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SC Rewind: When Horse Was King

Published: October 14, 2017 9:28 am ET

Last Comment: October 18, 2017 11:33 am ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

This week's Rewind is a bit different from the usual; it's all about horses but with less to do with actual harness racing. Robert has penned a mainly pictorial piece that shows a wide variety of horse types that once provided our forefathers with a wide range of services. His panorama of pictures shows how diverse the use of horses once was; these beautiful animals were capable of accomplishing just about anything. It also has some ties with the old fall fairs many remember occurring around this time of the year.

In the earliest days of harness racing as a sport, much of the allure and interest came from people's sheer love of horses. Those folks who depended on all types of horses from the heaviest of draft horses to the much smaller "road" types used for travel, loved to see them on a track in competition. Long before horses were bred and raised solely for racing purposes some of the "speedier" ones worked all week and when fall fair time came around, they starred on the track.

The pictures that follow show a wide variety of horses and how they were used; for work and for entertainment . If you happen to like old pictures I think most of these are pretty interesting.

This picture shows the "technology" in effect many years ago at the Old Woodbine track. I can recall a few years ago that the track conditioner stalled in front of the stands at either Woodbine or Mohawk and the balance of the evening's card had to be canceled. Such an occurrence would have been unlikely at the time of this great old photograph.


For many years the late Doug Palmer of Schomberg, Ont. was a very active participant in Ontario harness racing circles as a breeder, owner and driver. He also specialized in raising and showing Belgian horses at the fairs, a practice that was followed by his daughter Beth. This 1979 photo shows his grandson Kevin Myers who was then just five years old. At the end of each lead shank was a lot of horse power. This pair were headed to that year's Royal Winter Fair show. The Palmer Belgians became widely known thanks in part to Carlsberg. Another trademark was the use of the name "Remlap" for their horses which just happens to be Palmer spelled in reverse.


A nice scene from the Norwood, Ont. Fair taken many years ago (Norwood Fair archives)


The earliest bike type sulkies were styled a bit different than those we see today. The driver sat much higher and because of their positioning they were often referred to as "Tail Sitters". This old photo was taken not too long after the first low-wheeled bike sulkies made their appearance in harness racing. (Hoof Beats)


Long before the days of huge snowplows the streets of Toronto still got cleared. It may have taken a bit longer but the job did get done. (City of Toronto archives)


The Haflinger breed, which originated in Austria, has become a popular type of horse in Canadian and U.S. show rings in recent years. Shown above is my brother Larry Smith of Amherstburg showing one of his prize horses at the Norfolk County Fair in Simcoe, Ont. back in 1985.


A lot of farming was done in Western Canada's grain fields before the tractor and other mechanization came along. A teamster who could handle 30 horses at a time had to be a pretty good horseman.


This well-appointed team of driving horses appear on the streets of downtown Leamington a century ago. Who knows if that wasn't a Doctor heading out on his rounds?


Delivery wagons like this one made door-to-door stops supplying households with milk, bread, produce and other necessary items. This practice went on for several generations and a picture like this is a reminder of a simpler time. This wagon was owned by the Walkerside Dairy in Windsor, Ont.


In 1955 the oldest licensed driver in Michigan at the age of 73 was Mel Stine. As a reminder of the earlier days of harness sport he hitched Dad Lee in a 90-year-old high-wheeled sulky. Owner Ray Dahlinger holds the horse. Stine insists he doesn't want to go back to "the good old days" of racing. (Hoof Beats)


Shown here in a 1982 photo are Lois and Russell Teeple of Paisley, Ont. and their daughter Vivian with six of their prized heavy show horses. (courtesy of Virtual Reference Library)


A full grandstand at the 1977 Milton Fair watches intently as a pair of geldings, Rex and Barney, pull a heavily loaded stone boat in a drawing competition.

Who Is It?

Can you correctly identify the two young gentlemen in this great old photograph? The answer will appear during the coming week.

October 18, 2017 - 11:33 amThis week's Who Is It? didn't

This week's Who Is It? didn't seem to draw many guesses. The gentleman at the horse's head is Murray Waples while Keith Waples checks the foot of the five year old pacing mare Heather C Scott who was owned by Archie Cumming of Atwood Ont. Photo from Huronia Museum archives

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