Bonds are strong between horse and trainer

By Chelsea Titus and Shannon McKenna
Round Table editors

Harness racing brings a special bond between a horse and its trainer. Training consists of going through the same routine to build muscle in their hind legs, stay in shape, and staying safe. The trainer’s job is to train the horse to compete in different levels of competition.

Gary Eotsch of Dover, Del., has been a full-time trainer for 33 years. “I have a lot of patience when I’m working with the horses. I think of them as my own children,” Eotsch said.

Eotsch is a third-generation driver and knows the ins and outs of racing and how to work with the horses.

“I can tell the horse’s mood by the way it acts…whether if it will kick or bite,” Eotsch said.

The horses must be able to maintain the weight of a 35-pound harness plus the weight of their rider, which can be as much as 200 pounds. Trust is essential between a horse and its rider to be able to compete at the highest level.

“Horses look to us like a pack leader. Their emotions change based on our attitudes and how the trainers are feeling,” said Emmy Fillion, a trainer from New Jersey. “I believe that I’m a part of their world.”

Before racing, the horses jog around the track to warm up. The trainers make sure that they eat a good healthy breakfast, but only a little before the race, similar to human athletes.

“It’s our job to work with the horses and come up with solutions to help with any of their problems that they might have,” Fillion said.

By the time the races come around, the horses are in peak physical condition and ready to give their all in hopes for a win.