The term loyal employee may have been made for blacksmith Loren Combs. Combs has been the blacksmith for the backside of the track since before Hoosier Park was even open for business. Being an employee since 1994 makes Combs one of the longest standing employees here and he says he can’t think of anything else he would rather be doing. Combs values the position he holds as well as the longstanding relationships he’s made along the way.
Passionate employees like Combs are rare but for Combs, horses are not just a business, but a way of life.
“Horses are what I know,” said Combs. “I’m 74 years old and I’ve never been without a horse.”
Combs grew up on a farm in Eaton, Ohio, where his family owned horses. Combs recalled that a childhood trip to a fair and being inside the horse barns further fueled his desire to work with horses professionally.
Combs began his venture into the horse racing business at Lebanon, Ohio. He began working as a blacksmith and continued his trade at area racetracks and training venues. When Hoosier Park was about to open, Combs received word from friend and race secretary Herman Brickel that he would like Combs to join the Hoosier Park team.
Now a resident of Celina, Ohio, Combs has held numerous positions outside of the blacksmith shop on the backstretch at Hoosier Park. He has served as paddock blacksmith and identifier. He has also continued to dabble as a trainer and has even driven in a few qualifying races during his time in Indiana. Combs has a rich history with trainers and gained experience from some of the best in the business. He once worked for Wayne “Curly” Smart, a harness racing great who drove horses like Popular Byrd, Ensign Hanover, Meadow Race and Gold Worth.
Working for years as a blacksmith and working solely with Standardbred horses, Combs says he has a “tack time” (can put a shoe back on) of only five minutes. Owners and trainers alike call on Combs from all over the nation to work with their horses. He has built trusting relationships with these individuals and they reach him personally in times of need. He’s known not only for his tacking techniques but also in his ability to help with problem horses such as “knee knockers.” His dedication to his work has made him skilled and an expert in his trade.
Combs works both at Hoosier Park and Indiana Downs during the year. He admits Hoosier Park is where he likes to spend most of his time because of the people he works with.
“It’s amazing how great everyone is,” said Combs. “From the general managers on down, I know anyone would help me if I needed it. As long as I can walk, I’ll be working here at Hoosier Park.”
Combs is not only devoted to his career but his loving wife, Lois, of 54 years. He says it is his wife and the great people of Hoosier Park that drive him to continue doing what he does with a smile on his face. Hoosier Park is lucky to have committed employees like Combs who is dedicated to all aspects of harness racing and considers it not only a career, but a lifestyle. (Hoosier Park)