Home > Running Down a Dream > Chapter 21 – Future Considerations

Running Down a Dream
Bob Carson takes new owners from sales ring to turnout
written by Bob Carson

Chapter 21 – Future Considerations
“Reconsider Me”
by Warren Zevon, 1987

Photo Source: Amazon.com

November 11, 2011

Laboratory Subjects,

As we approach the end of this year-long walk through the harness racing world, allow me to make a few suggestions on people, places and things.


A partner or two (or more) makes ownership less costly and more fun. The costs are self-evident. In my opinion, talking about the horses, the races, the training, sharing dreams, kicking around decisions is a big part of the fun – IF you are involved with people that are a good match. Jim and I are not especially social guys, but we can yak like magpies when it comes to harness racing. It is doubtful I would be in the sport as a solo act.


Unless you are Bill Gates, is probably a good idea to start with a modestly priced yearling, and it is probably a good idea to have your trainer help with the selection. Modestly is a relative term but for me it means around $10,000.


If you ever wish to move forward as an owner in the harness racing game, one of the most important things you will need to do is find a trainer who fits your needs. Our trainer, Marty Wollam, is an outstanding trainer, one of the best in the business; I would recommend him to anyone in a heartbeat. I would put his horse expertise up against anyone.


Marty often has more than 40 horses in training and is off and on horses all morning. He is always helpful and straightforward, but he does not have hours to stand around sipping coffee and endlessly chatting – especially during racing season when his schedule is absolutely insane.   


Should you live in Florida, Georgia or North Carolina (as some of the travelers in our little journey do), proximity to a winter training center is outstanding. Believe me, January mornings down south watching young horses learn their lessons are much more comfortable than January mornings on the shores of the Great Lakes.


Trainers with only a couple of horses in his or her stable (yes, there are many trainers that are female), trainers who, like you are just starting out, might also be worth considering. The front office of the various racetracks will offer you some suggestions. A few trainers have websites (for example, google “Dee Hotton” and you will find an example).  When you find some candidates, just stop by their training location and visit. Believe me, harness racing people are some of the nicest people you will ever meet.  Most trainers will be happy to talk to you.


Only three of the seven of you were close enough to make the year “hands on.” Owning a horse without having the ability to visit the training centers, the racetracks, the fairs, the turn-out farms, even just watching your horse romp in the field – reduces the fun factor.


Unfortunately, harness racing has evolved into the haves (slot machines) and the have nots. These are hard times for many harness horse trainers in areas like Ohio, Quebec, Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin. If you live near one of these states, your monetary rewards will not be as promising, but the costs for training your horse will likely be lower because the states without the slot machine money do not attract the big hitters, the big stables and the big wallets. The horsemen and horsewomen in the states that do not have slot machines might be a good training ground for new owners – sort of like starting out in the Minor Leagues, a chance to learn without pressure.


Speaking of Minor Leagues, for 20 years I have published a newsletter on minor league and independent league professional baseball.  Thousands of readers sign up for what you could call the total experience. They do not subscribe to Minor Trips because they want to attend a baseball game in, perhaps, Duluth, Minnesota. Rather, they sign up for the total experience of low-level baseball; a reason to travel to places off the beaten path, a hobby to engross them, a reason to visit with a distant nephew playing in the minors, a sport to follow, new people to meet, or a pastime to study and learn.


Similarly, our year with Mariko Hanover and Fantail Hanover was not one thing. It’s not about getting rich. Harness horse ownership has many phases.  You select partners, trainers and horses. You travel to sales, to training farms to racing sites and to turn-out farms. You study and learn every day. You meet wonderful people. You can have adventures and fun.


You get to dream.

Thinking about jumping into horse ownership?

E-mail owners@ustrotting.com and we will get you more information to get started in the racing game. Click here to share this story with a friend.

Editor's Note: The views contained in this column are that of the author alone, and do not necessarily represent the opinions or views of the United States Trotting Association.

Bob Carson
Hoof Beats Magazine About the Author
Bob Carson's award-winning freelance writing has appeared in more than two dozen national publications. He is a steady contributor to Trot Magazine, The United States Trotting Association and Timeline Magazine. After more than 200 magazine articles and stories, his first novel, The Voyage of Mess (humor) was released in 2009. In 2005 he produced the documentary film, Touching Home (Minor League Baseball). In 2006 he received the Hervey Award for Journalistic Excellence and Best of Ohio Fiction awards. He has published Minor Trips (Minor League Baseball) since 1991. Bob Carson has owned harness horses for more than a decade, including a stint as a weekend trainer. He lives in Strongsville, Ohio, with his wife, Sue, and daughter, Katie.
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