Category Archives: The Bucket List

Horse Fun Show

Saturday was a horse fun show at Butternut Stables in Hampton. And it was fun!horses by ring for show at butternut stables

Riding students on school horses, visiting horses and riders. A barn open house and bbq. Warm, sunny weather. A good thing because the yard and barn were full of horses, people and dogs.

It was my first time in a show. As the day neared, I got more and more scared. I weighed the validity of every possible excuse to not take part. Assuming that my preferred horse was sound and that I was too, I couldn’t come up with any good reason to bail.

The number of horses available was finite, the number of potential riders was not. The horses could not be overworked. Maybe there costume-kids-photo-jim-stewart.would be so many kids wanting to ride that I could do the “adult” thing and offer my spot to them. Fingers crossed!

The road alongside the stable was filled with vehicles as far as you could see. I took my helmet with me, in case my plan failed.

Saddle up

Elizabeth, the owner, said “You can saddle Jamie. You’re up for Lady rounding polepole-bending next.” “Are you sure he’s ok? Is anyone else riding him? I don’t have to, if you need him.” “He’s good to go,” she said with a little smile. Like she knew exactly what I was doing.

Saddled up and waiting, another rider asked me if I was excited. I figured saying I might be sick at any moment was more than she wanted to know, so I just went with “terrified.”

Then Jamie and I were called. My teacher Dani opened the gate for us. “Back straight, sit up tall,” she said. I did, and stopped thinking about the people lining the rail and the timer. Jamie and I loped up one side, trotted the poles and loped for home. We did it – in a respectable time! Yeehaw.

Nervousness? Gone. Next was keyhole, and we were first up. A line laid on the ground in the shape of a keyhole. Run in, turn around and run out, as fast as you can without touching the line. I’ve ever only shoe-race-photo-jim-stewartdone it playing around in lessons. Fortunately Jamie had more experience. We did it.

The shoe race – where I realized, after we started, that circling and dropping a horseshoe in a barrel was not going to be as easy as I thought. I slowed Jamie, got it in, then we knocked over the barrel. Disqualified.

Show Ribbons

Finally, the flag race. We loped around the ring, plucking flowers off poles held over the fence. Jamie shied at one flower, but I managed to grab them all. We got second place!2nd-place-ribbon-photo-jim-stewart

Whew! My competing was done. Jamie did more work than I. He went in a few more classes with another rider. He and I joined other horses giving rides to non-competing kids. And we took a teddy bear teddy-bear-photo-jim-stewartaround the ring in the costume class. Mya the teddy bear won second place.

To top it all off, I won a 1st place rosette. High points in 16+ group. I was the only one in that group. But I am very proud of it. I am also proud that I can now say that I have competed in a horse show.

timbit-pic-jim-stewartThanks, Elizabeth, Dani and the ring crew. Thank you, Wendy, for being there. Thanks, Jim, for taking pictures. And thanks especially to John Perkins – I wish you could have seen Jamie and me go!

School Horse

To call yourself a rider, one  horse can give you your best final test: a school horse. Horses ridden in lessons build up knowledge of school horse dennywhat makes a good, and bad, rider. When you can ride a school horse consistently well, you can say, why yes, I do ride.

School horses are the most even-natured and tolerant creatures in a stable. That is why they give lessons and the divas of horsedom do not. School horses will figure out what the mixed cues you’re sending actually mean. But not forever. When they deem it time, they require you to do it correctly. They make you search for the answers of how to ride.

Like every student at Butternut Stables in Hampton, I started on Denny. He is an old hand at lessons. He is quiet and gentle with little kids. With older students, he assesses their abilities and acts accordingly. Sometimes he helps you learn and sometimes he simply amuses himself. Just depends how he feels at that moment.

Anything a neophyte rider can do wrong, Denny knows. Anything a horse can do to foil a rider, Denny knows. He has a neck of steel that he can lock in place if he wants to go a different direction than you want to go. An hour on Denny is a full workout – legs, arms, and patience and willpower.

Ride on the wind

oreo and me leaving arenaBut Denny and every school horse I’ve ridden like to show you what they can really do. When they figure you can handle it, they’ll take you for a ride on the wind. “You wanna go faster? Okay!” You can only hang on. You’re trying to remember what you’re supposed to do. Your human teacher yells ‘legs, seat, reins!”

With or without you doing anything, your Pegasus suddenly snorts and stops. You put your parts back where they belong in the saddle. Then, as if he had never seen that vast plain in his ancestral mind’s eye, your horse goes back to plodding along.

At some point, you learn how to keep your legs, hands and seat where they’re supposed to be. Your horse slows down when you ask, speeds up when you ask. You’re working together. And running like the wind is fun. Yeehaw!

After riding other Butternut horses, I went back to Denny. I wanted to see what I’d learned. Quite a bit. What a massive thrill when we agreed on what we were doing!jamie and me in outdoor ring

But he’s a tough examiner and I never passed my finals with him. Denny and his stablemate Oreo recently retired to a life of leisure. Both great teachers, they will be missed by their students. Happy trails, boys.

Sadly, Oreo’s trail ended too soon. He passed away Oct. 26th. Robin’s Moocho Denero (his registered name) will not be forgotten.

Hanover Horses

Waco Hanover and Donnie MacAdams photo Barbara LivingstonA Facebook share – Waco Hanover celebrates his 40th birthday in 2017. He’s a Standardbred pacer, living in Vermont.

From his name, I knew he was of Hanover Shoe Farms. I’ve read Donald P. Evans’ Hanover: The greatest name in harness racing. It tells the story of a Pennsylvania racing and breeding stable that the Hanover Shoe Company owners started at the turn of the 20th century.

About ten years ago, after reading the book, I read online about Ralph Hanover who won the US pacing Triple Crown in 1983. He was the only Canadian-owned horse to do so. I learned that Ralph Ralph Hanover racing photo Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Famehad lived at Grand Royal Farms near Calton, Ontario. It is a magnificent property, one you know has seen days of glory. It was past those days when I knew it, but it was still a working horse farm.

So Ralph Hanover and Grand Royal, what were their stories?

The story of Grand Royal was easy to find. It had been a large Standardbred stable in southwestern Ontario. Then it went to Thoroughbred racing. Then it changed hands several times and its racing days were over.

mare and foal Grand Royal 1980s photo Elgin County Archives
Standardbred mare and foal, Grand Royal Farms, Calton ON, late 1980s

Finding out about Ralph Hanover proved more difficult. I googled and asked anyone I knew in the horse business. He went to Kentucky to stand at stud. Then he’d gone to Prince Edward Island, maybe. Alive? Nobody knew.

Reading about Waco Hanover now, I wondered how closely related he was to Ralph. My go-to horse pedigree site told me Waco Hanover, born 1977, is the son of Tar Heel and Wanda Hanover. Tar Heel was son of Billy Direct and Leta Long. Wow, Billy Direct was the horse who matched Dan Patch’s record 1:55 mile in 1938.

Tar Heel was Ralph Hanover’s maternal grandsire. Ralph was born in 1980, sired by Meadow Skipper out of Ravina Hanover. So Waco and Ralph’s mother are half-siblings, making Waco Ralph’s uncle.

Ralph Hanover Waco Hanover pedigree by Dorothy Stewart
Ralph and Waco Hanover pedigree chart (click for larger view)

Then I google Ralph. Right at the top are articles about his death in October 2008 at the age of 28. He lived in Dutton, West Elgin, Ontario. In 2008 I lived in St. Thomas, a half hour drive from Dutton.

West Elgin Horse Farms

In July 2008, we went on a tour of West Elgin horse farms. One was a harness racing stable. I talked to the owner, but did not ask about Ralph Hanover. If I had, he likely would have told me that Ralph lived a few concession roads over. Ralph lived on the Mac Lilley farm.

One of the owners of Grand Royal Farms in its harness racing heyday was Doug Lilley. Googling hasn’t given me the connection between Mac and Doug, but the Mac Lilley Farms website says it’s a three-generation operation.

Ralph Hanover and Ron Waples horseracinghalloffame.com/1986/01/01
Ralph Hanover and Ron Waples, Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame 1986 inductees

So the lesson from this? Google, drive around, ask – and keep asking and driving. One good chat at the Western Fair race track probably would have told me where Ralph Hanover was. And keep googling. I might not have found out about Ralph until he died, since that’s what most of the results were about, but at least I’d have known eight years earlier.

Finding Ralph, too late, has made me think about the famous horses meeting their fans at the Hall of Champions in the Kentucky Horse Park (see my Cigar). And Dan Patch’s towns, Oxford, Indiana and Savage, Minnesota, making sure that visitors know they’re entering hallowed horse racing ground (see my Dan Patch). Ralph Hanover was among the elite of racehorse champions. Dutton deserves to be proud of being his final hometown. I only wish I’d known he was there, so close by.

Dan Patch

Dan Patch was a harness racing horse, a pacer. He was crazy good, they said. 110 years ago, he was the best pacer ever seen. He was a Harness racing Dan Patch Breeder_and_sportsman_mag_1911_wikicommonshuge celebrity in the US, the first multi-million dollar sports superstar.

His story is told in Charles Leerhsen’s 2010 book Crazy Good. You will enjoy it even if you know nothing about harness racing. It’s a story of triumph over adversity, of middle America at the dawn of the automobile age, and of the hucksterism that Americans do so well.

Crazy Good: The true story of Dan Patch - Amazon link
Click for Amazon link

Dan Patch was born in Oxford, Indiana in 1896 to Zelica, a mare obscure in Standardbred breeding history. His sire, Joe Patchen, was well known for both his speed and his bad temper.

At birth, Dan Patch’s prospects seemed zero. His left rear leg was misshapen. His owner Dan Messner was advised to put him down. But he didn’t. For the history of harness racing, and for Dan Patch, that was a very wise decision. Dan Patch learned to walk, then run.

Dan was a natural. He loved to race and he loved audiences. As his star rose, other parties became interested in him. With a new owner, he went to the big time. That’s when the hucksterism started. Not by Dan Patch, who simply continued to run the very best he could, but by Marion W. Savage, his new owner. At Savage’s International Stock Food Company farm near Minneapolis, Dan Patch lived out the rest of his days. When he wasn’t travelling the country in his own rail car.

T-Eaton-Co- photo Dan_Patch_wikicommonsDan Patch never lost a race. Horse owners became unwilling to enter their horses against him. So Savage promoted exhibition races with Dan running only against the clock. Dan set a record in September 1906 at the Minnesota State Fair with a mile in 1:55. That time was not officially recognized because a windshield was used. Dan Patch’s official mile record was 1:55:¼ set in Lexington KY in 1905. His unofficial record was not matched until 1938 when Billy Direct paced a mile in 1:55. It wasn’t beaten until 1960.

Dan Patch Two Step (for piano)

Dan Patch coffee can from ctpost.com
from ctpost.com March 22 2012

Savage was an odd man, very successful at selling himself and products. However much he may or may not have known about horses, he knew a lot about marketing. And market Dan Patch, he did. Dan’s image and name were on livestock feed, tobacco, a railway and everything in between. He even gets a mention in The Music Man.

For horse people, Dan Patch didn’t need a front man. His talent spoke for itself. But Savage’s marketing of Dan and racing made both better known to a public much larger than harness racing fans.

Dan Patch died July 11, 1916. Marion W. Savage died one day later. By that time, harness racing had ceased being a major national sport.Dan-Patch-Line-MN-Bachman-farm workers load train car-wikicommons

If, like me, you’d like to do a pilgrimage to the homes of Dan Patch, check Dan Patch Historical Society in Savage MN for places and events. Also look for “Dan Patch Days” in Oxford IN.

Horse Show

jamie-waitingA horse show is a great way to spend a day. Sleek horses, adorable ponies and their riders showing their skill. It’s watching beauty in motion.

Today, at Spring Brook Stables near Moncton, I held my breath while watching the ring. Yes, it was the beauty of the horses and riders and all that. But I was watching one horse in particular. Jamie, my favourite school horse, was competing. He did wonderfully.

jerry and jamie at ring entranceIt was possibly his first show ever. For sure, it was his first in several years. But he was so calm while waiting and in his classes you would think he had been hanging around show rings his whole life.

horse show classHe and Jerry, a fellow lesson horse at Butternut Stables, went with two of the girls who ride there. Only Jerry had been at shows before. But all four looked like they were old hands at competition, and they did great.

jamie-with-ribbonA first, second, two third and two fifth place ribbons in total. The girls rode beautifully. They looked confident and lovely. So did the horses. I think – hope – they’ll all be back in a show ring soon.

The Great Benjamin’s Circus

The circus came to town last Friday. The Great Benjamin’s Circus at the Princess Louise Park in Sussex. Catching sight of a circus tent with lights flashing and flags flying – all the ‘adulting’ I was in town to do went right out of the window. Errands would get done, after the circus, whenever.Great Benjamin's Circus tent-plp-sussex-nb-photo-d-stewart

One ring under canvas. Settle in, ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and enjoy the show.

Let the show begin

hula-hoops-photo-d-stewartA juggler, a hula hoop lady, a dog act of Standard Poodles, Spaniels, Terriers and one scene-stealing Chihuahua. Fire eaters, a contortionist, aerialists with hoops and silks. Clowning, rope twirling with nerve-rattling audience participation. Motorbikes circling in a steel cage. Sitting near the cage, I watched a crew member circling the outside of it throughout the performance ensuring all the bolts were staying tight.motorbike-cage-photo-d-stewart

I took pictures early on but then just watched and held my breath at the feats of wonder. Cheered and clapped. More photos toward the end, no flash of course. Who would want to be responsible for distracting a performer for even a nanosecond?

It was a capacity crowd for the late afternoon show. The evening performance would likely be overflowing. The front of house people must have agreed with that assessment. While we were leaving, an announcement was made: another performance had been added after the 7 p.m. one. Outside the tent, an enormous line of people waited to get in.great benjamin's circus dogs-photo-d-stewart

So late in the night, after three performances, the circus would pack up and head off for the next day’s shows in Moncton. It’s not a long drive, but another long day would follow for performers and crew. Not unusual for them, I’m sure.circus in lights photo-d-stewart

According to their website, The Great Benjamin’s Circus is based in the US and Mexico. They play the small towns of North America, all through the year by the looks of the schedule. I am very happy they came to my small town. I looked at the faces of the kids as they were leaving the show. Awestruck. I wondered if, like me, they were thinking about running away with the circus.

Cuba

In the late 1980s, with one wintry week off, my boyfriend and I decided to go to a resort. We found a last-minute deal in Cuba.

Havana-harbour-D-Stewart-photosOur fellow passengers on the  flight were mostly labour union people. Many had been in Cuba often, on educational tours and seminars as well as vacations at the resort we were going to. The tour company and Ontario unions were linked somehow.

Parasito-D-Stewart-photosThe only one on its bay, the resort was between Havana and Varadero. Good food, a cottage near the water. The usual things to do. A pool, theme parties, a riding stable, tennis courts, and the ocean. Bus excursions to see the countryside and people.

We went to Havana for a day. A woman invited us to eat with her family after she and my boyfriend talked in Spanish outside her house on a down town side street. Her kids wanted to know about North America, we wanted to know about Cuba.

We went to a Hemingway bar – a famous little hole in the wall, the Bodeguita del Medio. Mojitos are the specialty. Decades of drinkers from-Havana-Museum-1988-D-Stewarthave scratched their autographs into the walls. We did too, and bought a t-shirt. We walked along the Malecón, looked at the beautiful crumbling old buildings, the dance clubs and theatres from Havana’s heyday as an American playground. Before Castro, before the embargo. Vehicles filled the streets. The only new ones were Russian. The others were from 1950s America, engines rumbling the way only V-8s do.

At the resort, we saw how the cars were kept running. A man had the hood of his car up, working on it. So we went over to watch. Pretty much everyone with a car knew how to make some parts, he said, or adapt them. Metal fabricators specialized in making engine parts. With string, wire, metal and wood, those cars kept going. They sounded and looked like the pride of Detroit.

Havana-1988-D-Stewart-photos

Americans in Cuba, again

The half-century old embargo likely will be lifted now. American hotel executives are with Obama on his trip to Cuba. Deals are being made. American tourists will join the Canadians and Europeans on the beaches. New cars will be sent. I think it’s been long enough now that everyone knows the museum value of the American cars kept alive in Cuba longer than anywhere except the garages of classic car collectors. The cars are not of intrinsic value as examples of their model, however, having few original parts anywhere in them. Their worth is as works of art, industrial art perhaps. They show the ability of machine and mechanic to stay operational. Adaptation and invention are highly developed skills in Cuba. I hope they survive.

El-Tropico-Cuba-1988-D-Stewart-photosIt’s a long time since I was in Cuba, about half the lifetime of the old cars. I bet the island changed less in those decades than it will in the next year or two.

Santa Dogs

Santa Claus parade Poodle waiting to startThe Christmas season, for me, officially begins with the Santa Claus parade. But you have to start feeling festive a bit earlier if you’re going to be in the parade. The St. Thomas Dog Owners Association decided to enter a “float” of dogs in the 2010 St. Thomas Santa Claus Parade. Leo and Charlie were ready with bells on.

We had a member’s van for carrying dogs and people and borrowed a beautiful brand new 2011 Ram truck from Elgin Chrysler.  We Charlie in truck, looking at the crowdsdecorated both with lights and tinsel.  My contribution to the decorating was figuring out how to tie a lighted reindeer to the rear view mirror of the Ram so he shone out from the windshield.

So, off to the parade mustering ground at the Timken’s parking lot.  A horse trailer and tiny ponies standing beside it getting tacked up by small girls.  Two larger ponies were waiting to be harnessed to a beautiful white open carriage.  Nearby a pipe band warmed up. Leo leaped from the car. Party time!

Leo and STDOA van in Santa Claus parade lineupAfter two years with Leo, it still amazes me how fully he has embraced human activities.  He didn’t grow up from puppyhood around parades and sidewalks.  A puppy mill ‘production’ dog, he knew nothing about interacting in human society.  But he’s a fast learner, and he knows that noise, music and big concentrations of people means there’s likely to be dropped food on the ground!

Parade Ground

Floats were massed four wide on First Ave.  I had no idea where STDOA might be.  So we walked up to Talbot, looking for dogs. The parade marshals, Steve Peters, Joe Preston and Heather Jackson-Chapman, told me where exactly STDOA was.  How they knew in that sea of floats and bands is beyond me!

Santa's Elves in parade line upMusic blaring, technical difficulties getting sorted out, elves putting on their outfits.  It was glorious – like being in the back lot at the circus.  STDOA people and dogs were just where the marshals had told me.  The dogs were checking each other out – their antlers, Santa coats, elf hats, bells and lighted collars.

Then the floats started moving.  As we rounded the corner at First and Talbot, kids were lined 6 or 8 rows deep.  A big roar came from them, “dogs, dogs” as we came into sight.  All the way along Talbot Street, it was the same.  “Look at the dogs.  Dogs, dogs!”  We weren’t dogs in Santa Claus parade on Talbot Streetdoing anything other than walking along the street.

I had a pocketful of smelly treats.  I knew Leo would be vacuuming the street for candy and dropped food, so wanted to have something to keep his attention.  It worked – he pranced around me trying to get his nose in my pocket and hands.  He looked like he was dancing.  He’d sit, give a paw, do all the tricks he could think of to make me give him a treat.  So I made the most of it, and he looked like a performing poodle.  He was performing all right, begging for food.  He’d visit people along the parade route, in reality checking to see if they had any food he could scarf, but he’d waggle his tail and let them pet him.

Santa Claus and Santa Dogs

He and Charlie pranced and danced all the way to Elgin Street. They watched the people and listened to the oohs and aahs. I’m sure they Reindeer-Dobe-photo-Dorothy-Stewartthought all those people had come out just to see them. And, in a way, they had. They’d come to see dogs, people, ponies and vehicles in a magical situation.  Everybody dressed up, everybody smiling.  Everybody waiting to see Santa, of course.  He’s the main event.  But in a parade, every ‘act’ is a main event.  This year, my first of ever being in a parade, I found out that’s true for participants as well as spectators.

Originally posted on my St. Thomas Dog Blog, Dec. 1, 2010, The 2015 St. Thomas parade was on Nov. 21st. If you’re near Sussex or Hampton NB, both towns’ parades are this Saturday, Dec. 5th.

 

Breeders’ Cup

Saturday was Hallowe’en. A big day. This October 31st was a big day for another reason. The Breeders’ Cup Classic horse race and the chance to see something that’s never happened before. It happened.

breeders' cup classic pharoah-and-victorWire to wire and breaking the track record time, American Pharoah won the 2015 Breeders’ Cup Classic. Therefore, he won the grand slam, the four most prestigious Thoroughbred races in North America. He is the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown and the first who had the chance to add a fourth jewel. (Watch it here)

The Breeders’ Cup was started in 1984 by American horse breeders as a showcase for the sport and the bloodstock. Each year, on dirt and turf tracks, the best of the best compete. The Classic is for 3 year old and older horses. It’s a big end to the race meet and the season.

five-length-leadUnlike the Triple Crown races, the Breeders’ Cup moves from track to track each year. This year, for the first time, it was held at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky. In light of the history it made, that was especially nice. Keeneland is an old and prestigious track right in the middle of the blue grass and horse farm country.

Breeders cup celebration wave

After the Breeders’ Cup Classic

The day after the Breeders’ Cup, American Pharoah was trailered a few kilometres down the road to his new home, Ashford Stud at Coolmore Farms. It would have been a difficult day for the Zayats, saying goodbye to him.

He’s still their horse but they sold the breeding rights to Coolmore. It’s likely his stud fee will be about $200,000. That will go up or down, depending on what happens when his babies start racing. The fee for the services of Pioneerof the Nile, his dad, jumped way up to $120,000 after American Pharaoh won the Triple Crown. It was evidence of good genes being passed on. So now we wait to see if American Pharoah passes them to his offspring.

classic championI wish American Pharaoh a long and happy life. His name will be a distinguished one in the record books forever. He’ll have a special place in our hearts. A Triple Crown after 37 long years, when it seemed all but impossible. Then the cherry on top – the Breeders’ Cup Classic. But most of all for his heart and personality, for making it look so easy.

 

Ron and Secretariat

Last weekend, my dog and I went to Grand Falls/Grand-Sault in secretariat-and-ron-photo-d-stewartnorthern New Brunswick to see a statue unveiled. It is Ron Turcotte and Secretariat crossing the finish line at the Belmont Stakes in 1973 and thereby winning the Triple Crown.

As you cross the falls on the Ron Turcotte Bridge heading to the town’s centre, the statue is the first thing you see in the middle of the beautiful Broadway Boulevard. New Brunswick artist Yves Thériault made it, and it is magnificent.

In an article I read, M. Thériault said he wanted to convey the sense of turcotte-statue photo dorothy stewartthe race itself, that moment of victory. How can you do that in bronze, I wondered. He did it. The long narrow dirt-filled base is the track, with M. Turcotte’s career wins and awards engraved on the sides. Beside Secretariat, the finish line tower shows the time (2:24). Crouched over his neck, Ron Turcotte looks back to unseen horses, way way back.

The monument was under wraps of course, and the wrap was Secretariat’s blue and white checkerboard. The statue was unveiled secretariat-unveiling-photo-d-stewartby little kids dressed in The Meadow’s silks, complete with boots and helmets. During the removal of the cover, the actual race call played over loudspeakers. That was a truly inspired moment of theatre.

After unveiling the statue

Ron Turcotte, his wife Gaétane, children and grandchildren and his brothers and sisters were all there. Horse racing dignitaries were there, fans from all over Canada and the US and hometown people ron-and-leo-photo-d-stewartcelebrating their own local hero. A lovely message of congratulations from Secretariat’s owner Penny Chenery was read out.

It was a party, with cake and plush-toy Secretariats. Everyone wanted to talk with M. Turcotte and have their picture taken with him. As he headed to the tent from the statue, he kindly stopped to allow me to take a photo of him with my dog.

In the tent, he signed autographs on small cards and large posters. He turcotte-signs-3-triple-crown-printsigned the glass of large framed prints. For me, he signed a photograph of another dog of ours standing beside the Secretariat statue at the Kentucky Horse Park. That made the day complete for me.

I stopped at the Falls on my way out of town. I couldn’t quite see the statue from there. Probably in winter, when there are no leaves on the trees, you’ll be able to. I didn’t stop at the town’s museum across the road, but I wish I had. M. Turcotte’s riding boots and goggles are on display.

motel-leo-photo-d-stewartLeo and I enjoyed our stay at the Motel Leo. Lovely people and a fine room. Merci, thank you.

See my Secretariat movie for the picture I had autographed and thoughts on the movie.

Also see my Turcotte, the movie for more on the excellent 2013 NFB film Secretariat’s Jockey about Ron Turcotte’s life and horse racing career.