by Chris Lomon
When it comes to working with pacers and trotters, Bobbie Jo Brewer is all about the one-on-one approach.
Regardless of the hours it takes, the horsewoman from Ohio has all the time in the world to dedicate to each horse that comes through her barn.
Whether it’s her own pacers or trotters, or others that are sent to her, Brewer sees each horse as an individual.
“That’s exactly what they are for me,” she said. “I felt that way the first time I was around a horse.”
Which happened to be when she was very young.
“I was a kid – I can’t even remember how old I was – and my dad owned a construction company. One year, he oversaw the building of a racetrack, and part of the payment was a racehorse. I don’t remember the name of the horse, but it was given to my father.”
It also gave something to a wide-eyed kid, specifically, a spark to perhaps one day become part of the standardbred industry herself.
“There was just something about that horse and horses in general that really stuck with me from that moment. I do remember just falling in love with the horses and it’s a feeling that never left me.”
Brewer went on to work for some top trainers, a list that includes Mike Watson.
“I was very lucky to get the opportunities that I did. I think the one important thing for me was to really listen and learn, to ask questions, and to understand the business. I always made sure to pay attention and pick up pointers along the way.”
She wasn’t daunted by the thought of going out on her own.
Instead, Brewer immersed herself in the sport, a patient student of the game, who was willing to wait for the right moment to test the training and driving waters.
It was five years ago when she felt the timing was right.
In nine appearances in the sulky, she posted a pair of second and thirds in two starts. Training-wise, she won 11 races and posted 41 top-three finishes from 135 starts.
“I wasn’t nervous, not really at all. I was pretty much doing a lot for the people I worked for, so the comfort level was there. You picked up those little things here and there from trainers, helpful skills that you could put into your own career. I do a lot of the stuff I learned today from the people I worked for before. That’s really been a huge help.”
One aspect – and it’s a big one – of her personal training philosophy is a therapeutic approach to the horses.
That hands-on approach has served Brewer well.
“I do try and keep the vets away as much as I can. It’s something that has worked for me and most importantly, the horses. The horses, they get everything they need. They are never left wanting. It’s all about the best grain, the best hay, and the best care. For me, the horses are never just a number in the barn. Each one is very much their own individual self. I always try to find them good homes because that’s what they deserve. They gave everything they had for me and that’s what I do for them. They have their own personality, and they all get treated differently because they all are truly different.”
And then there is Royal Cam Hall.
Now 15, the son of Camelot Hall—Makaylas Star racked up 49 wins and over $326,000 in career earnings in 315 career dashes.
The bay pacer is still a key member of Brewer’s operation.
“He was the first horse I ever drove. I claimed him back what feels like 18 times because he was pride and joy. I just could never part with him. When I did lose him to a claim, I had to get him back. He was just that special. He’s like a human… he’s playful and he’s so much fun to be around. Even though he’s 15, he acts like a two-year-old. Even though he isn’t, he still wants to be out there. He babysits my trotter, Howyadoinbub. If Cam isn’t around Bub, he won’t eat anything. They have to do everything together. It’s crazy, but it’s wonderful.”
Wonderful is a word Brewer uses often when speaking of her racing life. Goal-wise, she maintains a modest outlook.
“I’m not in it for the fame or the glory. I guess that’s just because I love the horses and I love the business. Eventually, I’d like to get a few babies and break some babies. The baby game would be fun.”
Currently, Brewer has 10 horses in her barn.
And, as she reiterates, her day-to-day approach is all about one-on-one care.
“I don’t look at reaching a certain number of wins or purse earnings each year. Horses come in and out of my barn, so it’s most important for me to make sure they get the care they deserve. Other trainers will send me their horses too, horses that need that individual attention. I like the TheraPlate (a device that uses small, circular movements to stimulate muscle contraction and increase circulation) to help them as well. A lot of it is therapy work for me.”
Does that make Brewer the horse whisperer?
“I guess so,” she said with a laugh. “I won’t leave, unless I’m racing, until I’m sure all the horses have been given the attention they need.”
Brewer, who has been in a relationship with driver Jason Beattie for almost 10 years, is understandably grateful for how her horse racing journey has unfolded.
Despite little time for outside pursuits, she has no complaints about making a career of harness racing.
“The horses, they really are my life. Jason and I will go out on the pontoon boat and enjoy that when we can, but most of our lives, together and separately, revolve around the horses. And I’m fine with that. It’s the way the business is, but when you get the chance to spend your day with these great animals, you feel very fortunate.”
Just like she does with her latest one-on-one endeavor, working with eight-year-old pacer Big Bad Arcster.
The well-traveled son of Big Bad John-Andromeda recently came into her care.
“An owner bought him back for me, and he’s started qualifying. I wanted to give him a shot again and see where it goes. I just fall in love with them I guess. I fall in love with them easily. It’s very rewarding. They all are. All you want is for them to be happy.”
And that’s precisely what Brewer is herself.
“There is a song by Luke Combs called ‘Doin This.’ It sums up me and my horses.”
Fitting, no doubt, some of the lyrics include the lines: “It ain’t about the fame. It ain’t about the fortune. It ain’t about the name. It ain’t about the glory.”