ms. Kathi Auer for this wonderful opportunity that I’ll never forget. Thanks to the HHYF and to all of the people at Pocono.

I know that this is something that will always be a part of my life!

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