Kevin Altig has been around horses all his life, but later this month, a lifelong dream will come true.
Altig, 32, earned his standardbred harness racing license last month and plans to be in the driver’s seat with the reins in hand as Trap Queen, his father’s 5-year-old pacer, competes in a qualifying race around Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington at the end of the month.
Altig, his father, Brian Tomlinson, and his cousin Dave Mayne spend nearly eight hours a day, 365 days a year caring for and training about nine standard breed pacers at the stables at the Frederick Fairgrounds.
“I gotta be here. No one else is going to feed them,” Altig said.
Each morning, the horses are fed and watered and then usually exercised on a 3-mile jog that takes them six times around the fairgrounds’ oval gravel track. Weather seldom prevents the workouts; only freezing rain or an ice-covered track will keep them from practicing. When the horses are in jogging or training mode, they travel clockwise around the track at a more modest pace.
Friday was a special day for Altig, of Frederick, as he prepared two horses for the start of the racing season at the end of the month.
Another horseman at the stables, Craig Parker, and he took four of their horses on three short warm-up laps clockwise and then reversed direction for a fast two laps around the track. The horses are trained to react to the direction in which they are running. The racers can reach speeds of 40 mph on the track. A good race will cover the 1-mile course in under two minutes.
The family houses and trains their horses at the fairgrounds, but then travel to Rosecroft, Laurel and Ocean City, but return for four days of racing each September during The Great Frederick Fair. The horses can race about 11 months of the year.
Once the fast, counterclockwise lap was finished Friday, Altig led Trap Queen back to the barn with steam rising off her back. Then, it was a hot shower, a warm blanket and back to her stall to await the second of three feedings of the day.
On Saturday, the training will continue at the small section of barns at the rear of the fairgrounds.