The Youth Literary Derby will officially get under way during the month of May when budding poets and writers in the provincial education system will converge on 20 Standardbred breeding farms across the province, and Ontario Standardbred breeders are buzzing at the prospect.
“I have seen the pure excitement and wonder the first time a child sees a mare and foal, and the experience often triggers the beginning of a lifelong love and relationship with horses,” said Larry Drysdale, Manager of Winbak Farms in Caledon, Ont. Drysdale echoes the sage words of an unknown horseman from centuries past: “Like a magnet the horse grabs the heart of a man . . . an allure that never lets go.”
Ann Straatman, Manager of Seelster Farms in Lucan agrees. “For some of the participants this is the first time they are seeing a horse, let alone a newborn foal up close. The students are inspired by the colts and fillies and the teachers are thrilled to be able to help mold that enthusiasm into a composition, or poem. This is a real opportunity for everyone to create a lifelong bond with Standardbred horses.”
There will be more than 1400 Standardbred foals born at Ontario nurseries in 2018 and their greeting to visiting Derby hopefuls will be “Hey, look us over.” They will challenge students to express their perceptions of them and their natural beauty, agility, intelligence and warm friendship in prose and in verse.
John Fielding, one of the sports premier Standardbred owners, breeders and a member of the Board of Directors of Woodbine Entertainment Group, found a special bond with horses that has endured with him through many decades. “This Derby is a fantastic entry for young horse enthusiasts who have already started their bond with these marvelous animals. The extraordinary relationship that I have with these special animals has spanned a lifetime and I believe that this Derby will not only maintain a young horse lover’s passion for the Standardbred horse, but hopefully further nurture and grow these feelings between our youth and the Standardbred horse.”
St. Catharines, Ont., Standardbred owner and breeder, Tom Rankin, thinks the Youth Literary Derby is an ideal way for introducing the sport to a wider audience. “The more knowledge people have of the breed and the sport, the better, and I think this contest is a great idea and a tremendous public relations opportunity”, said Rankin, who is the sponsor of the Derby program.
Two Mother’s Day open houses for the public take place on Sunday, May 13th. Dave Heffering’s Tara Hills Stud in Port Perry, Ont., will open its gates to the public from 1:00- 4:00 pm and Mac Lilley Farms in Dutton, Ont. will host horse lovers from 1:00- 4:00pm. Both events are sponsored by the Standardbred Breeders of Ontario Association (SBOA), Standardbred Canada and the “I Love Canadian Harness Racing Fan Club.
The Youth Literary Derby kicks off its opening day festivities at Seelster Farms on Thursday, May 10th where joyful moments of discovery of newborn foals await 100 students on their tour of the Lucan, Ont., breeding farm and nursery.
Entries for the Youth Literary Derby must be submitted by midnight of June 15, 2018.