There is nothing stronger than the family bond, especially in harness racing. Countless families work together and race together, and have done so for generations.
Photo Credit to Elizabeth Snyder

Fathers have passed on their skills to their children, who often continue with the next generation in the family. This is the case with 20-year-old Elizabeth Snyder, who is happily working with and learning the business from her father, Doug Snyder. The family is based at the Meadows Racetrack in Washington, PA.

“I’ve been around it my whole life,” Elizabeth laughs. I’m fifth generation. I really started working for my dad when I was 16, and after that, there was nothing else I really wanted to do.”
When she began working with the family barn, it was a little at a time. “I started out taking care of a few horses that we owned, and I always jogged since I was little, so I got more into doing that. Now I’m ‘unofficially’ the second trainer in the barn. We take the babies in sets, and I always go in sets with my dad. I trained down our three-year-old pacer this year, who has won two out of three of his lifetime starts, so that was pretty cool to be able to do that. His name is Yo Yo Mexico (Yankee Cruiser-Native Angel—Allamerican Native. “He’s taught me a lot. He was a home bred, and we named him after a long day at a Mexican restaurant. There were a few Margaritas involved,” she laughed.
Elizabeth agrees that more and more women are getting involved in the horse racing business. “It’s really good to see women do well, because I’ve always been told ‘it’s a man’s job’. And I just passed my test for Driver/Trainer license, so when I hear ‘women shouldn’t be driving’, well, I want to drive! You always hear that stuff, and you just don’t let it get to you.”
Looking ahead to the future, she plans to work with her own horses. “I’m hoping to drive and train my own. Right now, I’ve been rehabbing a horse that my dad trains, named Spicy Nugget, he had a 25% tear in his left hind, and I’ve been rubbing on it every day for months! He finally just trained his first trip back last week, and I’m hoping that he will be my amateur horse. So by the time he’s ready to start racing, hopefully I’ll have my 12-15 Qualifiers in, and I can take him in the Amateurs. So that’s my first goal.”
Photo Credit to Elizabeth Snyder

She attended the University of Kentucky for a while, but did not continue. “After three years there, I loved Lexington, loved going to the races, but I really missed home and being with the horses all the time. Hopefully, I’ll finish out a degree online, when I’m not as busy. It’s kind of hard with 10 horses in the barn.”

Her father, Doug Snyder, owner/trainer/driver, and blacksmith, has been in the business since 1970, and at the Meadows since 1973. Even though his great-grandfather and grandfather were blacksmiths, he mostly drove, while his brother (Dane) and father trained. “My dad did it all,” he said. “He’s the reason I’m in the business.” A long-respected driver in harness racing, he celebrated the milestone of 6500 wins last year, remembering every horse he’s driven over the years. Today, he’s passing his extensive knowledge and training to his daughter.
“She does very well because she has ridden barrel horses since she was 8 years old. She knows horses. She grew up with the horses, and Elizabeth wants to drive! I’m not overly anxious for that,” he laughed. “I have a son that it didn’t bother me as much as it is bothering me with her, because, I don’t know how to say it. I guess I’m just overly anxious because she is a girl. Overly protective.”
Photo Credit to Elizabeth Snyder

Doug points out how many girls at the Meadows are continuing in the footsteps of the family business. “The Twaddle girls, the Christman girl, the Wilders, the Zendts, the Wrights, and they are all around the same age! The girls are VERY passionate about harness racing!”

What advice does he share with Elizabeth on a daily basis to keep her level-headed? “We’re training babies, and this is something she’s never been around. Since she’s been out of college, she’s been learning the training of the babies. That’s a learning process. She’s going to learn the way I was taught. I think it’s the right way, and not everybody would agree with me. She just wants to learn, and she’s like a sponge. She takes everything in and moves on with it. Like she said, she’s learning something new every day, and I’m learning something new every day. I’m pretty proud of her.”
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