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Robert Smith – A Jack Of All Trades

Published: September 23, 2021 10:55 am ET

Last Comment: September 23, 2021 12:30 pm ET | 1 Comment(s) | Jump to Comments

In recognition of the 2021 edition of National Caretaker Appreciation Day events taking place between September 20-26, Standardbred Canada has been profiling caretakers from across the country in our Faces of Racing series. The series continues with a profile on Robert Smith.

“Remember, this is not a job, it's a lifestyle. It's not 9-5, five days a week. They are living, breathing animals and they need care. They're not machines and caretaking is about care,” explained Robert Smith, who works as a caretaker for the Trevor Williams Stable based in Miami, Manitoba.

Robert’s journey to the Williams Stable has included a myriad of positions in the horse racing industry – and not all were with standardbreds. One might say he’s a ‘jack of all trades’ having also worked with thoroughbreds and quarter horses, as a caretaker, trainer, assistant trainer, jock’s agent, starter and blacksmith.

Since he was old enough to walk, Robert started following his Dad (Bob Smith) to the barn and has been “messing around” with horses ever since. At the age of 12, his family moved from B.C. to Alberta. Fifteen years ago, Robert made the transition to the standardbred industry, and he’s worked for several different trainers and lived and worked in many other different provinces and states, including Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and even ventured south of the border to Kentucky, Florida, Texas and Illinois.

Trainer Harry Zeron was one of his biggest influencers.

“Harry and I worked together in Florida and he taught me a ton when he was shoeing at Woodbine thoroughbreds. He would shoe for me or watch me shoe my own and gave me invaluable advice on shoeing, training and rigging a horse up properly. He was one of my biggest supporters and still is to this day. He reminded me constantly how important being a good caretaker is. He and my father have been the two biggest influences in my life in many aspects of it, they're both amazing horsemen who don't get the credit they deserve.”

For just over the past year, Robert’s been a caretaker for the Trevor Williams Stable, helping with the care of 18 horses and is also their resident farrier, shoeing every horse in the stable.

The Williams Stable’s home base is Miami, Manitoba, but they are now stabled and racing at Marquis Downs in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, for their meet. After that, the plan is to head to Century Downs in Alberta.

“Trevor Williams has taught me so much since I came to work for him too; he's hugely knowledgeable for his young age.”

As for the routine around the barn, Robert describes it as a team effort.

“We pitch in and do what needs to be done. For most of the time, I do the grooming and rubbing while the guys do the track work. It makes for long days, but we get it done and don't stop until the work is finished. There are lots of lunches and dinners being eaten at the barn while we're still grooming and feeding.”

This dedication goes hand in hand with good horsemanship.

“A good horseman is someone who loves their animal, who puts them before anything and everything, and will do whatever it takes to keep them happy,” explained Smith. “True horsemen know that the horse gets fed before they do, that there's no going for an afternoon nap while they're standing waiting to be groomed and bandaged, and that races are won and lost by the way you use your hands all week.”

Robert has his trainer’s license and someday would like to put that to good use.

“I would like to train and race because I think I would be the only person to train a standardbred, thoroughbred, quarter horse and a racing paint in North America. I would also really be interested in learning more on the bloodstock side. I'm always interested in learning about breeding, sire lines and foundation mare lines.”

Like many in the industry, stakes season is his favourite time of year “when you get a chance to see what the work you've put in for the better part of a year turns out to be.”

One of the things he enjoys the most about working with standardbreds is how great they are to handle.

“What a feeling when you walk in the barn in the morning and every horse greets you. No win can compare to knowing every horse is happy to see you. Just walking in and seeing all those faces staring at you is all I need to feel energetic about the whole day.”

The Little Brown Jug tops the list of races he’d like to win and there’s no doubt he’ll be tuning in to watch the live stream of The Jug today, which coincidentally happens to be his birthday.

Aside from his dad’s influence in the hands on aspect of racing, Robert has always had great support from his Mom (Linda) on his career choices.

“My mom watches every race we’re in and is always cheering,” he said.

“I think it's great to see the people in the barns that normally no one would hear about get some recognition,” said Robert of the National Caretaker initiative. “I'm very fortunate that my trainer always thanks me in public in interviews and is very thankful every time we win a race, but not every barn is that way. The people who are in the shed row working their butts off deserve to have a day of being thanked and appreciated. Thank you for recognizing the hard work by all the grooms. I would also like to thank Trevor Williams for the opportunity to be a part of the barn, this has been the most enjoyable year I've ever had in racing.”

September 23, 2021 - 12:30 pmBud, is the definition of a

terry gudz SAID...

Bud, is the definition of a true horsemen, not in the game for the money but the love of horses , worked in both breeds, well deserved recognition.

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