When it comes to horses, Linda Schadel has all the patience in the world

by Chris Lomon

Patience just isn’t Linda Schadel’s thing. But a patient hand with her horses most certainly is.

You don’t achieve the type of success – over 400 career wins and nearly $4.4 million in career earnings – Schadel has experienced without a large measure of composure and tolerance.

Yet, as the trainer herself noted, patience is a quality that is reserved for the standardbreds under her care.

“In life, I am not a patient person. With horses, I have it. And I don’t understand why. For some reason with the horses, I am.”

It’s proven to be a winning formula that has served the conditioner well over her 17 years in racing, a career that began with four starts in 2003. The following year, she won 10 races, including her first.

Since that time, Schadel, married to harness driver Tony Schadel, has enjoyed several highlights, while also navigating numerous challenges over the years.

As for what’s kept her in the game, the Pennsylvania-based trainer, who also has three wins in limited action in the race bike, opts for one word.

“Passion. It’s in my blood. I just have this passion for the horses.”

It didn’t Schadel long to figure out what her calling in life would be.

In fact, being away from the horses for a period of time reiterated what she had already known for a while.

“After high school, I went to college for two years. I then worked at a so-called ‘normal’ job for a bit and it just wasn’t for me. I guess the horses were calling me back, so I just went back to work my father [legendary horseman Kenneth Shand, the man who brought the trotting hopple to its modern form].And here I am.”

Where she is happens to be heading a successful operation that has remained a model of consistency over time.

There have been leaner years, but there have also been far more fruitful campaigns. In 2019, Schadel recorded a career-best $508,062 in purse earnings.

A lion’s share of that money came courtesy of Aflame Hanover, the bay son of Russell Hanover (PA) who she co-owns with her husband.

Bred by Hanover Shoe Farms, the pacer has posted 13 wins in 53 lifetime starts, accompanied by earnings in excess of $390,000.

Last year, Aflame Hanover, now 4, made $275,399 for his connections, while contesting some of the continent’s most prestigious events.

In the 2019 Pepsi North America Cup, Aflame Hanover finished fourth at 135-1. The driver was Schadel’s brother-in-law, Andrew

It was a performance that still makes Schadel smile.

“I know he was the longest shot on the board,” she recalled. “I was so happy when he drew the rail. That was amazing. I knew he would put his best foot forward. Having Andrew driving was just awesome. I knew he would give him a great shot.”

The Schadel name has been associated with high-profile races before. Tony’s brother, Todd, who co-owned $3.2-million earner Vivid Photo, cheered him on to victory in the 2005 edition of the Hambletonian.

Having shifted their operation’s focus from racing claiming and older stock to purchasing and developing younger horses, the Schadels continue to reap the benefits of their hard work.

They also continue to work well as a team.

What’s been the secret to their harmonious success?

“He’s my best friend, so I guess that helps matters,” said Schadel, who recorded a career-high 41 wins in 2017, following it up with a 40-win campaign in 2018. “We get along very well and we bounce ideas off one another all the time. We’re a great team.”

They also get a helping hand from their children, Lizzy, 11, and James, 7. The kids even have a horse of their own, Fire Up.

All four members of Team Schadel are listed on the ownership of the trotting daughter of Explosive Matter (PA).

Tony was in the bike when she broke her maiden at Dayton, PA, on August 23.

“Last year, we went to the Harrisburg Sale. We ended up buying six on the Wednesday… we went a little nuts, I think. We had bought five and Tony said, ‘Okay, we’ve got to get out of here.’ And I told him, ‘Wait, I have this filly picked out for the kids.’ She ended up being in our price range. We bought her for $5,000. She didn’t turn out to be what I thought she would be this year. I had high hopes for her, but she ended up paying for herself.”

Most importantly, offered Schadel, it provided her children with an up-close look at being around the standardbreds.

And while her eldest hadn’t shown a big interest in the horses, that all changed in 2019.

“My daughter, just in the past year, has taken a real liking to the horses. She started jogging one all by herself this summer. I just never saw it with her. She was never interested, but she has this real attachment to the horse – it’s actually Aflame’s sister, Allmylovin Hanover. She’s just such a nice little 2-year-old horse. It’s made Lizzy start to like the business.

“James, he helps out. The kids help us feed the horses every night. He likes it. He can’t quite do what his sister can, but he enjoys helping out any way he can. We don’t have a lot of free time to spend as a family outside of racing, so it’s something nice that we can all do together.”

Schadel, who has 10 horses (she owns all of them) in her barn at the moment, has been impacted, like so many others in racing, by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although she has already surpassed her win total from last year, purse earnings are down from that banner campaign.

Not that you’d ever know it.

“I’m optimistic about next year and beyond. Absolutely. I don’t really know what to say. I have to be optimistic. It’s all I’ve ever known and we’re just going to keep going forward. Win or lose, it’s what we’re going to keep doing.”