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Nancy Laffin – For The Love Of The Horse

Published: September 20, 2021 9:59 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 is profiling caretakers from across the country in our Faces of Racing series. The series continues with a profile on Nancy Laffin of Mill River, Nova Scotia.

NCAD kicks off today at Red Shores at Summerside Raceway. For a complete listing of event dates, click here.

“Listen to others, you can always learn something new, love your horse, and have fun!”

This advice for being successful as a caretaker comes from Nancy Laffin, who was able to get her hands on horses at a very young age!

Nancy’s family has a history in the sport that extends back to the days when her grandfather, Harris Laffin, would take his horses to race on the Halifax Commons, which hosted race cards for a 20-year stretch that ended in 1966.

Her indoctrination into harness racing started at a young age. She recalls going to Sackville Downs to watch the races where her uncle Robert, a trainer/driver raced, and her dad, Blair, and grandfather, Harris, always had racehorses as far back as she could remember.

Laffin, who resides in Mill River, N.S., juggles a fulltime job as an early childhood educator and puts in almost an equal number of hours as a caretaker, helping her brother Ernie Laffin and his wife, Michelle, at their farm and on race days. She also manages to squeeze in paddocking for the Gillis and Langille Stable at Truro Raceway. When she’s not working, she’s running her son to all of his sporting events.

She names Granite Gambler as her favourite horse. Trained by Nancy’s dad and owned by Ken St. John, this iron horse started 489 times during his career and was in the Laffin Stable from 1993 through 2000.

“Kenny let me do everything with him; he and I were a team. He had a heart of gold and always tried, he was a classy old guy, even the night [he] went down in warm up! We all have that one horse that holds a special place and for me that’s him.”

Like many in the industry, she finds that the biggest challenge is not to get too attached to the horses.

“I was told that at a very young age and I’ve learned that the hard way.”

Watching her horses go out and race every week and come back to the barn happy after the race is over -- even better if they cross the wire first -- gives Nancy a lot of satisfaction in her job.

“Knowing and respecting your horse, teaching them what we would like them to do are part of good horsemanship.”

Her favourite time of year is when she travels throughout the Maritimes to watch the stakes races and see all of her friends from other tracks she doesn’t see all year.

Speaking of stakes races, winning The Gold Cup & Saucer is at the top of her bucket list and she did have a catch paddock in the 2002 edition of the famed event with RJs Dexter from the Carl Jamieson Stable. RJs Dexter was runner-up to London Mews N and, for Nancy, that was just as exciting as a win!

The veteran caretaker shares her advice for the up and coming generation who want to pursue a profession as a caretaker in the harness racing industry: “Always be open to listen to others; we are never too old to learn something new. Most times someone is willing to help you! And always be humble.”

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