Harness racing is a sport of driving a Standardbred horse pulling a light two-wheeled vehicle called a sulky at a quick speed.

Harness racing horses are of two kinds, differentiated by gait: the pacing horse, or pacer, moves both legs on one side of its body at the same time; the trotting horse, or trotter, strides with its left front and right rear leg moving forward simultaneously, then right front and left rear together.

Harness racing is one of the two main kinds of horse racing; the other involves horse racing astride in a saddle. Unlike the traditional “horse racing” people see at famous races (like the Kentucky Derby), harness racing (and the people in the industry) differ than traditional “horse people.”

Mike and Heather Wilder are no strangers to the horse business. After both being raised in the horse industry, Mike and Heather (daughter of harness trainer/driver Dan Altmeyer) have made Washington, Pa. their home and are a staple for the Meadows Standardbred Owners Association (MSOA), who race at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino. In addition to being a family-focused, training and driving sable, the Altmeyer Wilder Racing team serves as a voice for harness racing on a local and national volume.

“Harness racing is a sport that anyone can compete in — anyone is able to be a driver, trainer, horse owner or caretaker,” said Heather.

Most teams in harness racing, like Altmeyer Widler Racing, closely monitor their horses, as they want their horses to be comfortable, strong, and, of course, happy and healthy. Everything from nutrition, special daily veterinary services, hoof care, dental care, massage therapy and specialized care go into making sure the horses are the most optimal, as well as know that, as their caretakers, they are providing them with the best service, and the most love, possible.

Altmeyer Wilder Racing is a family that has been here for generations,” said Heather. “We put all of our time and energy into the animals and the sport that we love.”

Training within the harness racing world also differs from other types of horse racing. In the Altmeyer Wilder Racing stable each horse’s training program differs from the next.

“We individualize the training for each horse’s individual needs,” said Heather.

The harness racing life truly never stops, and Mike and Heather are a testament of this lifestyle. The day-to-day commitment to these animals goes beyond the daily responsibilities of other household animals.

“We dedicate all day, every day to these animals,” said Heather. “Mike begins his day at 5 a.m., and does not stop until 7 p.m. His day starts with feeding horses, then he goes to the race track and cares for his stable. He then races horses for our stable and other stables at The Meadows Racetrack & Casino. After that he goes home and takes care of the retired horses at our farm. Finally, he ends the day speaking to our partners and owners that are interested in his opinion on making their animals the best that they can be.”

The Altmeyer Wilder Racing stable invites anyone who is interested in harness racing or #TheHorseLife to reach out to them via social media or through their website.

“We truly are just trying to make an impact on our horses, our industry and our community,” said Heather. “The more we can support these groups around us, the stronger our team and the entire harness racing industry can get.”

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