by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager
Goshen, NY — 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.
“This is a little bit of a dream come true,” said Dickson, who got started in harness racing less than five years ago and now owns seven horses, including a yearling he foaled at his Massachusetts farm. “To be able to get three days of concentrated experience and the lectures, that you really can’t get otherwise, is a great opportunity. I’ve been trying to get this on my schedule for three years and finally got it done.”
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. At the completion of the program, participants can take the USTA’s driver and/or trainer exam.
Participants came from 10 different states, led by Ohio with five and New York with four. The school opened Wednesday with a welcome reception and dinner at the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame.
Mark Loewe, who among his responsibilities for Penn National Gaming Inc. is the vice president of racing operations at Hollywood Gaming at Dayton Raceway, was the keynote speaker following dinner. Loewe grew up in New York City and was introduced to harness racing at Roosevelt and Yonkers raceways. After graduating from college, Loewe worked for trainers Bill Popfinger and Jerry Silverman before running his own stable for a decade.
Dickson is among a number of Driving School participants hoping to get training and driving licenses.
“I’ve always wanted to do the amateur races or some qualifying races,” Dickson said. “I always loved being around horses. I just found that Standardbreds are probably the nicest horse out there. I’ve really enjoyed it. I’m an emergency physician and kind of need that release that gets me thinking of something other than work. This is an absolutely great release. There is nothing like sitting behind and jogging a horse. It’s very, very relaxing.”
Dickson got started with Thoroughbreds about 20 years ago, but “didn’t feel like I could get involved enough.” After focusing on his medical career, he decided several years ago he wanted to get involved with horses again. He brought home a retired pacer, which his daughter rode and Dickson began jogging on a small track at his farm. He got his first racehorses in 2014 and races at Plainridge with trainer Todd O’Dea.
“I really got into it,” Dickson said. “It’s been absolutely wonderful.”
In late 2016, Dickson bought a mare named Yankee Nola in foal to Deweycheatumnhowe. In March 2017, she gave birth to a colt that was named Dewey Dog.
“By my nature I just love to learn,” Dickson said. “I learned everything I could about deliveries. I’ve delivered a lot of human babies, but I’ve never delivered a 60-pound baby before. That was a lot of fun.
“I’ve been working with him from the first hour he was born until now as a yearling. At the end of this year, we’ll start to put him into some real training. I’m looking forward to that. Whether he makes it or not, I still love him and I’ve loved the experience.”
In addition to his racehorses and broodmare, Dickson has two retired Standardbreds. He jogs them on his farm track and enjoys bringing newcomers with him in a double-seated cart.
“There is nothing more fun than taking someone out in the double and letting them hold the reins for the first time,” Dickson said. “They get as addicted to it as I am.”
- 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.
- 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.