Remembering Jim Salter

Published: January 30, 2014 02:26 pm EST

I will treasure Jim Salter and know I am very lost without him. While I tried reaching him to return his call last week, I regretted I was unable to talk to him last week when he called. I will live with that regret for the rest of my life.

Why did I write this tribute? I wanted Jim’s family and the harness racing industry to know how much Jim really meant to harness racing and us. I am blessed to have his memory in my heart and know he lives on in the harness racing documentary film ‘I Am, A Harness Racing Horse'.’ I used to drive Jim crazy with the fact it has to be called harness racing documentary film ‘I Am, A Harness Racing Horse’ not just documentary film. Those moments of us discussing certain ways of writing, is in my being and soul and leaves me with a smile on my face because we used to laugh after we were done arguing.

Click here for a video tribute to Jim Salter from those involved in I Am, A Harness Racing Horse.

But for now, I have been crying every day a week after I found out of Jim’s passing. Tears fall down my cheeks as I write this. We have had memory times in both the stables with all nine of my standardbred horses, one thoroughbred horse, and harness racing goat Billy, who are actors and models in the harness racing documentary film (OK Jim, there it is again ), and my house with all of my rescued cats and my dog, Moon, for Jim where the wonderful people working for me and I, talked about what he had done for us, and about the most wonderful things he wrote not just about me, but Monica Thors Harness Racing Stable, Monica Thors Feline division, Monica Thors Animal Rescue Inc., and how he put his whole heart into the harness racing documentary film 'I Am, A Harness Racing Horse. Jim wrote all the necessary papers I needed, and he did it with diligence and detail.

For me, his voice provided the strength, respect, and safety I felt with him around. In some ways, he was ‘the fixer.’

I remember all the late nights and holidays (original film trailer, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, St Patrick's Day, and Easter) we worked through to market and promote each film trailer. Jim worked with me through Christmas night never complaining as he took the film on as if it was his own child. The countless phone calls Jim made to people, harness racing publications and websites, both to ask for their support and to let them know how much we appreciated their support for the film if they decided to publish what we gave them. He then wrote with me thank-you letters, marketing support letters after and before each film trailer was published.

It took Jim and me over a thousand hours to research and write the first letter to industry leaders, whether meeting in the stables, at my home, or talking over the phone. I can’t tell you how many late nights were spent on that first letter for the research was tiring, made so by going through feelings of aggravation, anger, and sadness as we did the research before we could get the letter sent out regarding the welfare of our racehorses, the athletes who are the foundation of our sport, hoping it would make a difference to the standardbred industry. Unfortunately, the sport’s leaders didn’t take the letter seriously which is a shame for if the industry heeded the letter’s suggestions it could have been a declaration of independence for harness racing. Jim didn’t let the rejection stop him for he contributed to the writing with me dictating my thoughts and plans, writing three more important letters to the industry leaders.

(Note: Here are the letters Jim wrote to industry leaders. Click on the links to see the first, second, third, and fourth letters Jim wrote with Monica. Since these letters are old, some of the links within them no longer work.)

Jim was the greatest writer on earth and it showed in all the scripts he wrote for I Am, A Harness Racing Horse. Hundreds of hours of scripts for each place we went to, to shoot and film: Pocono Downs, the Meadowlands, Historic Track, the Harness Horse Youth Foundation, NYSS races, amateur harness races, races for women drivers, racing under saddle, the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame, the Hall of Fame Dinner, the Harrisburg Sale, tour of the ‘old’ Meadowlands (the queen of harness racing) grandstand, the National Standardbred Show, stakes races, fair races, behind the scenes of harness racing, the Hambletonian , old Hambletonians, Hambletonian trail at Goshen and much more.

Additional scripts were written for what transpired at my stable, where we filmed my horses and my employees in countless segments on the care and management of standardbreds behind the scenes. Massage, ultrasound, laser, shampoo session, training on track, lunging, cleaning a stall, brushing a horse, laying bandages, laying foot bandages, trimming, using glue on shoes, different ways of training a standardbred, how to put on a harness, how to put on hopples, blankets, a vet session describing what a coggins test is, the different parts of the horse, hay and feed, and much more of what you can find in a stable.

Jim did so much research on the script regarding the financial aspect of how harness racing affects the local, national, and global economies; those hours he called around and researched this subject , which filmed at the Meadowlands was not just hard, but sometimes it seemed impossible to get all the facts, but Jim did. Ken Warkentin, David Newton Dunn, Paul Carmine, and I depended on his scripts. In addition to the film itself, he wrote the scripts for the seven film trailers together with David and me.

Jim also loved the new film trailer that David and I had done on our own in 2013, ‘I, Used to be a Harness Racing Horse,’ a film trailer of the necessary changes we have to make in our sport.

Jim always was watching and telling me his opinion on our latest film trailer, a follow up of the original. This film trailer ‘All you Need to Know About Harness Racing Horses and Harness Racing.’ His smile made me know what he thought of this one, an absolute award winning film trailer, ready to be the first marketing piece on national television for the film itself. He needed not say anything, he showed me in his smile.

In addition to the film on harness racing, Jim also wrote the scripts for everything we filmed for the documentary ‘Living with Cats and One dog and Caring for Feral Cats.’ He loved coming to my house and saw the love and dedication it takes to keep many cats and one dog and a small house in spotless condition and felt the way we were organized to complete this task every day should be taught in this documentary, which can teach anyone with a cat or cats how to manage and care for cats. This film was close to Jim’s heart and he was looking forward to the documentary itself and the challenge to write the script for this film. With Jim’s help, we made one Christmas film trailer for the cats.

The year of 2012 was a year of countless hours of work, day, night, and weekends. At times we’re fighting certain groups within the racing industry itself to even be allowed to come and shoot at certain events. Sometimes it took weeks; many letters and emails to convince industry people to allow us to come and film, telling them it was actually a good thing for harness racing to make documentaries for national television. Jim and I never gave up and with the exception of one racetrack, we got to go to work where we planned and needed to. I can’t even tell you how many phone calls Jim made that year. People loved Jim. I think sometimes people allowed us to film, not for me but because they loved Jim; his enthusiasm for the film project and his outlook on harness racing drew people in.

He always told me, “Monica, I been in other businesses in my life and what I am seeing in you is you are here to save harness racing with your unique and different ways of thinking.”

Jim also cared about feral cats, especially the ones that lived on the backstretches of harness tracks. As we know when the Meadowlands closed their backstretch left behind were 50 feral cats adding to the already 30 feral cats living by the grandstand. Jim made sure Michael Marra, who is the sole caregiver of all these 80 feral cats living at the Meadowlands, was given a grant of money from the Meadowlands to help with their care. Jim wrote letters about different feral cat situations at different harness tracks and helped so many with advice and research, which took us hours. However, it was worth it for when we were successful, Jim would have the largest smile around; a smile I will never forget.

I know for one thing Jim would have wished for is for me to finish I Am, A Harness Racing Horse and air it on national television, and make sure I carried on with what we started, to save harness racing from further decline and to market and support harness racing in a different and unique way; the way Jim and I had planned.

There is so much more to write about Jim that I will keep in my heart and remember. In my life it will be a hard time to find a better person; honest, dedicated, and willing to work.

We were also planning to start filming a follow-up documentary film called ‘Racing Harness Racing Horses, with and for Love,’ documenting a journey where we would film my horses, at the races , with all the ups and downs, hard work, facts, and scenes of the real harness racing world. This film Jim was really looking forward to, as he would have been able to come with me, my horses, Billy (the goat), who he did treasure, and see harness racing in the racing environment.

Now we will go racing, and there will be no Jim. There will be a large empty spot in my heart and my soul where Jim was supposed to be. Good bye my friend, you will be missed.

Click here for a video tribute to Jim Salter from those involved in I Am, A Harness Racing Horse.

I Am, A Harness Racing Horse can use some help to cross the finish line. If you wish, you may help complete Jim's dream by donating via one of the following ways. Through Crowdrise or Fundraising My Event or you may donate using Paypal by sending donations using [email protected].

(Monica Thors)

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