The Liberty Gazette
April 5, 2016Ely Air Lines
by Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Linda: Following a lay-off from her auto cad drafting job, Doreen Yost was looking for work when a friend suggested she help him train race horses. Living close to Churchill Downs has its benefits. She was 23, hadn’t been around horses, but was a perfect size: extra small.
Winter’s ground was cold when Doreen began as an exercise rider ‘walking the shed row’ indoors for the horses that didn’t go to Florida.
"To exercise them in the off-season they put a rider on for the weight and feel. I found out that balancing is really hard. I was in pretty good shape, but not for that. You have to hold your heels down and stay in the stirrups."
She’d bought the helmet and all the gear. After walking shed row for a couple weeks, one nice day they said, "Take this horse out." It was her chance to see if she could be a jockey.
At the training center was a three-horse gate. She mounted an experienced horse, and, "The first time I broke out of a gate was awesome! We were going 35-40 mph in like two jumps! They told me I ‘Woo-hoo’d’ all the way down the stretch," she laughs.
There’s no real training for that moment, so she just did everything she'd been taught. "I never thought there was any rush like that - until, the first time I landed an airplane."
Doreen tried being a race jockey for about 10 years. Because she is so light she works well with the babies; when they’re young they can take her weight, and she handled them better than she could the big horses, but realizing she would not be a jockey and felt like a failure.
Then she met Joe. They made their home as newlyweds close to Clark County Airport in Indiana.
The horse gig wasn’t getting it and those planes were flying over all the time. "I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life doing cad drawing. I needed something to focus on." She prayed about it and was still searching when Joe bought her a discovery flight.
Training began in a Cessna 152, a two-seat airplane that carried her through to her pilot’s license. "It was too little for everyone else but perfect for me - and it was always available."
Joining the 99s (women pilots group) she met Sue, who needed a race partner for the four-day all-women’s Air Race Classic. Amazed to discover there was such a thing, Doreen felt a bit intimidated at first but quickly became comfortable with the camaraderie of friendly competitors. Together they raced Sue’s Cessna 172, Race #42, across 2,530 miles, "With three goals: 1. Don't cause an accident 2. Don't kill ourselves 3. Don't finish last."
Sue made all the landings because Doreen can’t reach the pedals, even with pillows; Doreen mostly handled navigation and radio duty - she loves to talk on the radio.
Departing Doreen’s home airport, Stop 3 on the race, the alternator suddenly failed. "Our radios didn’t work so we turned back, hoping to get a new alternator quickly and stay in the race."
All the other racers had taken off, and by the time they had a new alternator the wind had shifted and a sweet tailwind carried Doreen and Sue up to Kalamazoo, giving them the second-fastest time on that leg.
As Sue’s Cessna 172 crossed the finish line much yelling, whooping and hollering occurred in the cockpit. Happy to have finished the race, 33rd out of 50, Doreen could finally answer her mom’s anxious texts and tell her she succeeded.
These days she says, "I kinda failed at being a jockey, but I’m a much better pilot."