Hoof Beats Magazine

DEC 2017

Official magazine of the U.S. Trotting Association, covering harness racing and the Standardbred horse.

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3 RAIN OR SHINE: Unfavorable weather conditions, such as rain, snow, mud or freezing temperatures rarely result in race cancelations. Horsemen like Aaron Merriman (top left), race secretaries like Gregg Keidel (right) and the fans (upper right), still find a way to make it work. dangerous situation for both the horses and drivers. For ship-in racetracks, like Dayton and Miami Valley, horses are required to be at the track at least four hours before race time, so the decision to cancel a racing program needs to be made as early as possible. "Our biggest concern is can people get here with their trucks and trailers," Keidel said. "For us to cancel, we would have to be sure the interstates are not passable. The safety of our horsemen and horses is our biggest concern." Although races are rarely canceled, bad weather can still impact the horsemen and the fans in attendance at the track. Keidel said on cold nights, because of the freezing temperatures, the track advises fans that the horses will be coming out late, taking just one score and going directly to the gate. The goal is to get all the participants—human and equine—back to the warmth of the paddock as quickly as possible. But bundling up is also highly recommended. "The drivers dress warm," said Keidel. "They'll wear earmuffs or a skullcap under their helmet; they have winter colors and rain colors. They know how to dress to bear the cold for five or six minutes." According to driver Aaron Merriman, who has made 3,868 starts this season and won 894 of them, everyone he knows bundles up—except for him. "They all think I'm crazy," Merriman said with a laugh. "Once I'm on the track in a race my adrenaline is going and it's very rare that I wear anything on my face. You don't want to be cold, but I don't really wear much." Regardless of how many layers they're wearing or not wearing, Merriman agreed that getting out of the cold as quickly as possible is a priority for drivers. One of of the best ways to deal with bad weather conditions, said Merriman, is to have a positive attitude. "When it's muddy and messy out there, the cleanup is not very fun," he lamented. "Those are the days you have to remember you have 200-some other beautiful days and you just get through it the best you can. "In Ohio you get all four seasons, but when wintertime comes it can be very, very tough. We have to give the horsemen who do this a lot of credit."

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