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Horse breeders association leader lauds slots

| Tuesday, May 8, 2012, 12:46 a.m.

If slot machines had been at horse racetracks a decade ago, W. Logan Dickerson probably wouldn't have sold off so many acres of his Lindwood Farm for homes.

But slots weren't at racetracks then. And horse breeding wasn't that profitable back in the 1990s in Pennsylvania. So many horse farms in the state, like his, were sold in part or in their entirety to developers, Dickerson said.

"Back in 1995, I said, why stay in the horse business to the volume we were at• So I said, 'Let's develop the farm,' " Dickerson said.

His Hempfield Township property shrank from about 490 acres to about 100 today.

"But had the slots program been in effect in 1995, we probably wouldn't have made the decision to develop. I'm a prime example of why the slots program is going to benefit the agricultural industry in Pennsylvania."

Dickerson, who in July was elected as the president of the Standardbred Breeders Association of Pennsylvania, said the state's plans to put slot machines at racetracks was originally set up to rejuvenate the standardbred and thoroughbred industries in Pennsylvania.

Benefits will come to the horse industry from more out-of-state people patronizing Pennsylvania racetracks, Dickerson said.

Other resulting bonuses from slots will be increased racing purses and more out-of-state owners boarding their horses in Pennsylvania to qualify for the state's sire stakes program.

"It really is just in the nick of time because the horse industry in Pennsylvania was going downhill," Dickerson said. "The racing tracks were being short-changed. People would go across state lines, to West Virginia for instance, and play the slots there."

Dickerson, 77, said about 8 percent of the net income from slots will go to those involved with standardbred horses -- used in harness horse racing -- or thoroughbred horses. The money also will allow those in the horse industry to keep their pastures green and free of homes.

"I'm sure it's going to work because already people have said, 'I'm going to expand my farm,' or, 'I'm not going to sell my farm,'" Dickerson said.

Lindwood, located off Route 819 near Greensburg, started back in the 1970s. At first, Dickerson was involved with Charolais cattle, but he left that market and took up horse breeding in 1978.

He'd always been around and loved horses, Dickerson said. And for a while, he even was a driver of 2-year-old harness racers in the Northeast.

"I got interested and decided to expand the farm operation. It just grew from there, from 1978 on," Dickerson said.

His farm, which is used mostly as a stallion stable, was credited with breeding more than 500 mares this year, most through shipped semen.

Among the standardbred stallions stabled at Lindwood are SJ's Photo, winner of nearly $1.5 million during his racing career, and Dragon's Lair, earner of nearly $1.1 million. Dickerson and his partner, David Prushnok, hold controlling interests in those horses.

Other standardbreds at the farm include American Winner ($1.3 million), Malabar Millennium ($67,973) and BJ's Super Star ($348,591). Sierra Kosmos, winner of $558,710, recently was shipped to Australia for that country's current breeding season.

Dickerson said the horses couldn't be better treated.

"He never misses a meal," he joked about his prized SJ's Photo.

After the horse semen is collected, it is shipped out in special containers or flown directly to a breeder if needed immediately.

The name of the farm was inspired by Dickerson's daughter, Linda, who as a child in the 1970s liked to go on picnics. Dickerson and his wife, Ann, began to refer to the property where their daughter liked to picnic -- and they would set up the horse farm -- as Linda's woods.

"When we built our home, we called it Lindwood and named the farm Lindwood. It came from Linda's woods," Dickerson said.

Dickerson, a graduate of the former Carnegie Institute of Technology with a degree in civil engineering, was a pioneer in prestressed concrete construction. His companies helped build six terminals of Philadelphia International Airport in the 1970s.

During a 47-year career in construction, Dickerson also was the contractor for many bridges built in Pennsylvania, Maryland and West Virginia. He retired and sold his business about 10 years ago.

Now the horse industry is the business he is most involved in. And Dickerson is optimistic about his future and that of others in the state's horse industry.

"Now with the slots program, we expect our stallions to maybe even double our business here," he said.

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