LANCASTER COUNTY, Pa. — The horse racing community is urging Governor Tom Wolf to loosen the reins on the industry. Many horse trainers and owners said they are struggling to afford care as the shutdown of racing stretches into week eight.
“Right now, I would be very busy probably racing four to five days a week,” said Neal Ehrhart, of Lititz, Lancaster County.
Ehrhart has been a horse trainer for 45 years. He and his wife Ginny own 12 Standardbred horses that they train for harness racing. Though the industry shutdown has halted their revenue, the couple still has to care for and feed their athletic animals.
“We earn nearly 100% of our income from racing. We depend upon the purses that we win when we race,” explained Ehrhart. “That’s how we make our livelihood. That’s how we feed our family.”
Ehrhart said caring for a dozen Standardbreds costs nearly $30,000 a month. They have not received any financial help, including unemployment. This mom-and-pop stable feels left in the dust.
“We’ve applied for just about everything that’s out there, both federally and statewide, and have gotten zip, nothing, nada,” stated Ehrhart.
Some states, like Florida and California, have allowed tracks to continue holding horse races, but without spectators present. The State Horse Racing Commission is urging Governor Wolf to follow suit. Governor Wolf has previously said he would consider the option, but the Governor’s Office did not provide details to FOX43.
“That’s what’s scary,” Ehrhart added. “I don’t know what [date] we could go to because we can’t just say ‘well we’re going to show up at the track and go race.’ We have to have the OK from the governor to do that.”
Until then, the work never stops. The Ehrharts continue to train their massive athletes that are champing at the bit to get back in the race.
“It’s not like you can turn it off. You have to take care of these horses daily,” said Ehrhart. “When the floodgates open, you have to be ready to go and race.”
The Wolf Administration has created a list of general guidance for all industries in each phase of reopening. You can find that information here.