If you're a smart
traveler you know that the best way to see a
region is off the main highways and touring
about on the back roads and country lanes. It's
here that you get a real sense and feel of an
area. If you are doing this in mid-Orange County,
you can't help but notice huge tracts of land
devoted to horse breeding. Great stables tucked
away in the hollows and beautiful horses roaming
the vast pastures is a trademark of the area.
you might say at first, and "beautiful."
But then, you wouldn't be expected to know the
intimate history of an area, you wouldn't be
expected to know that Orange County is the cradle
of Standardbred horse breeding and harness racing
in America. But it's very true and one of the
prides of New York State.
The late 18th century
and the 19th century saw Orange County become
the preeminent location for Standardbred horse
breeding and harness racing in America. Goshen,
the center of the county, became the center
of this sport with the races being held down
Main Street in the early days. Surrounding Goshen
were the most famous breeders in the country
and after it was built in 1838 the local race
track became one of the most important venues
for the sport of harness racing in the world.
Out of Orange County came some of the most important
Standardbred horses the world has ever seen,
including the majestic Hambiltonian, the foundation
sire of the breed, foaled in 1849 and reared
here in the heart of horse country, Orange County.
sport of Harness Racing was developed and then
sanctified on the race courses of Orange County
before the sport lost popularity in the early
1900's. What remains of this greatness are a
few breeding farms scattered about and the Goshen
Race Track, the oldest trotting track in the
world, still operating with a full summer season.
This National Historic Site, built in 1838 and
located right in the middle of the village of
Goshen, is a picturesque little standard one
mile track with a small wooden grand stand,
barns and outbuildings, all intimately huddled
together in the heart of Goshen. On beautiful
late spring and summer days you can find horses
in their sulkies and harness out on the track
running their paces and training for glory in
the world of harness racing. The grand stand
is open and free to the public at these times
and you are invited to sit and watch. During
the brief racing season in Goshen in the late
spring and early summer, there is little more
exciting to do than to come to the race track
and thrill to the horses as they speed around
this charming and intimate track.
Just around the
corner from the Historic Track, at 240 Main
Street, is the Harness Racing Museum & Trotting
Horse Hall of Fame. As Goshen was the capital
of the sport, it is only fitting that this museum
was founded right here adjacent to the track.
The museum is an exciting and family friendly
exploration into the world of horse breeding
and harness racing. The museum's collection
includes more than 1,500 works of art, 1,000
pieces of ephemera, 5,000 photographs, 300 jockey
outfits, 50 sulkies and so much more. All of
this is assembled into exciting interactive
presentations where you are encouraged to explore
and discover. Children love the museum and its
video presentations and interactive displays.
Let your kids climb into a sulky and grab the