Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Deaf individuals in the harness racing industry

Last week I ordered Barbara Livingston's Standardbred Old Friends from the Harness Racing Museum. In correspondence with museum director Janet Terhune, I learned of deaf harness racing driver Ricky Macomber Jr., who  became the all-time leading driver at Hoosier Park this year, and deaf harness racing groom Risa Tanaka.

It's rare to find other deaf/hard-of-hearing individuals in the equestrian world, and I've never heard--pun intended--of any such individuals in the Thoroughbred racing world. The fact there is a harness driver that is deaf is just amazing to me!

When I interact with people, I rely heavily upon lip-reading and body language observation to understand what is being said to me. A hearing aid allows me to hear pretty well but the nuances of human speech are beyond its capabilities. Therefore, my powers of observation are key in conversation as well as all other areas of life.

This applies to being around horses. I observe their body language and watch carefully for any unexpected movements. When I'm riding with others, I pay close attention to those around me. If I'm inattentive and there is a problem in which galloping hoofbeats and shouts are the only precursors to potential disaster, then that may not bode well for me.

Which brings us back to deaf harness driver Ricky Macomber. In the fast-paced, potentially dangerous job of driving Standardbreds in harness racing, it's amazing that he has the skills, talent, and intuition to not only compete, but do so at the top level of harness racing. Kudos to him.

Click the links to read articles about Ricky Macomber and Risa Tanaka.

Ricky Macomber search results in Standardbred Canada
Ricky Macomber donates to Indiana School for the Deaf
Determination Leads to Opportunity in Harness Racing (good info about both individuals)
September 2011 issue of Hoof Beats, which mentions Risa Tanaka, groom of Hambletonian winner Broad Bahn
Risa Tanaka: Long, strange trip

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