Photo of Rusty Freeman, courtesy of Rusty Freeman.
By Tim Bojarski, for Upstate NewYork Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association:
Anyone who has ever dealt with a quarter crack can appreciate what it takes to get their horse sound and racing again. Rusty Freeman is responsible for changing the way this debilitating condition is handled, reducing down time from weeks to days and turning the process into a state of the art form over the years.
As a result of his tireless work to help the breed, the Upstate New York Chapter of the United States Harness Writers Association (USHWA) will present Freeman with the Innovator’s Award for contributions to the sport of harness racing in the winner’s circle at Batavia Downs on Saturday (Dec. 16) during the 10th annual “Night of Distinction” awards ceremony.
Freeman was working as a factory machinist in western New York in the late 1970’s when he was first introduced to harness racing. While visiting a friend who had trotters, he was shown why a particular horse was lame with a hoof crack and the whole thing quickly intrigued him.
He developed a way to use a Dremel tool and cut out just the part of the hoof he felt was needed, and then put a tube under the patch. That way air could still get to the sore area to aid healing and it could also be flushed with antiseptic to keep it clean.
He then researched and developed an acrylic compound he uses instead of fiberglass and combines that with Kevlar cloth to do the patches. The combination of the tube under the new patch material gives the area every opportunity to heal and grow out properly in a short amount of time.
Freeman has been plying his trade at harness tracks in New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Pennsylvania for almost 40 years now and many times works hand in hand with vets. As a result, hundreds of horses have been made sound quicker, allowing them to get back in the box much sooner.
Also a farrier, Freeman is an accredited member of the American Association of Professional Farriers (AAPF) and helps other professionals in the field understand and benefit from his technics.
Post time for the first race on Saturday is 6 p.m.