A horse and a half

Monnie Goetz rides Harley, an American Sugarbush Harlequin Draft horse whose job it is to escort thoroughbred racehorses through the post parade and on to the starting gate. (Photo: Zulema Dewitz/For Desert Valley Times)

Harley worked his first Kentucky Derby in 2015 when he brought Frammento on the track for trainer Nick Zito and he’s also escorted stars like California Chrome to the gate.

He’s owned by life-long horsewoman Monnie (Tampa escorts) Goetz whose father is a pretty decent trainer named Tom Hawkins. Monnie shadowed her Dad around as a kid and grew up on the Nebraska racing circuit. She moved to Kentucky in 1985 and her pony business expanded to the point of including Keeneland and Churchill Downs as clients. 

Her relationship with Harley is obviously special and it started out as love at first sight. “I knew when I saw him as a foal, I just knew,” Monnie said. “I called immediately that day to buy him. This had to be. I had to have this horse. There was not one moment otherwise. It was the best move I have ever made. I’ve had some outstanding horses in my life but he is the top one now.”

Monnie Goetz rides Harley, an American Sugarbush Harlequin Draft horse whose job it is to escort thoroughbred racehorses through the post parade and on to the starting gate, while Zulema Dewitz takes a photo from the ground. (Photo: Kitty Manganello/For Desert Valley Times)

Harley is perfect at his job and he loves every minute of it and if you’ve ever watched Monnie ride him on the racetrack, you’d have to notice she’s a solid horsewoman, who is serious as a heart attack and in total control. These two make the perfect team to escort racehorses and keep them calm before post time.

These escort ponies are the true warhorses of the racetrack and often get little or no attention. They are gentle, have a kind personality and are extremely smart. They know their job well and they love working. Their day can be a long one getting nibbled, bitten, chewed and leaned on but they never seem to get annoyed by their anxious friends or their antics. So the next time you notice an escort pony on the track, please take a moment to appreciate these gallant warriors who show up day after day and make the racetrack a happier and safer place for both horses and people.

Editor’s note: A special thanks to Monnie Goetz, Zulema Dewitz and Kitty Manganello for sharing photos of Harley from the track.

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