Equine lovers come together at Nappanee Raceway, 24332 U.S. 6, Nappanee (between C.R. 11 and C.R. 13) for Trottingbreds harness racing.
For decades, these animals who stand no more than 51 inches high as a 2-year-old and 51 1/2 for an age horse and weigh considerably less than Standardbreds have been driven around a 5/16-mile limestone-surfaced track in half-mile races while spectators take it all in as they did recently.
Eddie Roque was there.
Roque has run Meadows Inn Bed & Breakfast in Middlebury for 18 years and has been around the horse racing industry for 40 years.
His first horse had ties to Goshen, raced successfully in Bermuda, retired to Indiana, and stood stud for 27 years.
One of Roque’s racers in his current stable of eight Trottingbreds is a world record holder.
On Sept. 3, 2022, Candyce Martins, who six months racing in Bermuda and April to September in Middlebury, drove pacer MI’s Where’s The Party to a world record in Goshen, N.Y., covering a half mile in 57.3 seconds. The quarter-mile time of 26.4 was also a world record.
Martins, 21, began driving at 13. She can be easily spotted on the track because she wears white and pink silks and steers horses from a pink sulky (two-wheeled cart).
As for training, Martins says every horse is different.
“You could do one mile with a horse or 10 miles with a horse,” said Martins. “If they go 10 miles in one day that’s a lot.
“You work them to get them fit for racing. You don’t work them to take you from one place to another and back (like buggy-pulling horses).”
While his animals race all around, Roque is fond of Nappanee Raceway.
“This has become quite the track,” said Roque. “They’ve put a lot of time and effort into it.
“It’s really a good track.”
Adam Yoder, who runs Elite Training Center in Shipshewana, is vice president at Nappanee Raceway and is his 14th year of involvement. He is a breeder and trainer and his sons are drivers.
“I have a good track and I have boy come to my facilities to race,” said Yoder. “We have 15 ponies in our barn right now. We have guys that stable the horses at my farm.
“Why we do this is for the next generation. It’s keeping the our young kids involved in the horse industry, learning a trade and how to interact with animals etc.
“It’s why we put the work in to keep this thing going. It’s pretty much nine months out of the year for five months of racing.”