Canadian Road Horse Association



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 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.

As the girls graduated into the senior division, there were often three lady drivers coming from the Heath Stable … and the non-smoking Don trying frantically to borrow a cigarette to calm his nerves. There was then usually "discussion" 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. Their other daughter, Lisa, also enjoys the horses, ponies, and show community and was a frequent passenger in the governess cart classes when the kids were younger.

Over the years, everyone has had their own particular favourite: Don -- Lord's Champion and Bold Warrior; Joanne -- Best of Luck, Bold Image, and Always On; Kathy -- Bold Warrior and The Pursuer; Ken -- Nat Frost; and Laurie - Please B Fair, Look At Me, and Guess Who. The entire family remembers with fondness the grey team of Gary and Hatias of the early years for they were quite distinct and unique. This pair was followed by a trio of chestnuts (Lucky, Sam, and Red) as well as the traditional assortment of blacks, browns, and bays.

In more recent years, a great many horses have passed through the Heath Stable and have enjoyed show ring success in the United States and Canada. Most notable of these have been Autobahn (purchased as Winnie's Guy from breeder Miles Benedict) who went on to become World's Champion at Louisville and Guess Who who has also taken home many blue ribbons in Louisville for owner/driver Misdee Wrigley. Also enjoying success in the States have been Crossbow and The Dancer. These days, Don and Joanne enjoy the challenge of roaming southern Ontario's racetracks, finding the "diamonds'in-the-rough," and turning them into show horses. They also enjoy visiting and exhibiting at some of the American shows, which have included, Louisville, Springfield, Lexington, Syracuse, Devon, and Dayton.

A notable exception to the revolving door was Bold Warrior who, with a heart and engine like no other before him and since, was the backbone of the show string for several years and was exhibited very successfully both north and south of the border.

Just as everyone has had their own favourite horse, so do they 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 (on stall partitions laid on the ground) and just plain 'ole good times.

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 (now Equine Canada) and is currently serving on the Royal Horse Show Committee and is past Chair of the Breeding Horse Committee. Not only is Don seen driving, but he has also judged at numerous shows. Joanne also served as President from 1999 to 1990 and was secretary-treasurer from 1974 to 1985. She was a rep to the CNE as well.

The family has been active with their local fairboard in trying to ensure the improvement and continuation of harness horse and pony classes. The participation of exhibitors at these fairs/shows is essential to future success.

Don Heath driving Always On
in Lexington in 1996.
(Photo by Jamie Donaldson)
Joanne Heath driving Guess Again to victory
at the Erin Fall Fair in 1998.
(Photo by Bill Keith)
Laurie and "Legs" making their victory pass
at the 2004 Ontario Hackney Pony Championship in Barrie.
(Photo by Genevieve Kendell)

Laurie Palmer and "Breezy" at the
2004 Ontario Hackney Pony Championship
in Barrie. (Photo by Genevieve Kendell)