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Memorable Christmas Gifts

Published: December 23, 2013 4:27 pm ET

Last Comment: December 23, 2013 6:31 pm ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

The ‘I Love Canadian Harness Racing’ Fan Club received loads of entries for its ‘Most Memorable Horsey Christmas Gift Contest.’

The judges are pleased to announce that Amy McDonald of Goulds, Newfoundland is the winner.

McDonald and her family lost horses and animals in a tragic barn fire in Newfoundland last December. Her memorable Christmas gifts came in the form of a free breeding to Big Jim donated by James Carr, and a mare called Onaway, donated by Mary Paulic.

As McDonald reminds us, “Life can change in the blink of an eye, but because of two strangers, two horse people, you have everything you ever wanted. As I say, Jim Carr gave me an opportunity of a lifetime, and Mary Paulic made it happen!”

McDonald’s submission is below, followed by some excerpts from some honourable mentions.

Submitted by Amy McDonald

December 10, 2012 was a day that changed my life forever. My parents and I had only been home for about two hours when we got the call, "Don't panic, but I think the barn is on fire." By the time we got there, they were all gone. Seven standardbreds, three pygmy goats, and a Newfoundland pony. My life was shattered. Each of us had a horse – Melissa, Mach and Charm, all special to us in their own way. It was bad enough to lose all the harness and contents of the barn, but to lose them was unbearable.

The next day was tough. Where to go? Not the barn. What to do? We had to be around horses and friends. It was a cold day at Embarr Stables, a riding barn owned and operated by our good friend and driver Carol Goodman and Scott MacRoberts, so a coffee trip was in order. Mom and dad were gone really long. Then mom called.

"Amy, do you know who Jim Carr is?"

"Um... I've heard the name before. I can't place him."

"Do you know who Big Jim is?"

My mind began to race, why was she asking me this?


It turned out that Jim Carr had heard about our story on Standardbred Canada's website and he wanted to donate a FREE Breeding to Big Jim to ME! I immediately started to cry tears of joy. As a young 19-year-old girl racing horses in Newfoundland, I never would have gotten the chance to breed a mare to an O'Brien Award winner like Big Jim. This was my first Christmas gift from a stranger.

Emails, phone calls, and messages came pouring in to us from horsepeople internationally. A lot of drivers and trainers from the Ontario scene were calling me. It was amazing. Of course, I was hurting, but to have so many people reaching out really helped. The search was on. What was a free breeding without a mare to breed to? Finally, WEG announcer Ken Middleton sent me a message: "Mary Paulic called offering to donate a mare named Onaway. She has a mark of 1:52.3 and has over $155,000 made." This was the mare! This was my second Christmas gift from a stranger.

Onaway spent the first few months of 2013 in Ontario getting bred and monitored, and finally we were on our way to get her. Now, Onaway, our new horse, is here in Newfoundland, nine months along in her pregnancy with a Big Jim foal. No gift will ever top last year’s gift! The best thing is that it's not over! I still have a Big Jim foal to look forward to being born in 2014 and my mare Onaway is here every day for me. Life can change in the blink of an eye, but because of two strangers, two horsepeople, you have everything you ever wanted. As I say, Jim Carr gave me an opportunity of a lifetime, and Mary Paulic made it happen!

Submitted by Sydney Weaver

Christmas 2012, I wanted one thing: a racehorse. Mom said Santa only brings gifts that you can afford to care for after he brings them – we could not. I had been a good girl and prayed, hoped and believed. Christmas morning our friend, Cesar Kowalski, called and said he was going north, but had books for me to help write my trainer’s (license) and asked if we could meet. I said, “Mom is there a horse in the living room?” Sadly, ‘no’ was the answer. I said, “Sure we could meet” because I didn’t get what I wanted most, so opening presents could wait.

Cesar and dad decided to meet half way at Campbellville Training Centre. My dad went in, Mom and I waited for Cesar and his wife, Cindy. When they got there, he gave me a huge bag of horse books and another, gift wrapped. He said, “Before you open that, let’s go find your dad.”

Into the barn we went.

In the barn was a stall wrapped in Christmas paper and gifts with tags that said, ‘To Sydney, Love Santa.’ Mom wheeled me in front of a horse and she was so beautiful. Cesar gave me my present to open, a plaque that said ‘Sydney’s First Horse’ (not a dry eye in the barn). I couldn’t believe it! Santa did it – with a lot of help from Cesar. The Christmas of 2012 has been the best Christmas EVER!!!!!

(Sydney’s horse is Sydney Seelster, and is affectionately known as ‘Pinky’)

Submitted by Denise Peacock

My most memorable Christmas present would have to be my pitchfork. Most people would think that would not be a good gift to receive, but when you do farm work, to find a good one that you like is priceless. I had a favourite old one which had been taped together in two or three places because of cracks and had owned it for years. It broke. Can you guess who broke it? My husband did. I was upset because I really liked that one. I looked for months to find a replacement pitchfork that I liked that would fit in my hands just right and had the right feel to it. I could not find one anywhere. I was real picky. My husband found one for me and put a bow on it and put it under the tree. It is now my favourite one and scoops and rakes up poop just as good as my old one. I am grateful that he took the time and thought to find one I would like. I also asked for a wheelbarrow, but maybe that's this years Christmas present…hint, hint!

Submitted by Barry Pon

My most memorable Christmas gift was a winning photo-finish picture printed on a ceramic mug given to me by my longtime friend and trainer of over 30 years, Kim Dressler. We had a mare named Lavish Spirit, who was doing very well against her female peers, however, in May 1991, the draw came out and she was entered against the males. I was sure Kim had mistakenly entered her in the wrong condition, as there was a fillies and mares class, but he assured me that this was no error. The day of the race she went off at odds of 31-1. The overwhelming favourite, Ryans Prince, ended up being parked the entire mile. ‘Spirit’ got into the second-over position with half a mile to go and we were able to follow him (Ryans Prince). Lavish Spirit tipped out at the sixteenth pole and caught up to him at the line. The photo seemed to take longer than usual and we prevailed by the shortest nose.

Recently, I was reminiscing with Kim and brought up this race and he said, laughingly, “Oh, is that the one I entered in the wrong class?" Alas, my poor mug was accidently dropped and shattered when it was being removed from the dishwasher a few years later.

Thank you to everyone who took the time to share their memories and enter the contest. We heard from people who received unique bridles, photos, harnesses, and more. It was tough selecting just one winner!

December 23, 2013 - 6:31 pmCongrats AMY! So very happy

Congrats AMY! So very happy to see this :)

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