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From Caretaker To Trainer In Three Years

Published: August 25, 2021 9:36 am ET

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Leading up to the 2021 edition of National Caretaker Appreciation Day events taking place the week of September 20-26, Standardbred Canada will profile caretakers from across the country in our Faces of Racing series. The series kicks off with Ashley Lendvoy of Hamilton, Ont.

Growing up, Ashley Lendvoy spent her days riding horses competitively, hanging out with her friends, and like any other teenager in high school, she was eager to get her first part-time job. She decided to turn her passion into a career and transitioned from horse hobbyist and rider to a Standardbred caretaker.

The 20-year-old Hamilton, Ont. resident landed a job working with Standardbreds by taking a chance and posting to social media in search of employment with horses.

“I was looking to work part-time with horses, so I had posted on Facebook that I was looking for a job and Mark McKinnon messaged me and asked me if I would be interested in working with the Standardbreds for Carmen Auciello Stables in Flamborough. I jumped in with two feet and I haven’t looked back since! It has been by far the best choice I have ever made.”

Ashley has that Facebook post to be grateful for as she has been employed as a Standardbred caretaker for the last three years. She started out working for trainer Carmen Auciello, then made a move to First Line Training Centre working for the Steacy Stable, and is now employed by trainer Blair Burgess, all of whom have had a hand in teaching Ashley about the business.

“From my time working as a caretaker, I have come across some pretty awesome people that have helped me a ton. I will always look up to these people and forever be thankful that I got the chance to have them help me out,” Ashley explained. “The first person I would like to mention would be Bill Rapson. I was working for Mark and Shawn Steacy, and Bill worked there as well. He has taught me so much and helped me get to where I am today. Whenever I have a question, Bill is the first person I go to for advice. The second person I would like to mention is Blair Burgess; he has also been a great help to me and has taught me lots of things along the way.”

After spending three years working with Standardbreds, Ashley divulged how much she has fallen in love with the business and the breed.

“Standardbreds are by far the best breed of horses. Their nature is just so amazing, they are very docile and resilient and overall, a very smart breed,” Ashley explained. “My advice for the up-and-coming generation that would like to pursue a career in harness racing, is to get into a stable that fosters a learning environment where you can be hands-on. Also, to be prepared for all the downfalls, although there are many good things that come out of all the downs in the business!”

Harness racing is filled with ups and downs, and Ashley confessed that her major challenge working with the breed has been getting too attached to some of the horses that she's had in her care.

“My biggest challenge to this day has probably been having to let some of the horses go that you grow attached to. I wish we could keep them all, but unfortunately that isn’t the reality and to make it a business and career you must face the fear of letting some go when their time is up or when the time is right.”

On the flipside, she recognizes that there are many gratifying aspects that come along with working as a caretaker and that the work she performs daily is very fulfilling.

“To me, the most rewarding aspect of being a caretaker is when you have a horse in your care, and it wins a race or even races well. It is a great feeling knowing all your hard work has paid off in a matter of a few minutes. The one horse I really loved taking care of was Parisian Blue Chip. She is a very tough mare,” mentioned Ashley. “While working as a caretaker, I really enjoy the time when the babies come in and I really enjoy stake season as well. I find it amazing to watch the young horses develop over time and see what they are capable of on the track.”

Since Lendvoy has been working in the business she has learned what it means to be an outstanding horseperson and caretaker and is eager to move further along in the industry in her career. At present, she helps out with two horses owned by her boyfriend Edin Bosnjakovic, and is also in the process of obtaining her trainer’s license. In the meantime, Kevin Bodz does the training.

“To be a successful caretaker one thing that you need to definitely have is determination. This is not an easy job, so you must be determined to work hard and be the best you can be to be successful. You must also be very aware and alert of your surroundings. You need to keep on top of your horses and make sure they are healthy, and you also need to know when they are feeling off or something isn’t right. Finally, I would say that you need to be dedicated. This isn’t a job to make quick money and go then go home, it’s a job where you must work very long hours and it can get exhausting at times. It is a job for the ones who love the sport and animals and can be on their feet 365 days of the year.”

Since her partner purchased the two horses, Lendvoy fell head over heels for the seven-year-old Big Jim mare, Lady Oxford.

“Lady Oxford has me stuck. She has grown on me so very much and I have become very attached to her, and I feel like she feels the same way. It has taken us a lot of hard work and trust for us to get to where we are today, but she is now my best friend. To say the least...I think she’ll have a home for life with me!”

Ashley keeps herself busy with the horses, but she wouldn’t have it any other way, especially during the lockdown this past year.

“The only thing that helped me get through the lockdown, was the horses. They kept me very busy like always, so it really helped me cope with everything in general. I always look forward to every single time a horse races in my care. It gives you a thrill, just like an adrenaline rush.”

Now that racing has returned in Ontario, Lendvoy is excited to be back at the track and celebrate National Caretaker Appreciation Day.

“I think National Caretaker Appreciation Day is a great event! It helps caretakers get their name out there and get noticed by other people! It also shows appreciation for all the hard work the caretakers do daily.”

Standardbred Canada wishes Ashley the best of luck in obtaining her trainer’s license and lots of success in her future with racing! Keep an eye out for her name as she might be one of the next young successful female trainers on the Ontario circuit!

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