Laverne Turnbull of Kitchener, Ont., has long-time roots in the harness racing industry that stemmed from the Manitoba harness racing circuit and have flourished in Ontario. Laverne keeps himself involved in the industry as a small-time owner and annual contributor to Standardbred Canada’s Heart of Harness Racing Calendar.
Turnbull captured this scenic photo of the horses at the fairgrounds in Holland, Manitoba, which is a typical harness racing scene in the prairie province, where horsemen tie their horses to whatever is available on race day (since there are no paddocks available!).
“The horse with the cooler on is Reys N Charlie, owned by Janet Rey and her husband, trainer Richard Rey of St. Claude, Manitoba. The horse tied to the trailer in the foreground is Fast Lane Firebolt, owned, trained and driven by Richard & Janet's son Michel. The horse hiding is Great Quote, and the other horse (#7) is Whysantanna, is owned and trained by Richard and Janet's daughter Melanie.
“I worked for Richard in Manitoba and Ron Waples in Florida, New Jersey and Ontario until about 1992, when I started my own stable. I raced until 2008, when I went back to school for the pharmacy technician job. Other than floating teeth, I do own a small share of a couple of horses with Jeff Williamson, that race in Ontario, and the one horse that is going to Manitoba.”
Laverne resides in Ontario, spending his days as a pharmacy technician at Grand River Hospital in Kitchener, Ont. as well as working as a vet assistant floating horses’ teeth, but he still manages to make it back to Manitoba to visit his family a few times each year.
“My parents and sister are in Manitoba, so I try to make it home two or three times a year. It will be a little tricky going to the races this year as all the fair races are in one town this year (Miami), and no spectators are allowed,” he explained. “Dad and I are leasing a horse together that will race there (huge THANK YOU to Jeff Williamson for leasing us a three-year-old), so hopefully that is enough to get into the races when I visit.”
Laverne has been passionate about harness racing since he was young and attended the fair races with his dad, which has allowed him to understand the hard-work and dedication of the horsemen and women in the industry.
“There are a lot of people in the business who are just following their passion, who may or may not be making much money, but are just being true to themselves. And people who are being true to themselves are often the kind of people I admire and want to associate with,” Turnbull explained. “As I got older, I found it very unique that the people I had to compete with on the racetrack to make a living were also the people who would readily lend me a piece of equipment that I needed, or come and pick me up in the middle of the night when my truck or trailer broke down.”
Although Laverne considers himself an amateur photographer, this is the third time that one of his photos has been selected for the Heart of Harness Racing Calendar. His past photos were featured in June 2017 and April 2018.
“My photography is just for my own amusement and pleasure. I do hope to take a course one day when I retire from the hospital and just have one job.”