Gibb is enjoying her time with StandardbredsJune 1, 2018,
by Ken Weingartner, USTA Media Relations Manager
Goshen, NY — 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.
“They’re such athletes and have different personalities,” Gibb said. “That’s what is so much fun for me. I remember that from when I was a kid and had forgotten.”
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. At the completion of the program, participants can take the USTA’s driver and/or trainer exam.
Thursday’s session included discussions about training with Mark Ford and Rob Harmon, stable management with Amber Buter and Kelly Ford, and veterinary care with Dr. Janet Durso.
Gibb and her husband Jim, a corporate lawyer, always liked to go to the races and decided a year ago to join with friends and buy a horse. One quickly became seven.
“It’s been kind of a whirlwind year,” Gibb said with a laugh. “We’ve kind of become obsessed. I used to like the gambling, but I don’t even care anymore. Now I just love being in the paddock or at the farm with the horses. We like being in the barn as much as being at the finish line. We’ve had a great time.”
Gibb has helped with the horses at the stables, but is attending the Driving School to increase her knowledge of the sport and possibly become an amateur driver.
“I just want to be educated on every aspect of racing,” Gibb said. “I have a lot to learn.”
James Mazzocco, an attorney from Pittsburgh, discovered harness racing less than a year ago and is attending the Driving School with an eye toward buying a horse.
“I went to my local track (The Meadows) and thought it was a lot of fun,” the 35-year-old Mazzocco said. “The more I got into it, the more I wanted to learn. I thought this was a great opportunity to get all this access and hands-on experience. I thought it was a good way to accelerate the learning process.
“I guess the bug bit me.”
Mazzocco got to sit behind a horse for the first time on Thursday.
“Jogging was a lot of fun,” Mazzocco said. “I rode a little bit as a kid, but it’s been years since I’ve been around a horse up close like that. You watch them on the track and there is obviously a lot of speed and power there. To feel that in the lines and be behind a horse is a whole different experience. It kind of gives you a new appreciation of what’s going on out there on the track.”
John Quigley, a semi-retired healthcare consultant from New York, also is a relative newcomer to the sport, having gone from fan to racehorse owner in 2014.
“There is nothing more exciting than seeing the horses come pounding down the stretch fighting to be the first across the finish line,” Quigley said. “I wanted to be more involved. I wanted to be able to jog my own horse and get the experience from a driver’s perspective.
“This has been very interesting. I’ve learned quite a bit already. I’m learning the terminology and ways of doing things. Now all the pieces are coming together.”
Prior to 2004, Janet Collins’ equine activity involved riding horses. Then she sold a horse to a woman that had Standardbreds, who ended up bringing Collins to the racetrack.
“I was hooked as soon as I walked through the door,” Collins said. “I sold the riding horses and bought a Standardbred.”
Collins is at the Driving School for more hands-on learning.
“I want to learn to be able to jog our horses at home; to build up some confidence and know what I’m doing out there on the racetrack,” said Collins, who now works at Amulet Farm in western Pennsylvania. “I learn every day. I don’t know a lot, but I’m getting there.
“This is fantastic. I’m really enjoying this.”
Driving School participant Allen Miller, who works as a sales rep for his family’s roofing and construction business in Ohio, grew up around horses and enjoys harness racing as a hobby. He owns three horses and likes to work with one, Johnsbadgirl, on a regular basis.
“I’m here to learn new things,” the 25-year-old Miller said. “After a day of dealing with a bunch of customers, it’s fun to go jog the horse and you forget about everything else. It’s a fun hobby. I’m not in it just for the money. I just enjoy it. Horses teach you more about life than you can teach yourself.”
- 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.
- 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.