And that’s just the beginning.
Bare attended last year’s school in Goshen, N.Y., because she wanted to get her trainer’s license. Bare, who owns horses with her husband John, drove eight hours from her home in Forest, Va., as a late addition to the class following the death of the couple’s trainer, Robert Marshall, less than two months earlier.
In November, Bare got her first pari-mutuel win as a trainer when 5-year-old pacing mare Perfect Ending was victorious at Rosecroft Raceway in Maryland.
“It’s such a big accomplishment,” Bare said. “It’s a feeling you can’t even explain. Everyone in the sport has been wonderful to us, helping us and giving us tips and feedback. We’re blessed to have met the people we have.
“I’m so glad I attended the driving school. I learned so much there. (To win) was a perfect ending. The feeling was unreal. To see all your hard work pay off makes you feel so great.”
This year’s USTA Driving School is June 11-15 in the Goshen, N.Y., area. Registration remains open, including for the new “advanced” course for previous participants in the program. The opening night keynote speaker will be two-time Trainer of the Year Ron Burke.
In 2013, the school -- conducted at the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame, Goshen Historic Track and the Mark Ford Training Center -- united participants from 13 states, plus Ontario. Participants received hands-on experience at local stables, as well as classroom instruction from trainers, drivers and veterinarians.
Trainers that opened their stables to the students included Ray Schnittker at Goshen Historic Track, plus Mark Ford, Scott Blackler, Tyler and Amber Buter, Jean Drolet, Rob and Patty Harmon and Brandon Simpson at the Mark Ford Training Center.
At the completion of the school participants were able to take the written portion of the driver’s and/or trainer’s exam. There also was an exhibition race for selected students at Historic Track.
Bare and her husband, who is a farrier, were involved in showing horses before becoming interested in harness racing when John Bare shoed horses for Marshall.
Marshall, who died at the age of 81, had told Mary she would make a good trainer. Bare worked in the Rob Harmon stable during the USTA Driving School.
“I took in so much information,” Bare said. “Going into the barns and working was great. Before I went to the school, we would look in a book to try to figure things out. Being able to be hands-on is where I learned so much. The speakers were great too, everyone was knowledgeable, but that hands-on aspect was the best part.
“I’d recommended the school to anyone that wants to learn. You can never learn enough.”
Now Bare is gearing up for her first full year as a trainer, although it remains a hobby. Bare, who drives a school bus and is going back to nursing school, has four horses in her stable. She jogs her horses on a one-third of a mile stretch of road at her house, then on weekends drives three hours to train at the Shenandoah County Fairgrounds in Woodstock, Va.
In addition to winning at Rosecroft Raceway, Bare picked up several wins at the county fair.
“Not too bad for an old country girl that travels up and down a gravel road,” Bare said. “This sport is totally different than showing horses. This isn’t about who is judging you and who their buddies are. Here, it’s whoever crosses the finish line first.
“I’m tickled with it all. We kind of fell into the sport and I love it.”