“They say the north wind was tangled in his mane”
He was the little horse with the big heart, Athlete of the Year, the first Canadian horse to win the Kentucky Derby, a sire of sires, a Canadian hero. When I was a little girl, dreaming about breeding the first filly to win the triple crown, I knew the Northern Dancer bloodline would help me achieve my goal.
He was so small that when he was auctioned for sale at the Canadian yearling sales, he failed to raise the $25,000 reserve bid. As a result, he stayed with E.P. Taylor’s Windfields Farms. Ron Turcotte and Bill Shoemaker both rode him, but it was Bill Hartack who rode him to victory in the 1964 Kentucky Derby, the Preakness, and in the Queen’s Plate.
In his two years of racing, Northern Dancer won 14 of his 18 races, and never finished worse than third (he was third in the Belmont Stakes). He stood at stud at Windfields Farm in Oshawa until 1969, then moved to Windfields’ Maryland farm. Considered to be the greatest sire of the 20th century, Northern Dancer sired 147 stakes winners, including Nijinsky II, winner of England’s Triple Crown.
He won the American Eclipse Award as three-year old male champion in 1964, and the Sovereign Award for Horse of the Year. In 1965, he became the first horse to be inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, an honour he held until 1996, when show jumper Big Ben joined him. He was part of the first group of inductees into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame, and was induced into the National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame in 1976. In 1999, Canada Post honoured him with an image on a postage stamp, and a life-size bronze statue immortalizes him outside Woodbine Race Track in Toronto.
In the 1980s, his stud fee reached US $1M; at the 1983 Keeneland Sales his son, Snaafi Dancer, became the first yearling to sell for $10M. He retired from stud on April 15, 1987 at the age of 26, and died three years later at the age of 29. His remains were brought back to Canada for burial at Windfields Farm in Oshawa, Ontario.
Windfields Farm was a six square kilometre (1,500 acre) thoroughbred breeding farm founded by E.P. Taylor in Oshawa, Ontario. Horses owned by Windfields Farm have won 11 Queen’s Plat races, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness Stakes. Their horses have won the Canadian Triple Crown twice. A world-record 48 champions and 360 stakes winners were bred at the farm. In 2008, Canadian Hall of Fame jockey Sandy Hawley trained at Windfields Farm before coming back to win the Living Legends Race aboard Tribal Chief.
In 1989, following the death of E.P. Taylor, Windfields Farm was downsized, with large portions of land being sold to the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and Durham College. Housing developments replaced other farm lands, and the estate devolved into a small, private farm. In 2009, the breeding operation officially folded, and the bulk of the remaining property was sold to real estate developers. Some of the farm’s historic barns, the grave of Norther Dancer, and a trillium forest where fifteen horses (including Archers Bay, Canadiana, New Providence, Northern Dancer, South Ocean, Vice Regent, Victoria Park and Windfields) are interred, were to be preserved as a commemorative park.
But the University of Ontario Institute of Technology and the City of Oshawa, who have agreed to maintain these buildings, the forest, and the memories, have failed to uphold their commitment. A proposal is now before the City of Oshawa to designated the farm a heritage site.
Northern Dancer was a great athlete, the head of a dynasty that changed horse racing, and a great Canadian. Windfields Farm, in its day, garnered international attention as a breeding operation. On a day when many are celebrating renewal and new life, it is doubly tragic that Windfields Farm, Northern Dancer’s resting place is abandoned. My battle cry? Help save Windfields Farm!
To help save Windfields Farm, please send a letter to the City of Oshawa (firstname.lastname@example.org). A copy of a letter, along with more details about Windfields Farm, can be found at http://savewindfields.com.
There is no better way to start the week than with a smile. This will resonate with everyone who has ever found themselves suddenly without a horse underneath!
I would confess, I’ve booked many a flight on this airline, and in spite of the fact the descents are desperately quick, the landings abrupt and often painful, and the airline highly unsympathetic (and often surprised), I keep going back.
Here’s hoping your ride today is on friendly skies!
Or at least, check out these very funny videos in celebration of the horse!
Find out what’s happening this week in the world of horses – The weekly edition of The Pony Express is now available online!
Highlights from this week’s edition include:
- News from the world of horse sport including a memorial to Sea Fox, an update on Lauren Hough, a tribute to Rapid Redux, and congratulations to Pamela Law, Jump Canada’s Volunteer of the Year.
- An update on the state of wild horses and horse slaughter in America.
- Great information on holistic treatment of wounds, and what the natural horseman keeps in the stable emergency kit.
- … and much, much more!
Thanks for checking out The Pony Express. If you have information you’d like to see included, please let me know!
There are few sights more endearing than thundering Shetland ponies tearing around a steeplechase course tackling 12 miniature “Aintree-style” fences. Shetland Ponies are fabulous, fierce competitors, and their cuteness often belies a high intelligence and well-developed sense of mischief.
The Shetland Pony Grand National qualifier from the 2011 Badminton Horse Trials, one of several qualifying events held in England as riders and their ponies vie to qualify for one of 10 spots in the Shetland Pony Grand National at Olympia, the London International Horse Show, held in December.
From an event marketing perspective, the Shetland Pony Grand National really has it all. The ponies and kids are compelling, the race is incredibly fun. It is a compellingly cute attraction that appeals to audiences young and old, and it is linked to charity and a high-profile, worthwhile cause. The Shetland Pony Grand National raises significant money for charity, draws visitors to horse shows (which means increased profile, more revenue, etc), and, in an era where a significant number of breeds are considered endangered by the http://www.rbst.org.uk, gives the Shetland Pony Registry and the breed’s opportunity to do what it must: reinvent the Shetland Pony so that it stays relevant in the modern world.
About Shetland Ponies:
Shetland Ponies originated as a breed in the Shetland Isles, northeast of mainland Scotland. They are small, hardy ponies ranging in height from 7 hands (28 inches) to 10.2 hands (42 inches) at the withers. American Shetlands can be as large as 11.2 hands (46 inches).
The ponies have heavy coats, short legs and are considered very intelligent. were first recognized as a breed in 1890. They were first used for pulling carts, carrying peat, coal and other items, and for plowing farm land. When the Industrial Revolution increased the demand for coal, Shetland ponies were used as pit ponies on mainland Britain and in the United States, where the last pony mine closed in 1971.
About the Shetland Pony Grand National:
The Shetland Pony Grand National stared in 1981 as the brain-child of the Late Raymond Brooks-Ward, the founder of the Olympia International Horse Show. The steeplechase is run along the same lines as its big brother, the Grand National at Aintree. Ponies are paraded, jockeys (wearing racing silks) are mounted led to the start. The race around the course incorporates 2 1/2 laps and 12 miniature Aintree-style fences.
The rules of the event are simple:
- Riders must compete for a year in a discipline like jumping, eventing or dressage before beginning the qualifying process at the Windsor Horse Show.
- Competitors must be between the ages of 9 and 13, and no taller than 5’1″.
- Ponies must be at least 5 years old, and registered with the Shetland Pony Stud Book Society.
The purpose of the Grand National is two-fold. It raises money through race sponsorships: since its inaugural race in 1981, the Shetland Pony Grand National has raised more than £400K, with the Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital being this year’s charity of choice.
Great sites to visit to learn more about Shetland ponies
and of course, the Shetland pony wiki page: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shetland_pony
98 years ago today, Woodford (Woody) Cefis Stephens was born in Stanton, Kentucky. Elected into the National Racing Museum Hall of Fame in 1976, Stephens’ career in thoroughbred racing spanned seven decades. He ran Cain Hoy Stable for Harry Guggenheim for 10 years, trained seven Eclipse Award winning race horses, five kentucky Oaks winners, two Kentucky Derby winners (Cannonade ’74, Swale ’84), a Preakness winner (Blue Man ’52), and an unprecedented five straight Belmon Stakes winners (Conquistador Cielo ’82, Caveat ’83, Swale ’84, Creme Fraiche ’85 and Danzig Connection in ’86). In 1983, he won the Eclipse Award as the top trainer in the United States.
As a young racing fan, I spent hours glued to the television watching the Derby, the Preakness, the Belmont, the Queen’s Plate, and any other race that was televised. I poured over a friend’s father’s racing sheets and stud books, tracked races through the newspaper, learned about handicapping. I studied bloodlines, lineage, genetics and picked the horses from the racing sheets in the Globe and Mail that I thought would win, place or show, based on that magical combination of bloodline, talent, rider, trainer and heart, and my own applied “knowledge”. It was a passion that, for a while, bordered on obsession, and my goal ultimately became to breed and own the first filly to ever win the Triple Crown. Woody Stevens was a part of the dream team I wanted to assemble to help me on this quest, along with my long-time hero, racing legend Sandy Hawley. With a great filly, and those two in her court, I was confident it would become a reality.
The dream still lives on, and today it seems fitting to remember the dream, and pay tribute to one of the men who figured so prominently in it.