by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager
Goshen, NY — 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. The four-day program 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.
At the completion of the program, participants can take the USTA’s driver and/or trainer exam. Friday’s session included discussions about amateur racing with Mike Mitchell and Steve Oldford and driving strategy with Tyler Buter and Scott Zeron.
Dougherty grew up in New York, near Roosevelt Raceway. He always wanted to own a racehorse and recently joined VIP Internet Stable in the ownership of a 2-year-old trotter named Hat Trick Marleau, who is being trained by co-owner Paul Kelley.
A little less than two years ago, Oldford gave Dougherty his first opportunity to sit behind a horse, which also fueled Dougherty’s passion.
“I’m getting ready to retire in a few years and can spend more time doing this,” Dougherty said. “Like any other IT job, you spend a lot of time sitting at a desk looking at a computer screen all day. This is very different from that.
“I thought (the school) would be a good opportunity to get hands on and see how these guys do it. It’s been enormously fun. I want to build up my ownership along the way. I want to spend as much time with the horses as I can, get out and jog them and maybe do some amateur driving down the road. That’s my long-term goal for this.
“This helps keep you young. I’m 63 years old and I certainly don’t feel it. This is keeping me feeling a lot younger than my age.”
Vikki Pfeilsticker, who lives in Minnesota and works in human resources, got her first horse two years ago and now co-owns three.
“I wanted to do this so I’m not just standing around the barn,” Pfeilsticker said. “I wanted to do this so I don’t feel dumb anymore. I don’t know how much smarter I’ll be, but I do feel like I can walk in there and have a little more confidence.
“You glean a little bit of something from everybody. It’s fun. We all got to jog. That was what I wanted.”
Pfeilsticker’s horses race at Cal Expo and locally at Running Aces. Last year, she saw Wizzel Stix race at Running Aces, and it was difficult to see him leave after the meet.
“When he left, there was a hole,” Pfeilsticker said. “It was just this emptiness; I need to be around horses. I don’t think it’s gone away. I’ve been bitten. I wish I’d found this passion sooner, but you’re never too old to start something. I encourage all my friends to get in on ownership and coming out to the track.”
Theresa Sarno Stingone and Bernard Stingone got their first horse a year ago and are looking to find a farm and get more involved in the near future.
“We met a few (Standardbreds) and they have such beautiful temperaments,” Theresa said. “We started with a trainer and he found us a horse, Whos In The Mist. He started it all. A little $4,000 horse, I think, but he could have been worth $40,000 to us. It didn’t matter. It’s all about him.”
Theresa, who grew up in Brooklyn, is a teacher and Bernard owns a landscape business.
“Some people retire and don’t do anything,” Theresa said. “We’re very active people. We’re going to need to keep doing something. This will keep you busy. It’s good stuff.”
- 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.
- Driving School and Museum visit a winning combination (Monday, June 04, 2018)
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.