CRHA Hall of Fame
Don & Joanne Heath -2010 Inductees
The Canadian Road Horse Association is very proud to announce its 2010 inductees to the Hall of Fame – Don & Joanne Heath
Don and Joanne Heath, both of racing backgrounds, and their four children began showing road horses in 1971 with their first horse, Count Philip. In fact, next year will mark their 40th anniversary at the Royal Winter Fair. In 1974, they purchased some Hackney ponies, and the family has been an exhibitor of both breeds ever since. In those early years, it was not unheard of for the family to show at close to 30 shows during the show season and travel with three teams — roadster, cobtail, and longtail. There were even a couple of commercial horses for a bit.
Don is the primary trainer in the family and does a great job, putting in numerous hours in the barn throughout the year. While Don is busy with the horses, Joanne is always counted upon to have everything looking ship-shape before the horse enters the ring.
Over the years, Don and Joanne have had their own favourite horses. Don particularly enjoyed Always On and Bold Warrior, who were the backbones in the constantly revolving Heath Stable for many years. Joanne’s favourites were Best of Luck, Bold Image, and Always On. The entire family remembers with fondness the grey team of the early years in the 1970s, for they were quite distinct and unique. This pair was followed by a trio of chestnuts as well as the traditional assortment of blacks, browns, and bays.
Over the years, a great many horses have passed through the Heath Stable and have enjoyed show ring success both in Canada and the US. Most notable of these was Autobahn (purchased as Winnie’s Guy from breeder Miles Benedict) who went on to win a total of 16 blue ribbons in Louisville and was World’s Champion seven times. Also earning World Champion status a total of three times was Crossbow who passed through Heath Stables. Then there was Guess Who who took home many blue ribbons in Louisville for owner/driver Misdee Wrigley. Also enjoying success in the show ring have been Lords Champion, The Gambler, The Dancer, Guess Again, Bold Warrior, Always On, and now Red Heart.
Just as they have each had their own favourite horse, they each have their own special memories. Joanne remembers how much fun it was to do the circuit of Sutton, Campbellford, and Peterborough from a Saturday to a Wednesday in August. Some of you may remember one evening in Peterborough when Joanne went for a joyride in Happy the Clown’s car (in front of a packed grandstand full of people during the Hell Drivers’ Thrill Show) just because Russ Teeple dared her. Peterborough was also the site of many impromptu singalongs/dances. The Lawrence trailer was the sight of many good times.
A memory that Don may sooner forget is standing at ringside with three lady drivers showing in the same class … and the non-smoking Don trying frantically to borrow a cigarette before the class to calm his nerves. There were usually “discussions” as to which two would show ladies with the other trying to talk Don into taking a turn at the whip in the open classes.
As exhibitors, Don and Joanne’s contributions to the road horse have gone beyond the show ring. Don was President of the CRHA in 1978-79 and has served on various committees over the years. He has also served as a rep to the CEF and is actively serving on the Royal Horse Show Committee and Chairing the Breeding Horse Committee. Not only was Don seen driving, but he also judged at numerous shows. Joanne also served as President from 1999 to 1990 and was secretary-treasurer from 1974 to 1985. Joanne is currently the President of the Ontario Hackney Association.
These days, Don and Joanne enjoy roaming southern Ontario’s racetracks and watching the races on the dish, finding the “diamonds-in-the-rough,” and helping out other exhibitors. Although there isn’t a road horse in the barn today, Don and Joanne are always looking and would probably have another one if Laurie would let them. Today Don settles for sharing his expertise with the younger exhibitors and is honoured when they turn to him for advice. Over the years, they have enjoyed visiting and exhibiting at some of the American shows, which have included, Louisville, Springfield, Lexington, Syracuse, Devon, and Dayton. And now that they have a GPS, they can find their way to any show … including Simcoe … without getting lost!