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We All Need A Little Hope

Published: June 21, 2021 1:55 pm ET

Last Comment: June 21, 2021 10:43 pm ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

The Ontario harness racing industry has been decimated over recent months with three separate shutdowns due to the global pandemic. With racing now back on track, our horse people finally have a little hope. That’s exactly what the Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society (OSAS) received last year. A small weanling filly with the apt name of Hope.

This was historic as OSAS had never accepted a weanling before, but the circumstances were unique. Hope was born at Seelster Farms in the spring of 2020. Her dam is boarded at the Lucan, Ont. breeding farm on a year-round basis.

“Like every breeder we had high hopes of a perfect cross and a perfect foal,” explained Ann Straatman, the Reproduction Manager at Seelster.

“We knew right away on the day of her birth she had wry nose. It’s a genetic complication or defect where the nose is crooked which impacts their airway. The wry nose is very rare, I’ve only seen it twice before. Because it’s a midline defect, it sometimes comes with heart defect. I had seen that once and the foal died suddenly of a heart attack.

“The second one was a defect that proved incompatible with life, the foal couldn’t nurse or eat,” explained Ann whose father, the late Chris Van Bussel, started Seelster Farms with his family more than 60 years ago.

“Fortunately, her nose was not severe enough to prevent her from nursing or eating. The owners were good enough to make a commitment to the foal and they wanted to continue that commitment even though she would never be a racehorse. The goal from the start to find her another purpose in life, to find her a home where she can make a contribution. She’s a beautiful filly, she’s absolutely perfect other than that wry nose.”

Hope’s owners began exploring options for the filly. They reached out to a few sources but weren’t successful in finding something that fit.

“I had suggested to her before filly was weaned why don’t we talk to OSAS and repurpose her as a pleasure horse? There is no reason why someone can’t ride her. She could be a trail horse or even a companion horse. I truly think she can be a riding horse, just not in competition,” notes Ann.

“She’s so sweet and friendly. After she was weaned from her mom, she was able to continue eating hay and pellets and never lost weight which is always good sign. We got her halter broke and taught her to lead, pick up her feet and stand in the cross ties, all the things necessary for a respectful horse.”

Ann, the most recent past Chair of Standardbred Canada, reached out to another former chair of that national body, Joanne Colville, who runs OSAS, and they discussed the possibility of Hope coming to OSAS.

“This was an unusual situation,” said Joanne. “OSAS is not normally positioned to accept a weanling, but we made an exception in this case. Seelster Farms have been one of our most generous supporters for many years. Every year they step up in a huge way for our annual stallion auction which historically is one of the best fundraisers for OSAS each year. They have always gone above and beyond to support our organization so our board agreed to welcome Hope into the program and we were happy to do so.

“Seelster Farms does a great job raising horses and Hope is no exception, she’s a true pleasure to be around. They taught her well,” Joanne added.

Also helping the young filly as she started with OSAS was having Purina supply a special formula of feed made specially for weanlings called Juvenile. Purina has long been a major supporter of OSAS and this was yet another way they have supported their horses.

When Hope first came to OSAS she lived at Joanne’s farm for a few weeks for an initial assessment. She was then moved to the foster farm owned by Mary Christopher in Acton. She shares her pasture time with another yearling lass, Manerva.

“The goal now is to rehome her through OSAS. Now that she’s a yearling she can begin her lessons hopefully in the fall. It all seems to make sense. We know for sure she has a purpose. Hope was such a sweetheart right from the start. I have to give a lot of credit to her owners for continuing that commitment to her. All of us at Seelster believe that if you make a commitment to the horse, you follow that through,” Ann summarized.

It was Ann who christened the filly with her name. While she may not be a racing hopeful that doesn’t mean she can’t enjoy a full life.

Hope has been scarce in the Ontario harness racing community throughout the COVID-19 crisis, something Ann herself is far too familiar with having contracted the virus and being very ill for several weeks which included a hospital stay. “It’s just this week I’m feeling back to normal. It’s very real.”

Despite the pandemic and numerous lockdowns, OSAS has been busier than ever especially given the challenges presented in inspecting horses and potential forever homes, staffing and shipping horses. Many applications are currently on file for people wanting to adopt a horse. One of those could find themselves with a sweetheart named Hope.


June 21, 2021 - 10:43 pmAww. Bless this sweet filly.

Aww. Bless this sweet filly. Hope is a perfect name for her <3

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