On The Rail with Sydney Weaver

03:21 AM 04 Jun 2014 NZST
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Harness racing Don Weaver, harness racing Sydney Seelster, harness racing Sydney Weaver takes Pinky on a solo jog with Dad watching out
Sydney Weaver, Pinky and dad, Don Weaver, ready to race
Photo by Lisa Weaver
Don Weaver won in his very first drive in 1990
Don Weaver's first win at Flamboro Downs with Sydney Seelster
Photo by Lisa Weaver
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Racing Pinky is no easy feat. She is her own horse, with her only personality and quirks. But somehow my trainer seems to understand that and makes it all work! So let me introduce to you, with great pleasure and honor, to my trainer,  Don Weaver...

I have known my trainer for 14 years now. He loves me to the moon and back.  He has been there every step of the way. He’s always there to pick me up when I fall. He’s always there to help me celebrate a victory, and will always be. He is a big reason why I’m in the sport. And every year on Father’s Day, I look to him and say “Happy Father’s Day Dad! I love you lots!”

That’s right, the trainer of Sydney Seelster is my dad. He is the one that gets up every morning, goes out to the barn; then sometimes, depending on the day, goes to work for another 12 hours at his full time job after being at the barn.

For me, my dad being my trainer is really special because when we win it’s nice to be able to say to my dad; “congratulations dad! I’m proud of you!” And when we don’t win, it’s nice to be able to look at the man who has supported me through thick and thin and say “we’ll get them next time!”

And the times when Pinky’s race doesn’t go the way we hoped and my dad is discouraged at first, I always say to him “Dad, she raced well, she’s tried; she’s safe and she’s healthy; that’s all that matters.

He always reply’s with “I know Sydney. I just wanted her to do well for you.

Then I say “Thanks dad! And I only wanted her to do well for you!”

In the post parade when the announcer says “Don Weaver trains for Cesar Kowalski and Sydney Weaver!” I gleam with pride and think to myself... Yep, that’s my dad! 

My dad’s first training win with Pinky will always mean something special to me! It was the 2013 summer meet at Grand River Raceway and my dad had just gotten his trainer’s license renewed a few weeks before. And after that day every week when we raced I hoped and prayed that this would be the race that Pinky would win for my dad! 

The day my prayers came true was one of the happiest days that I have ever had, I cried tears of joy. I was so happy we won, but I was blessed when my dad’s name blared over the speakers, and glowed on the TV’s with everyone watching!

Now my dad knows what he’s doing when it comes to training Standardbred race horses, because before I was born my dad owned and operated a small but successful stable. Prior to branching out on his own he had the opportunity to work for great trainers such as Garth Gordon and Mel Corbett. He had the chance to take a horse he looked after, named Ambro Cruiser, down to the states and race down there.

While he was on the road, he shipped with whomever he could and slept outside Cruiser’s stall at night. Then they would race and do it all again in another town and another state. Those are some of my dad’s fondest memories. Each and every time we race it brings back memories of “those good old days”. Needless to say my dad has seen, heard, and done it all.

To this day, my dad still has his colors from all those years ago. Orange with white with black trim; they are not shiny and new by today’s standards, they are not the finest or prettiest set of colors, but they tell stories of grand adventures and cherished memories to their owner and creator. He continues to wear his summer suit, when he races Pinky.

The understanding of a horse that my dad has is incomparable. He takes great care, time, and effort with horses he looks after (and always will). He can spot something being wrong with a horse in his care just by looking at it and watching their performance training, jogging, or racing.

 The signs that my dad picks up on blows my mind every time. It’s like “how did you know that”? The best way to describe it, it’s like my dad has a sixth sense, like an instinct, an intuition.

My dad does Pinky’s daily and race day routines the way he was taught all those years ago. He takes his time when cooling out Pinky after she races; giving her small drinks of water and walks her. And the morning of race day he always takes her for a walk, and takes it easy with a smaller lunch and no carrots. (This is Pinky’s least favorite of race day preparation.) 

He is always calm with her; and has a persona with any horse that is unique and I would say that’s why horses and my dad get along so well. Because he understands and cares about the horse in ways not every trainer can.  I know it sounds strange but when you’re in a barn with my dad, you can feel the energy in the barn change, and a new bright feeling take over.  

Being father and daughter and trainer and owner can sometimes be very difficult, we don’t always see eye to eye, which happens between all trainers and owners. But when you live together the tension can sometimes get much more personal, and can sometimes be carried away from the barn.

However, saying that, sometimes the exact opposite happens, because we are family, my dad understands how Pinky is not just another horse to me, she’s something more! He understands the bond we share.  And to my dad she’s a race horse, not a pet to dress up and take pictures of. I do have to give my dad credit though; he is very patient and takes it all in stride when it comes time to dressing Pinky up for a celebration.

Having Pinky has been a great experience for both him and I. Pinky has brought us closer together, and has given my dad and me the opportunity to share experiences together that without her we would have never had before!

She has also given my dad a way to teach me what he knows about horses, and pass down his legacy on to me. He can teach me the way he was taught all those years ago.

And now, as I start to study for my trainer’s license, I couldn’t ask for a better trainer to study under and learn from. And I hope one day I can be just as good as my dad is.

Sydney Weaver is 14 years old and resides in Ontario, Canada. She has been involved with harness racing for years, grooms horses, jogs them on the track, co-owns a racehorse and has already won major youth writing awards. Sydney also has Cerebral Palsy, but has never let her disablity hold her back from achieving her goals.

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