Before Anna Zweig met her husband, she viewed horses primarily as work animals. Tractors were still uncommon, so horses provided most of the power on her parents' dairy farm in the small town of Nassau in Rensselaer County, southeast of Albany.
After receiving a bachelor of science degree in agricultural economics from Cornell University's College of Agriculture in 1952, she returned home. Although she had taken a job with the phone company, the sudden death of her father turned her attention back to the daily routine of dairy farming. Helping her mother and brother operate the farm brought Anna into contact with the local veterinarian, Dr. Harry Zweig.
"He was a professional in his thirties, he was good looking and charming" Mrs. Zweig says. "He was most famous, or rather I should say infamous, for how fast he drove his car over the back roads."
Despite his high-speed driving she accepted when he asked her out. Their first date? The Saratoga Raceway. They were soon married.
She learned that Zweig's passion for harness racing had been fanned by a casual dinner about a decade earlier with actor James Cagney's horse trainer, Aubrey Rodney. The trainer had lamented that Cagney felt shipping racehorses was becoming too expensive so the actor intended to sell one of his young trotters, Gypsy Hanover. Zweig couldn't resist the terms and had bought the horse.
After their marriage, the Zweigs operated the Nassau Veterinary Clinic, a two-DVM practice that served small- and large-animal owners and provided boarding facilities.
Within a few years, Harry Zweig's interests in Standardbred horses widened. He became increasingly involved with statewide efforts to improve the health and welfare of harness racing in New York. His influence was instrumental in getting the Laverne Law passed, which allows the New York Sires Stakes Program to provide incentives for Standardbred breeding in the state.
"And a very personal endeavor of Harry's was to work for the return of harness racing to the New York State Fairgrounds in Syracuse," Anna Zweig adds.
Subsequently, the Zweigs established Middlebrook Farms and the family became involved in breeding and raising pacers and trotters, and selling their yearlings at auctions.
"All of us shared in the work of feeding, grooming, and maintenance. Everyone learned the joys of success and the disappointments of poor performance," Anna Zweig recalls. "An immeasurable benefit was the common bond created among everyone in the family."
The untimely death of Harry Zweig in April 1977 triggered many changes. For some years, Middlebrook Farms continued to operate. Anna Zweig participated in all phases of the harness business. She became active in the Harness Horse Breeders of New York State, eventually becoming a director.
As a tribute to Dr. Zweig's efforts, the New York State Legislature, guided by longtime friend Jack Hardy, established the Harry M. Zweig Memorial Fund for Equine Research in his name. The fund is administered by a committee primarily comprised of breeders, trainers, owners, veterinarians, and state officials in the horse industry. Anna Zweig is pleased to be included in this group.
"I believe that the research supported by the Zweig Fund has proven to be a valuable boost to improving the health and performance of all horses," she says. "Harry would be pleased to be remembered with this foresighted effort to enhance the lives of horse and owner."
Today, Anna Zweig still lives on Middlebrook Farm where she boards horses with the help of an employee and her daughter, Susan, who also keeps the family informed about winning bloodlines. Her son Brian is now the only horse owner in the family.