Trish Coyle — Horsewoman, wife and mother

by Victoria Howard

Trish Coyle was raised around horses. Her mother showed hunters and her father was a professional rodeo cowboy. Born in Waltham, MA, her family relocated to Maine after her father was injured at work.

“My dad had driving horses and believed that driving was a great way to train or retrain a riding horse. My parents were affiliated mostly with runners, and it wasn’t until I got older that I got involved with standardbreds.

“After working with delicate thoroughbreds I was amazed at he toughness of the standardbreds and how much the breed loves being around people.

“Dad had a lot of ‘bad acting’ horses that no one else wanted. We would retrain them to be functional, workable horses.

“I always loved horses and as a teenager I rode and showed them. One day trainer Val Grondin invited me to Bill Varney’s Pembroke Farm to watch the babies, and it was love at first sight.

“When I went to Bass Park and watched the horses raced I was amazed at the toughness of the standardbreds. I was enthralled by the love these horses had for people.

“Val (Grondin) taught me about lameness, training, rehabilitation and having a great work ethic. Although I owe Val so much there are others who also taught me a lot.

“I was a caretaker or second trainer for Nat Vardy, Bob Sumner, Vinnie Copeland, Brenda Teague, Kelvin Harrison, Nick Surick, Travis Alexander, Michael Russo and Rob and Patty Harmon.

“I’m currently working for trainer Richie Johnson who is one of the most talented and caring horsemen I’ve ever worked with. Currently we train at Gaitway Farm in Manalapan.

“We have a small stable now but hopefully will have more horses soon. Most of the horses are rehab/problem horses we try to figure out so they can succeed as racehorses.

“Besides working for Richie I also do catch paddocks and ship horses anytime I’m not racing my own.

“A typical day is turning the horses out between 5:30-6 during the summer and 5:30-6 in the winter. The horses are turned out for about an hour then I bring them in and brush and harness them by 7 and our first horse is on the track by 7:30 most days.

“Richie goes with as many as he can before heading for his ‘day’ job. We are usually done with the track work by 9, but training days can run later.

“I bathe the horses as they come in and then take my son, William, to school, which is when the horses relax and eat hay while they are drying.

“After dropping William off at school I go back to the barn and start putting the horses away. That is also when I nebulize or cold water hose if needed.

“When I’m finished I feed lunch, clean the barn, equipment, and jog cart.”

William is the son Coyle has with husband, horseman Giacomo Francisci, whom she met when she was racing in Delaware.

“Giacomo and I became friends when I was in Delaware and he lived in New York. When I got a job as a second trainer in New Jersey we started dating.

“We enjoyed a lot of the same interests and both loved trotters. Less than a year of dating I discovered we were expecting. I worked until I was six months pregnant and when health concerns arose I quit working at the barn.

“I never thought I would slow down enough to have time for a child or family, but William is the best thing that has happened to us.

“After William’s birth I ran the equine spa for Travis Alexander. It was a God-send for I would bring my son with me to a heated barn.

“We had a great set up for William and he grew up around horses. I even have pictures of him holding a lead shank as young as 7 months old.”

“He has never been scared of horses and is a big help washing equipment and brushing horses.

“When we lived in PA, William had his own driving pony he jogged and cared for himself.

“William has horses in his blood and has a natural affinity for them. Ever since he was a baby all the horses — even my ‘craziest’ horses — seem to gravitate towards him.”

Coyle’s husband, Giacomo, comes from a harness family that live in Italy. There he was a leading driver and trainer before coming to America to pursue his dreams.

“My husband’s family still lives in Italy and we try to visit as much as possible. It is an awesome experience traveling to Europe and watching the races there and visiting all the beautiful farms.”

Some of Coyle’s favorite and best all time horses are Stars Photo, William Ridgerest, Kissing Rain, Lts Best, Itchy, Casino King, Lady of the Dragon, La Vita Buona, Versado, Roland and Rock, Voukafalus, Leonidas Photosinfulsis, Admirals Frosty, Pembroke Prayer, In The Arsenal, Versado and Winning Linc.

“The fastest horse I ever took care of was Leonidas. It was a great opportunity to care and travel with him.

“I thought I’d have trouble juggling the work/family life balance for the horses were always my life — and still are. I still work a lot but I’m more selective about how many nights/days I work, but it’s all working out. I even take days off now and then to do something with my family and do real people things.

“It’s hard as a working mom to not feel some guilt, for if you work too much you aren’t with your child as much, but if you don’t work enough with the horses you feel like you aren’t providing enough for your four-legged kids.

“I stopped racing on family holidays and birthdays and my motto with the horses is ‘I’ll try for them as long as they keep trying for me.’

“It’s not easy juggling working with horses and raising a son, but many horsemen have done it successfully for decades. I wouldn’t trade my life for anything and am thankful every day.”