by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager
Goshen, NY — David Pirnstill found plenty to enjoy at the U.S. Trotting Association Driving School, and it involved not only the present and future, but the past.
As part of the Driving School, participants were treated to a private tour of the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame, which co-hosted the program and provided space for lunch and lectures.
“The museum is just outstanding,” said Pirnstill, who was among the participants in the 19th annual Driving School, which concluded Saturday. “I was here for more of the learning experience, working in the barn and those things, but to have this is just a really neat bonus for the whole trip.
“I love the historic preservations things they’ve done here. I just hope the word can get out and more people come to see this. It’s a beautiful facility and we’re very fortunate to have this here.”
The four-day Driving School offered a mix of hands-on learning at the Mark Ford Training Center and classroom sessions at the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame. At the completion of the program, participants could take the USTA’s driver and/or trainer exam.
Pirnstill, a funeral director from Bucyrus, Ohio, owns two horses trained by Dale Edwards and attended the school so he could become more active at the stable.
“I just want to help out my trainer and his wife, if I can,” Pirnstill said. “I just need to learn more about the industry.”
Lexington’s Austin Luttrell also was at the school to learn more, although as the manager of a Thoroughbred farm he was no stranger to racehorses. Luttrell got interested in harness racing through trips to Red Mile and joined with friends in buying several Standardbreds.
“We’ve had a lot of fun,” the 30-year-old Luttrell said about competing in harness racing. “All of (my partners) are Thoroughbred guys and this is their first time owning Standardbreds. We’ve really added some different faces to Red Mile at night and got some people exposed.”
Luttrell had never jogged a horse prior to the Driving School.
“The coolest part about it is I’ve worked with Thoroughbreds all my life and never sat on the back of one (because) I’m 6-foot-4, 220,” Luttrell said. “To be able to do this, to be able to actually feel the horse, is pretty awesome. I’m definitely glad I came here and did this.”
Kady Malone also was no stranger to horses prior to attending Driving School. She owns quarter horses and gives riding lessons in addition to working as an office assistant in West Virginia. Her veterinarian, Susan Sickle, races Standardbreds at The Meadows and sponsored Malone’s trip to Driving School.
“I wouldn’t be where I am with a lot of my horses if it wasn’t for her helping me out along the way,” said Malone, who graduated from West Virginia University in 2014. “I think the nice part about this (program) is having the constant hands-on. I’ll go help Susan as much as I can.
“Jogging was something new. Jogging was pretty cool. I’m dabbling in a lot of things. I think I’m more into it for the hobby aspect side.”
Jim Lisa knows what it is like to stand in the winner’s circle on a regular basis, but has never owned a horse. Lisa is one of the track photographers at the Meadowlands, where he works with his cousin Michael.
“After years of taking pictures I just wanted to learn more about the sport and what happens,” Lisa said. “I enjoy going in the paddock and seeing what everybody does, so I wanted to learn more about that. It’s been great; I’ve had a lot of fun. (Jogging) was a little harder than I thought; keeping them straight, going the right speed.
“I don’t think people will call me for drives,” he added with a laugh. “I’ll be washing horses, maybe.”
Tylere Cobb, on the other hand, hopes to get calls to drive horses in the future. The Ohio resident has no family involved in racing, but developed an interest by watching at Raceway Park. He wants to begin working around horses and attended the Driving School as a first step toward that goal.
“It’s great,” Cobb said. “I think everybody that’s into harness racing should experience it.”
Massachusetts’ John Kobetitsch also attended the school with hopes of driving one day in amateur races.
“I have some knowledge, but very limited,” said the recently-retired Kobetitsch, who has owned horses in partnerships in the past. “I always dreamed of driving one day. I’ve been going to the races since the late ’60s. This is the time to do it. I live near Plainridge and they have amateur races there. I put two and two together and thought this would get me going in the right direction.
“Just to work around the horses, you learn to be at ease. Hooking up all the equipment, unhooking it, giving them a bath, brushing them — just simple things like that. It’s been great.”
Tim Bohannon also might like to try amateur driving in the future.
“When I came out I was debating it,” said Bohannon, an Ohio native and now Indiana resident who works for JPMorgan Chase. “After talking with (amateur driver Steve Oldford), he said I really ought to think about it. For me, it’s the experience and depth of knowledge that’s the key. But it’s hard not to want to take it a little further from a driving experience; definitely from a training experience.”
Bohannon owns five horses through VIP Internet Stable. He also has spent time at the stable of trainer Kelly O’Donnell and has jogged more than 200 miles.
“I’m bringing the donuts on Saturdays and mucking the stalls,” Bohannon said. “I like the ability to work with the horses, groom them and take them out. What’s fun for me is the whole experience.
“I’m hands-on. I’ve done a lot of mileage, but to fine-tune the details is what I was looking for here. I wanted to get a deeper knowledge. It’s been a good experience.”
- Eric Dickson is enjoying Driving School experience (Thursday, May 31, 2018)
Eric Dickson hoped for the past several years to attend the U.S. Trotting Association Driving School, but it never fit the emergency department physician’s schedule until now. Dickson is among 20 participants in the 19th annual U.S. Trotting Association Driving School, which is being held in upstate New York this year. The school runs through Saturday and offers a mix of hands-on learning at the Mark Ford Training Center and classroom sessions at the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame.
- Gibb is enjoying her time with Standardbreds (Friday, June 01, 2018)
When Joni Gibb was a teenager, she had quarter horses and was involved in barrel racing. She gave up the sport 30 years ago, which until recently ended her involvement with horses. But now Standardbreds are reminding Gibb what it’s like to be a kid again. Gibb, an artist from northern Ohio, is among the participants in the 19th annual U.S. Trotting Association Driving School, which is being held this year in upstate New York. The four-day school runs through Saturday and offers a mix of hands-on learning at the Mark Ford Training Center and classroom sessions at the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame.
- Enjoyable Christmas gift for Joe Dougherty (Saturday, June 02, 2018)
Joe Dougherty got the gift of horsepower for Christmas, but not in a traditional sense. Dougherty’s gift from his wife was tuition for this week’s U.S. Trotting Association Driving School. “What do you get the man with everything?” Dougherty quipped. “I bought her a car for Christmas; I got a horse. You know what? I got the better end of the deal.” Dougherty, a systems engineer from northern Florida, is among the participants in the 19th annual Driving School, which is being held this year in upstate New York.