The Meadows Standardbred Owners Association (MSOA), incorporated in 1977, promotes harness racing and protects the interests of its members at the Meadows Racetrack in Washington, Pennsylvania. This non-profit association represents approximately 700 horsemen, horsewomen, trainers, drivers, grooms, and owners in all aspects at the Meadows.
Photo Credit to Chris Gooden

A Board of Directors oversees the operations of the MSOA, and it is comprised of horsemen who are voted in to their offices. Until December of 2023, Rich Gillock served as President, an office he held for 15 years. Mr. Gillock was honored for his years of outstanding commitment, and a successor was elected by the board. Marking a groundbreaking move in MSOA history, a woman was voted in as President, as Lisa Dunn, former Vice-President and long-time horseman, was named.

 

Extremely honored and appreciative of this opportunity, Lisa remains grounded and humble, and the magnitude of being the inaugural woman President hasn’t sunk in.
“I guess I really haven’t considered it being significant to be the first woman to be elected president,” she laughed. “Our parents, and especially my dad, raised five daughters and we were always told that we could do anything we wanted and to never think we were less than or weaker than anyone. But I guess it is pretty cool.”
Lisa, who is also president of the Pennsylvania Fair Harness Horsemen’s Association (PFHHA), is feeling confident and totally ready for this new challenge. “I feel good. I think we’ve got a good board seated now. I think we will work well together. This is actually my second term on the board. Last year I was Vice-President, and prior to that I was Treasurer. Quite a few of them have been on the board pretty much the whole time with me, and we have a couple new ones this year. I’m positive, yeah I’m hopeful, we’re headed in a good direction.”
“Obviously it’s a little daunting to replace Richie (Gillock). He was President 15 years, so that’s a change just be having somebody different.”
The role of President of the PFHHA and President of the MSOA have similarities and some differences. “Almost all of the members of the Fair Horsemen’s Association are also members of the MSOA, and/or the PHHA (Pennsylvania Harness Horsemen’s Association). It’s a bigger population of membership.”
“I think we still face the same problems. We need good representation with the State Horse Racing Commission; with the racetracks; with the fairs. It’s all about trying to present a united front for all the membership. That’s what similar. As far as being different, in the fairs it’s different because obviously, you’re at a different fair every week, and you’re dealing with each place as a different set of fair board (members), so you have to deal with a broader set of management. At the track, you’re dealing with the same management week in, week out.”
Lisa’s family has been in the business all her life. “I grew up playing sports, driving tractors, making hay and handling animals from a young age. After college, I worked for an accounting firm for a few years, and then came back home and worked for our family’s construction company about 15 years, but I always stayed in the administrative side of the horses. I did the stakes nominations, and accounting for the stable, and gradually, started spending more time back in the barn.”
Her sister, Leslie is a trainer, and she relocated to the Meadows in the mid 1990’s, and continues to train today.  Around that time, Lisa started helping her father (Walter L. ‘Boots’ Dunn) almost full-time with the training. “When he passed away in 2016, I took over everything as far as the home stable.”
“I would much rather spend the day with a horse than with most people,” she laughed. “They don’t talk back near as much.”
Lisa still is in the breeding business. “I have 8 broodmares that I’m currently breeding, and 6 are in foal this year and due to foal starting beginning of April. That keeps me busy. On top of everything else!”
She points out that more women are getting involved in harness racing, and staying involved. “On any given day, you can look in the program and half the field may be trained by women. Especially at the Meadows, you’ve got Ashley Brown, Amanda Shaw, Dana Kahrig, Angie Coleman, Kaylee Martin. And there’s always been an abundance of female grooms.”
Promoting harness racing and growing the sport is also at the top of the priority list as well, and new ideas are are always discussed among the MSOA board. “There’s so much competition for your entertainment dollar, with online gambling and sports betting, even going out to dinner and a movie. I think the old-guard fans are here to stay, but it’s definitely an issue with the younger generation. It takes 20 minutes between races, and it seems like they have a shorter attention span. At the fairs we can run the races off quicker.”
“I think we also need to concentrate on bringing new owners to the industry, and not just new fans or bettors. Anthony MacDonald just made a presentation at the HHI meeting about the opportunities with fractional ownership stables. This looks like one way to bring in a lot of new owners. They stress that for a small investment you can enjoy becoming part of the excitement of harness racing.”
The future looks extremely busy for Lisa Dunn, between the Pennsylvania fair circuit; the MSOA; and breeding and training horses. This woman looks unstoppable in her extraordinary career, and her passion and love for the horses and harness racing is endless. “It gets in your blood,” she described. “You just can’t shake it. It’s a family-oriented business, with second and third generations of horsemen. I’m just hopeful we will be here for many more years to come because it’s a great business.”

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