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Guelph, Wellington O’Brien winners discuss awards By Aryn Strickland GUELPH – The presentation of the 2018 O’Brien awards on Feb. 2 was a big night for Guelph and Wellington award winners Louis-Philippe Roy, Richard Moreau and pacer filly and colt Shower Play and Jimmy Freight. The awards, established in 1989, are given out to the best in harness racing and are named in honour of Joe O’Brien, “an outstanding horseman and member of the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame,” states Standardbred Canada. O’Brien passed away in 1984. Louis-Philippe Roy took home his first title as Canada’s Driver of the Year at the 2018 O’Brien awards black tie gala held in Mississauga. “It’s something ... in Canada ... I think it was the highest I could reach so that means a lot, it’s kind of a dream,” Roy said of the win. He has 416 career wins with total earnings in excess of $7.4 million. He also topped the Canadian driver charts for both wins and earnings and was the leading driver in both wins and purse earnings at Woodbine Racetrack and Woodbine Mohawk Park. In 2016, Roy received the O’Brien Future Star award. Following that win, Roy moved from Quebec and his career grew from there. “When I moved here to Toronto going on the big circuit, I wasn’t sure if it was going to work out or not but right now I think my career is way more solid than it was two years ago,” Roy said.

He added living close to Toronto is a better option for a driver because the races tend to offer more money. He started driving horses with friends in Quebec when he was 15. “They had a lot of not only race horses but they had horses in the field and among

“I’ve always liked Louis and think that he’s the next big thing for harness racing.” - ADRIANO SORELLA

them there was one retired race horse. We start training him back, my friends and I, and then after I got kind of hooked to the sport and from then I wanted to be a driver,” Roy said. His current focus moving forward is to take part in the grand circuit. “I would like for sure to keep it going and try to do as good as I did last year this year. Maybe I would like to be a little bit more involved in the grand circuit that goes all around the USA and Canada a little bit too over the summer,” Roy said. He was the regular driver for O’Brien Award winners Shower Play and Jimmy Freight. “Jimmy Freight winning three year-old pacing colt of the year was a really big accomplishment,” said owner and Guelph resident Adriano Sorella. “… we couldn’t be more thrilled that he was given the honours this year.” Freight, the son of Sportswriter, won 11 races

O’Brien awards - Standardbred Canada held the annual O’Brien Awards in Mississauga Feb. 2. Guelph resident Louis-Philippe Roy took home his first title as Canada’s Driver of the Year. Submitted photo

and more than $834,000, while collecting victories in all five Ontario Sires Stakes races he competed in, including his season-ending Super Final. He also won eliminations of the Messenger and Progress Pace, and finished his season with a runner-up finish in the Progress Final. Roy said while one of the most challenging aspects of being a driver is the pressure to impress trainers and owners, Sorella said he couldn’t have been happier working with Roy. “I’ve always liked Louis and think that he’s the next big thing for harness racing. He is very humble for a man

that has taken Ontario by storm,” said Sorella. He credits Freight’s focus on race day for the win. “You would never know jogging him or training him, as he just goofs around on the track, however come race day he’s all business. His ability on all size tracks and his quickness off the gate can definitely separate him from others, especially on the smaller tracks,” he said. Freight is currently back in training, getting ready for another busy year ahead. “We have him staked up pretty well this year with all the four-year-old restricted stakes races.

“We also have him staked to the open pacing division, which is always a massive task for any four-year-old,” Sorella added. Shower Play’s Rockwood owner Suzie Kerwood had not responded to the Wellington Advertiser’s request for an interview at the time of publication. Freight was trained in Canada by Richard Moreau. This year Moreau won his sixth consecutive title as Canada’s Trainer of the Year. The six-time award winner has a 50-acre horse-training facility in Puslinch. Originally from Quebec, Moreau got into the sport

because his uncle was a jockey in Montreal. He was enrolled at CEGEP (a publicly funded pre-university college) in Montreal, but left to follow his horse training passions. A year ago Moreau told the Advertiser his goal for 2018 was to surpass $50 million in career purse money for the horses he has trained. Just short of his goal, a Standardbred Canada press release stated Moreau trained horses to more than $4.6 million in earnings, a new personal best, and sent 315 winners postward.




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Teen raising awareness about rare Bashkir curly horse breed By Aryn Strickland CENTRE WELLINGTON – Eighteen-year-old Elana Oakes of Centre Wellington dedicates her free time to spreading awareness about the rare Bashkir curly horse breed. Oakes and her event horse Spartacurl are curly horse ambassadors of Canada. They attend shows and events around Ontario teaching people about the opportunities the breed provides to those who may previously have thought horse riding was not an option for them. “The main objective is to promote the breed so that they can actually learn about them as they are an option for people with allergies,” explained Oakes. The Bashkir curly horse carries a gene that causes the breed to have a hypo allergenic curly-haired coat. The breed can come in different sizes, body types and colours and typically have harder hooves which don’t require horse shoes. According to Oakes, genetic testing to try and isolate which genes cause the curly coat is only just starting. Oakes grew up on Oakesmuir Farm, a curly horse farm outside of Elora.

Her parents, Greg and Sonja Oakes, started Oakesmuir with just Bashkir curly horses because Greg has a horse allergy. “My dad is actually allergic to horses and my mother grew up with horses so she wanted to get curly horses so they could both share the horses,” Oakes added. Oakesmuir is home to just over 50 curly horses and exclusively breeds, trains and sells Bashkir curly horses. It also offers equine-assisted therapy with Spartacurl as one of the horses used for the program. While Oakes said people in Ontario are slowly becoming more aware of the breed, it is still not common on

show circuits. “I go to horse shows and I have never actually been to another horse show that has curly horses besides the ones that I show,” Oakes said. She is also allergic to horses and has only ridden and competed with curly horses. Oakes and Spartacurl have been competing together for eight years. They have taken part in mounted games, western games, jumping, hunter equitation, trail, extreme cowboy and performance riding. “[Spartacurl] has actually competed in over 500 classes. She’s been the American ambassador curly horse champion, performance horse champion and versatility horse, and she’s been winning that award since 2013 until the present,” said Oakes. Last year alone Oakes and Spartacurl participated in approximately 20 different horse shows and parades, winning the champion high point youth and the champion high point open horse for the games classes at the Rockton and Barrie fall fairs. Now Oakes said she is looking forward to their participation in the monthly saddle club shows and this year’s fall fairs.


Local grand prix dressage competitor talks competing and breeding By Aryn Strickland BELWOOD - As a professional dressage competitor, horse breeder and trainer, Janet Konyer wears multiple hats. She competes on the international stage with Centaur LF, the grand prix horse she bred and raised on her horse farm, Lookout Farm in Belwood. Currently her main focus is training with Centaur LF ahead of four upcoming Canadian Dressage International (CDI) competitions starting in May, including the 2019 Kawartha Spring Classic at Essa Agriplex in Thorton May 3 to 5, the Ottawa Dressage Festival May 16 to 19, the 2019 RCRA Spring Classic Dressage May 24 to 26, and the Caledon Spring Jubilee in Palgrave, May 31 to June 2. After that, it’s off to the United States in the fall. Depending on how the competitions go, Konyer and Centaur LF could find themselves representing Canada at the 2020 Olympics. “Training is going very well,” said Konyer. None of which she said, could be achieved without the support of their sponsors ZenA min and Equine Omega Complete. “Everything in his grand prix is improving … all of the movements are getting better.” Every morning Konyer said she trains with Centaur LF and her trainer Nancy MacLachlan before she then trains some of MacLachlan’s horses. By 2pm she is back at Lookout Farm to ride her other horses in training and teach students in the evening. Centaur is the highestlevel competition horse that

Konyer has developed over the course of her long career. “Through our partnership and the years training, I mean it takes eight years to develop a grand prix horse ,so we know each other pretty well. I’ve come to learn, he really needs to know his test before, he needs to know where he is going and what is coming up,” said Konyer. To get a horse to that elite level, she said, also takes daily discipline and a dedication to extensive training program. “I think it takes a lot of mental preparation as well on the part of the rider and the horses need to be prepared mentally and emotionally as well and that’s a big part of the discipline that perhaps isn’t addressed enough,” Konyer added. However, out of all of the disciplines, Konyer recognized from a very early age that dressage improved all aspects of a horse’s behavior. “Even as a child I could

necessity when she was a university student and her event horse had to be retired following an injury. “Being a poor university student, it was the most economical way for me to get another horse,” said Konyer. She bred a mare with the best stallion that she could afford through the help of her old instructor and hoped for the best. “That’s how I got into breeding, I was fortunate enough that my old instructor and very dear friend bred my very first horse for me. I paid it off through training horses for her,” said Konyer. The first horse she bred was a full sibling to some of the other horses she had trained, but Konyer said the horse was completely different to her siblings. Ultimately, like humans, each horse is different. From that experience, Konyer has gone on to breed, train and sell horses interna-

“An international grand prix horse would be valued anywhere from $200,000 up to and probably over a million dollars.” - JANET KONYER

appreciate how much good dressage improved everything from the jumping to the horse’s way of going to even obedience on the trail. I learned to appreciate that very young,” Konyer said. Without being born into a horse-riding family, Konyer persuaded her parents to put her in horse-riding lessons when she was 12. Soon after that Konyer got her first horse when she was 13. She began breeding out of

tionally to buyers as far away as Guatemala, Bermuda and Hawaii. “We sold lots to the States,” Konyer added. At Lookout Farm, Konyer said she has between 25 to 30 horses. Out of those, typically 10 are in training programs to be sold when they reach the elite level. “An international grand prix horse would be valued anywhere from $200,000 up to and probably over a million dollars,” she said.

Grand prix - Janet Konyer and Centaur LF at the Bromont Autumn Classic, International Dressage competition in Quebec last September. Submitted photo

According to Konyer, the horse breeding community in North America is small, especially when you ride in the elite circles. Being a coach during the 2015 Pan American Games helped. But initially her contacts were made through the internet. Once that initial connection is made, it is common to keep selling to the same contacts. “We have a reputation for being very forthright about our horses that we sell and so we have had multiple sales to the same people. We have had a number of people, even internationally, that buy horses just through conversations and knowing and trusting us,” said Konyer. While training for the CDI events is Konyer’s main focus, she said Lookout Farm is also looking forward to the spring for another reason. “We are expecting three foals this spring,” said Konyer. Like Centaur LF, Konyer will train these horses, start-


ing the cycle again. “However, she said it’s important to nuture and respect their individuality.” To that end, Konyer said she tries to put them into a

role where they are happiest. “We try to find what they are good at and what they enjoy doing and we fill them in that discipline.”

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Rockwood and Guelph grooms win O’Brien for barn fire rescue By Aryn Strickland MILTON – Rockwood and Guelph residents Scott Lecain and Trevor Forgie were co-recipients of the Outstanding Groom Award at the 2018 O’Brien awards presented in Mississauga on Feb. 2. Their courageous efforts helped save the lives of 33 horses from a barn fire on Dec. 21 at First Line Training Centre near Guelph leased at the time by trainer Mark Steacy. “I was pretty honoured really,” said Lecain of the win. “I have been to the O’Brien awards before to represent other people, like horse of the year, but this time it was for me.” When the fire call came in at around 1:30am, Lecain was at home but he said he wasted no time driving from Rockwood to the barn. “I wasn’t really thinking, I just knew I had to get there fast,” he said. Lecain and Forgie were two of the first people to arrive at the scene.

When Lecain arrived, the blaze was in full force. “When I got there I could see the red flames through the roof and nothing but black, it was all smoke inside,” said Lecain. With their sweaters pulled

“I wasn’t really thinking, I just knew I had to get there fast.” - SCOTT LECAIN

up over their faces, Lecain and Forgie went into the barn, relying on their situational awareness to locate the horses in the heavy smoke. “I kept going doing what I do and there was another guy Trevor Forgie and he was really good, he went in a couple times moving horses into the fields,” he said. Once the horses were brought out of the barn, Lecain and Forgie quickly moved them into fields and available stalls in one of the other five barns away from the fire.

Barn fire rescue - Scott Lecain was a co-recipient of the Outstanding Groom Award at the 22nd annual O’Brien awards. A resident of Rockwood, his efforts during a barn fire at the First Line Training Centre in Milton on Dec. 21 helped save the lives of 33 horses. Submitted photo

“You can’t let a horse loose… like if you get them out of the barn, they run back in, that’s their home, so you’ve got to put them in fields or trailers or other barns,” said Lecain. Despite their efforts, five horses perished in the fire. According to Lecain, a further nine horses currently receive treatment at Guelph University for smoke inhalation and trauma and

one had to undergo surgery for colic. “He is doing okay now but all of the horses are back to training and now it’s about going forward,” said Lecain. While the barn is still in the process of being rebuilt, Lecain and Forgie are working for Steacy at Mohawk Raceway. Lecain has worked as a groom for Steacy for five years but his experience goes



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that had perished in the fire, whether it was putting them away in stalls or occasionally racing them. However, Lecain has been focused on continuing his work at Mohawk raceway. “You can’t let things bother you,” Lecain said. “I have a motto: life is like reading a book; turn the page, whatever happened on one, it’s already over.”


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beyond that. In total he has worked with horses for 44 of his 49 years. He was jogging his first horse at five years old. Both Lecain’s parents raced horses and his grandmother, Shirley Gay, is in the hall of fame for being the first Canadian female driver. “… So it’s in my blood,” Lecain said. Lecain and Forgie had worked with the three horses

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Equine Guelph announces tuition award winners By Jackie Bellamy Zions GUELPH - Equine Guelph has announced the recipients of its 2018 tuition awards. Cynthia Naydani is the recipient of the Roger L’Heureux Memorial Equine Award and Holly De Way has received the Stuart Stocks Memorial Equine Award. Selected for their love of horses, commitment to their welfare and desire to learn, both winners will receive two online courses through Equine Guelph valued at $549 each (Certificates are available in Equine Science, Equine Welfare and Equine Business – six courses complete the certificate). Already an “A” student of Equine Guelph’s online program, Naydani said, “I have gained a wealth of practical and academic knowledge that will greatly benefit me, and in turn, the horses whom I have the opportunity to work with.” She aspires to use the tools learned through Equine Guelph to keep horses in her care happy, healthy and loved in their future careers. Raised in Montreal, Naydani’s passion for horses began as a child and has grown over the years. Naydani is particularly interested in equine welfare, as it affects horses due to illadvised training practices, a lack of knowledge of equine behaviour and learning theory, and/or poor management decisions.

Naydani will eagerly await future course offerings to apply her tuition award as she is already enrolled in the 2019 winter semester taking: Equine Health and Disease Prevention and Equine Functional Anatomy. With a background in biological sciences, Naydani plans on taking Equine Genetics next. “I also definitely want to take equine behaviour,” says Naydani,“as I currently work with several horses who have unwanted behaviours, generally fear-based, due to previous negative experiences. I work to reshape these experiences to help horses overcome their issues. I know the Equine Behaviour course will provide me with invaluable knowledge that I will use every day as I work to retrain ex-racehorses as riding horses. It is great to be able to learn while continuing with working and life. Thank you!” De Way began grooming Standardbreds in 2014, after completing the Performance Horse Handler Course at the University of Guelph Ridgetown Clinton Campus. Fully committed to the horse industry, working as a part-time groom at Clinton raceway, as Barn Manager at REACH, and running her own equine care business, De Way has learned the most important key to success is putting horse welfare first. “I like to keep my mind open while working with new

Guelph equine winners - Holly De Way (left) has received the Stuart Stocks Memorial Equine Award. Cynthia Naydani (right) is the recipient of the Roger L’Heureux Memorial Equine Award. Submitted photos

horses and talking to new people about them,” said De Way. “There is always something to challenge me about these animals and this industry and that just keeps

her own farm, De Way has enrolled in Management of the Equine Environment to learn more about the important things about having an equine barn such as air qual-

“I have gained a wealth of practical and academic knowledge that will greatly benefit me, and in turn, the horses whom I have the opportunity to work with”

ing harmonious herd dynamics. De Way is excited and grateful for the opportunity to work towards the Equine Guelph Diploma in Equine Studies. The Roger L’Heureux Memorial Equine Award was established in loving memory of Standardbred driver, trainer and groom,

Roger L’Heureux by David L’Heureux and Crystal Fountains Inc. The Stuart Stocks Memorial Equine Award has been created by the Stocks family in memory of their beloved brother, son and uncle, and avid follower of top thoroughbred racehorses, Stuart Stocks.


me motivated to learn more. My goal is to further educate myself with horses and the horse industry so that I can be the best at what I do and the horses perform to the best of their abilities.” Aspiring to one day own

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ity and best management practices. She also looks forward to enrolling in the Equine Behaviour course. Skills that will come in handy when pairing up horses to go out in the paddocks and promot-

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Equine Feature Supplement February 28 2019  

Feature Supplement of The Wellington Advertiser.

Equine Feature Supplement February 28 2019  

Feature Supplement of The Wellington Advertiser.