After 20 Years, Woman Still Harnessed To Horse Racing

February 17, 1991|By Glenn P. Graham | Glenn P. Graham,Staff writer

WESTMINSTER — It was more than 20 years ago when Judy Welty won her first harness race.

The year was 1970 when she drove a horse named "Worthy Lad" to victory in a race at the Carlisle (Pa.) Fair. It was a special race and a special horse to Welty.

"It was my very first race, and I had a really good horse named Worthy Lad," she recalled. "In fact, he's about 25 or 26 now and stillkickin' around with us."

And while "Worthy Lad" no longer is racing, the 43-year-old Welty is as active as ever.

Welty now races only about three times a year, having turned her attention more to training racehorses, mostly pacers and some trotters, and blacksmithing at the family's farm.

"I just love horses. Right now I have eight in my stable which I'm training. I also started blacksmithing about five or six years ago and have 15 to 20 horses to shoe every month; it's quite backbreaking," Welty said.

Welty has been around horses all her life. She came to the Westminster area with her family from Long Island, N.Y., when she was 9.

"My father always had horses, and I grew up with them around. We came up here to buy a horse, and my father loved the area so much we bought a house," she said.

Today, Welty and her husband, Floyd, live on a farm just north of here with their five children -- twins Brad and Brian, 22, from her previous marriage; Kevin, 11; Christopher, 9; and Kerry, 7.

"My husband is starting to like horses now, and he gets down to the barn some and also helps out with getting the kids dinner when I'm away," Welty said.

"None of the children race. Brian has two horses we race, and Kerry is a little horsewoman. She has her own pony and takes it to the Agriculture Center and shows her off. She has already won a few ribbons.

"Right now she wants to be a little blacksmith; she lifts up her pony's leg and pretends to shoe her, so I told her when she gets a little older, I'll teach her the trade.

"The other children aren't too interested in horses. There's a golf course near the farm, and Chris gathers the balls that come over and has his own little course. He likes to golf. Kevin is more into football," she said.

Over the years, Welty has won hundreds of races all over Pennsylvania, Delaware and Maryland. She most frequently drives at Rosecroft Raceway in Prince George's County.

Her last win at Rosecroft came last summer. Itwasn't the first time she had won at Rosecroft.

In 1972, then known as Judith Emerson, she became the first woman ever to win a harness race at Rosecroft.

"To be honest, I can't recall that win. Therehave been so many over the years I can't keep track of them all. Theone that sticks in my mind most is the first win at Carlisle," she said.

She notes the trend which has occurred in women's participation in racing.

"Right now it has really mellowed out," she said. "Not long after I got my license there were two or three women racing, and I can remember when four or five of us were racing at the same place. But in the past five years, it has backed off a bit. I don't quite know why."

Perhaps one reason for the letdown is the fact that the it is much more difficult obtaining a license from the United States Trotting Association these days.

"It wasn't that hard to get into racing," she said. "It was not difficult to get a license back then. In fact, it is much tougher now to obtain a license; they are screening everyone more closely."

When she was most active in racing, Welty usually raced five nights a week. Now virtually inactive in racing, she hasn't missed it as much as she thought she would.

"I think I'm just in another stage of my life now," she said. "I really enjoy training horses and bringing them up -- particularly the young horses. It's great seeing the young ones improve every day."

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