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When Great Western harness racing trainer Michelle Wight retired her durable pacer Wheatsheaf Avaball nearly three years ago, she wanted to have something unique to remember her old mate. She picked up the welder to make something to keep from the last set of shoes "Charlie" had raced in - and a passion for rustic horseshoe art was born. Michelle's been welding and creating ever since - with orders coming in from "friends of friends of friends" and her work now being sold at Central Highlands regional markets and a local winery. "I just wanted to make something special for Charlie, because he is special," Michelle said. "We retired him after start 200 and we knew he was going to retire then. So I got some photos taken that night, I took his shoes off and I made a picture frame from the shoes," she said. Michelle’s most enjoyable projects are photo frames requested by owners for their “special horses” "Now I make all sorts of things, but still the ones I really enjoy most are where people ask me to make something from the shoes of their special horse or horses." Wheatsheaf Avaball (Presidential Ball - Dontsayawordbut (Safely Kept) retired with 17 wins, 26 seconds and 35 thirds to his name - the 35th third was at his final start at Melton, driven by Michelle. To watch the video replay click here. "I didn't do much more with the artwork at that time, although I did make a frame for Frances Annie (Safely Kept - Sunelle (Sundon) when she retired about a year later (15w-8-13 for $100,779 in stakes) because she was pretty special too," Michelle said. "Dad (legendary Great Western horseman Peter Manning) showed me the basics of how to weld, and I've never had any lessons - just trial and error. "But I really got going with the art when I came across a guy in Stawell about a year ago who was using horseshoes to make spheres. It just twigged something in me, and he was good enough to explain how to do them and I just started - and I've never really stopped!" Michelle said the horseshoe spheres are made using a plough disc as a mould. "The shape of the plough disc basically means that if you keep following the mould, the horseshoes will join up and form a perfect ball," she said. "But that first one was probably the hardest job I ever did because I unfortunately chose a big plough disc - which meant a big ball, and a lot of welding! I can do small, medium and large balls now, but I think I've only ever done one more of the large ones! Garden Art by Michelle "I love making the flowers, and people seem to like them because they're really popular. But I like to make one-off sculptures, as well. I have quite a few on display and for sale at Best's Winery, which is just down the road." Michelle said finding the resources for her art creations was sometimes a challenge. "With the garden art, I don't always know what I'll make, and often it's a matter of creating what you can. I find bits and pieces of scrap metal, often from dad's junk pile, and form them into something. It's a bit like making a cake from the ingredients you have, rather than the other way round! "But I'm always happy to receive steel shoes from anyone who wants to get rid of some. As well as what I had here, I had a couple of big 44-gallon drums of shoes from dad to get me going and a couple of trainers have dropped me off some bags of shoes. "Any size, any shape, pony shoes, hack shoes, pacing shoes - any sort of steel shoe is great, because I need different sizes for different jobs," she said. "I use up the good ones first, but when you get down to the rustier ones, there's a lot more work in getting the rust off so that you get a good hold with the weld. Actually, a lot of the time is taken up in preparation, getting rust off, getting nails out and straightening out the shoes." Some of Michelle’s creations Michelle, who works as an estimator for Hotondo Homes, said busy times at work had caused her to reduce her team back to three. "I've only got one racing at the moment, Outback Shadow (Shadow Play - Charlotte Church (Christian Cullen) who's a half-sister to Wrappers Delight. She's a very honest bread and butter horse who's doing a good job for us," she said. "I still like to find time for the artwork though. There's nothing better than heading out to the shed and being a bit creative. And I am getting better as I go - I originally had an arc welder, but last Christmas I asked for a MIG welder, and that's meant my work's better, and there's a lot less swearing!" Terry Gange NewsAlert PR Mildura

Moffat, ON — Talented equine artist Michelle Hogan first met iron tough pacer Conrad Seelster when she was in her early twenties and he was a grizzled racetrack veteran with eight years of harness racing under his harness. Eighteen years later they are still together and Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society graduate Conrad Seelster is a beloved member of Michelle’s family. “He moved in with us when we bought our first home, he was there on our wedding day and now he’s here while my twins grow up. My daughter, Autumn, in particular, loves him dearly,” said Hogan. Michelle, whose twins Owen and Autumn will be four this August, stays connected to horse racing now through her art. She is a juried member of the American Academy of Equine Art and her first award from AAEA was for “Shady Daisy Shadow Roll.” “It is most unusual to see Standardbred art hanging in an AAEA show, so to see my racing art not only be accepted, but awarded, is something I am thrilled with. I have worked so hard to get here,” she said at the time. More recently, Hogan’s beautiful ink drawing of the great trotter San Pail was selected by Owen Sound’s juried art show to be on a banner that is hung on the town’s harbor for a year. Like San Pail, Conrad Seelster is enjoying retirement surrounded by people who love him. And for both, it is a well-earned retirement. Conrad Seelster may not have been horse of the year in Canada twice, but he was an absolute iron horse throughout his 13 year racing career which saw him face the gate an incredible 445 times. His lifetime summary was 54 wins, 61 seconds and 61 thirds for $279,176 in earnings. The son of Threefold bred by Seelster Farms never left Ontario during his racing days and he competed at 16 different racetracks in the province including several which are no longer operating (Sudbury, Elmira, Belleville, Barrie and Windsor). He was ultra consistent, averaging 37 starts per year from age three through 14. Conrad Seelster was trained at the start of his career by John Yake of Woodstock, Ontario, who campaigned him until the end of his 4-year-old season. Fred Maguire would take over the training responsibilities for a handful of starts. In May of Conrad Seelster’s 5-year-old season Jeff Houghton claimed him from a race at Elmira for $3,500. It was the only time in his long career that he was claimed and from the age of five until 14 he was owned by trainer Jeff and his wife, Catherine, and it was in the Houghton barn that Hogan first met Conrad Seelster. She grew up close to Flamboro Downs and her love for horses led her to become a caretaker. She worked in the Houghton stable looking after Conrad Seelster from 2002 until 2004. “Conrad was always a gentleman. He was the barn favorite, of course. Jeff’s boys grew up with him. He could be strong on the track to jog and warm up, he liked to do things his way,” Hogan remembers. Jeff’s son, Eddie, was two when the horse first came into the stable. “For my brother (Will) and I it was our routine for many years, each week watching Conrad race somewhere. He was such a special horse, he knew how to take care of himself and that’s why I think he raced as long as he did,” Eddie Houghton recalled recently. Conrad Seelster’s most successful season was at age eight when he banked just over $70,000 from 44 starts. Jeff Houghton wasn’t afraid to race the consistent pacer throughout the province and Conrad Seelster spent quite a bit of time that season in Northern Ontario competing at Sudbury Downs. In late 2000 he had a four race win streak at Sudbury, including two in the $20,000 preferred. “Dad would race him where he thought he could be the most successful and never touched WEG tracks. He excelled on a half-mile track. I remember racing at Sudbury and we’d eat at a restaurant that would give kids stuffed animals with their breakfast. I chose a horse and named him Conrad and took him everywhere with me for a long time,” said Houghton with a laugh. The horse would earn his life record of 1:56.3 as a 10-year-old and Houghton remembers the amusing story behind that race at Clinton on July 14, 2002. Trevor Henry was up behind Conrad Seelster with the plan to leave with him. Just before the race was about to start the horse beside Conrad Seelster fell to the track (he was fine, but taken off the track and scratched). “Conrad just took off, he ended up winning by five lengths. My dad always said he just wanted to get off the track as fast as he could after he saw that horse fall,” Houghton recalled. Conrad Seelster made headlines at the end of his racing career. On New Year’s Eve in 2006 Rideau Carleton Raceway hosted a ‘Clash of the Iron Horses’ race that pitted Conrad Seelster against Kendal Python who was two years younger at 12. At the time Conrad Seelster had more lifetime starts than any horse in North America while Kendal Python had the second most. Kendal Python would surpass him in that category though, as he retired with 494 lifetime trips behind the gate two years later. In that Rideau match-up Conrad Seelster set the pace, and down the lane his rival swept up the inside and the pair battled down the stretch with Conrad Seelster prevailing by a slight margin. It was Conrad Seelster’s last racetrack appearance and fittingly Houghton drove him for the first and final time. Many of the extended Houghton family were on hand for Conrad Seelster’s final performance. That race may be watched through this link. At the end of the race, following the winner’s circle presentation, one of the commentators noted that a horse of his caliber deserved a decent retirement home and Hogan has certainly provided that for him. After his racing career concluded at the mandatory age of 14, Conrad Seelster was part of the OHHA Youth Camps which saw children spending the week learning the basics of harness racing, and working with four retired Standardbred horses. At the end of the week they put their skills to the ultimate test, competing in two four-horse exhibition races while accompanied by professional drivers. “Conrad hadn’t been off the track for too long and I think they found he was too competitive for those races, he still wanted to compete,” said Houghton. “I believe he was with the camp for two years before being given to OSAS. I was working as a vet assistant at the time and came across an advertisement in Horse Trader magazine for him. I immediately sent an email saying I would bring him home. He has been with me now since July of 2010,” noted Hogan. Conrad Seelster was part of Hogan’s wedding to her husband Tim Casson and her photographer on that special day, Carrie Clarke Scott, was thrilled to see Conrad Seelster. “Carrie was his caretaker while he was with OSAS and she was my wedding photographer and was so happy to see him again,” said Hogan. He also has other regular visitors. “Jeff and his family come up and stay every so often to have a good visit with him,” explained Hogan. “I remember the last time I went to visit him with Dad,” said Houghton. “We walked up to the paddock and couldn’t see the horses. Dad called out ‘Hey Conrad’ and we hear this nickering and then see the horse come running. I’m sure he remembered Dad’s voice. My Dad often says what a relief it is that he’s found a home with Michelle, she is awesome.” Conrad Seelster spends most of his days hanging out with Hogan’s other horse, a paint. He’s been lightly ridden and she’s hoping to let Autumn sit on him this summer. “He really is a special horse. He has been so lucky to have so many good people in his life,” said Hogan. Judging by the beautiful photo Hogan recently posted of the now 28-year-old Conrad Seelster looking fantastic, the feeling is mutual. by Heather MacKay. for the OSAS

A Melbourne artist has had a close brush with harness racing royalty and loved every minute of it. Janet Hammill’s artworks include pieces on Pure Steel, Maoris Idol and Paleface Adios, having expanded her thoroughbred range at the request of a standardbred fan. The dabbling has given the UK-born artist a renewed angle for her lifelong passion.  “I used to ride horses all the time when I was a kid and always loved it and built it up from there,” Hammill said. With a client list that includes painting for jockey Joao Moreira, Hammill jumped at the chance to immortalise trots legends for a fan of the sport. “I really enjoyed it and learnt a lot about harness horses, particularly some of the real stars,” she said.  “The person I painted them for saw all those horses race and loved them. “I really enjoyed painting the harness horses and it’s an area I’d like to expand on in the future.” Hammill’s pieces can be viewed at http://www.janethammill.com Michael Howard (HRV Media/Communications Co-Ordinator)

Equine Guelph thanks Ross Millar and all his dedicated staff including: auction organizer, Janice Blakeney, auctioneer, Brad Bowie and all the artists who made this fundraiser a huge success for the second year in a row. "Equine Guelph has been a part of the Can-Am from the very first show and we are pleased to receive this special donation from the Can-Am. Our thanks to all the artists who donated beautiful artwork, along with Amber Marshall for her contribution as well," said Ecker, Director of Equine Guelph. "It is great to partner with such wonderful people who share our passion for educating the horse industry on equine health and welfare."   With close to 10,000 in attendance at Can-Am, six lucky bidders came away from the evening extravaganza on Saturday April 2, 2016 with some impressive artwork while helping out a great cause.   Special thanks go to the incredibly talented Canadian artists who donated their work with 100% of the proceeds going to Equine Guelph: Ann Clifford (acliffordsculpture.com/#!horses/cbnu), Mark Grice (markgricetheartist.weebly.com), Shawn Hamilton (clixphoto.com) and Nola McConnan (merriweatherdesignstudio.com).   Thank you also to Amber Marshall who donated two gift packages and photo shoots. Young admirers were very enthusiastic in their bidding for these two unique items.   EquiMania!, Equine Guelph's interactive youth safety display has a long history with Can-Am, appearing for the past 11 years (since the inception of EquiMania!). "Can-Am is proud to promote equine welfare and is happy to lend support," says president, Ross Millar. "Our long-standing relationship with Equine Guelph is rooted in a mutual passion for educating horse owners and care givers."   Visit EquiMania.ca to learn more and to bring EquiMania! to your event.   Jackie Bellamy-Zions  

Westfield, IN - An unusual horse sculpture, fashioned by a Lexington, Kentucky artist from nearly 1,000 repurposed scrap metal parts, will be auctioned on Tuesday, October 6 at Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion in Lexington, Kentucky, to benefit the Harness Horse Youth Foundation. The sculpture will be sold just prior to the start of the second night of the 2015 Lexington Selected Yearling Sale. The sculpture stands 31 inches from hoof to withers; 55 inches from hoof to tip of ear and 45 inches long from nose to tail and will be available for inspection at Barn 10 (Brittany Farms) beginning Friday, October 2 at noon. Bids may be made in person, or if you cannot be in Lexington, call HHYF Executive Director Ellen Taylor at 317-908-0029 or HHYF Project Manager Keith Gisser at 216-374-1392 for details on how to make other bidding arrangements. The Harness Horse Youth Foundation is a charitable 501(c)3 organization dedicated to providing young people and their families educational opportunities with harness horses, in order to foster the next generation of participants and fans. The Foundation has been making a difference in young people's lives since 1976, and its programs include interactive learning experiences with these versatile animals, scholarship programs, and creation and distribution of educational materials. For more information on opportunities through HHYF, or to support its mission, go to www.hhyf.org. Keith Gisser      

An iconic print of Greyhound setting his historic time trial mark of 1:59.3/4 on July 16, 1937, reproduced from an oil by Richard Stone Reeves, will be offered for live auction on July 5 at the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame in Goshen, N.Y. The print, numbered 34 of the original 1955 issue of 260, comes from the private collection of a Museum member, who has owned it since publication. A portion of auction proceeds will benefit the Museum's Restoration Fund. The image of Greyhound depicts him at Goshen Historic Track, driven by Sep Palin. The scene looks much the same now as it did in 1937, with the exception of a now-removed hub rail. The resulting time was the first under the 2:00 barrier on a half-mile track for a trotter. This rare print is in good condition with scattered foxing, and is matted and framed. The original oil by Reeves is in the Museum's collection and was presented as a gift to the founder, E. Roland Harriman, in July of 1955 by his friends Lawrence Sheppard, Elbridge T. Gerry Sr., Octave Blake, R.W. Hart, Walter Candler and Leo C. McNamara. Reeves, who painted more than 1,000 horses in his career, including most of the finest Standardbreds and Thoroughbreds of the latter half of the 20th century, was, in the words of the New York Times, "one of the premier equestrian artists in the world." His commissioned works were oil on canvas, "neo romantic in style" said the Times and reported, though never confirmed by Reeves, to start at $25,000. Reeves cites this image of Greyhound, trotting in an event that occurred in 1937, when he was a teenager, as the only horse of more than 1,000 he painted that he did not see in person. Reeves began painting top-flight race horses after his service in World War II. He died in 2005. Those who would like to bid, but cannot attend the July 5 Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, can arrange for proxy bid by contacting Historic Collections Manager Rebecca Howard at collections@harnessmuseum.com or calling 845-294-6330. The conservation of art and artifacts is one of the Museum's highest priorities. The Restoration Fund is a dedicated account established by to provide funding for the preservation of its collection. Funding sources include donations and artifact sponsorships, grants and the annual Restoration Raffle. Now in its 21st year, the Harness Racing Museum and Hall of Fame's Restoration Raffle has provided more than $86,000 toward ensuring long-term preservation and accessibility of paintings, lithographs, vehicles, glass photographic negative and textiles from the Museum's historic collections. Winning tickets will be drawn for a fantastic list of prizes during the Hall of Fame induction dinner, Sunday July 5. Please contact Missy Gillespie for prize information and raffle ticket sales. By Ellen Harvey Harness Racing Communications USTA  

April 22, 2015 - Millstone Twp., NJ - The Standardbred Retirement Foundation (SRF) was gifted an original painting of the harness racing wonder, the richest pacer in history, Foiled Again. This framed original 18x24 oil painting will be up for grabs in SRF's live auction at their 23rd annual charity golf outing. The Florida artist, Debbie Pounders was commissioned by Chrissy (Haislip) Daniel to render a portrait from a photograph captured by US Trotting photographer, Mark Hall. The preview will be on May 20th on SRF's website. There will also be a framed numbered print signed by driver, Yannick Gingras. For those who cannot be in attendance phone bids will be accepted during the auction on the night of the outing, Tuesday, May 26th, 2015. The hosting golf course is Knob Hill, in Manalapan, NJ. All are welcome to join for golf, cocktails, dinner, and to participate in the two auctions. Visit www.adoptahorse.org to access the information or contact Tammy at 732 446-4422, or email admin@srfmail.com. Standardbred Retirement Foundation | 353 Sweetmans Lane, Suite 101 | Millstone Twp. | NJ | 08535

Bankstown Paceway harness racing club committeemen Megan Lavender and Andrew Ho have expressed both astonishment and gratitude at being nominated for the 2012/13 Harness Racing New South Wales Volunteer Appreciation Award. ‘Ms Lavender – whose family has been associated with the Sydney harness racing club for more than half a century – was first elected to the committee of the Bankstown Harness Racing and Agricultural Society in 2008, while Mr Ho has served on the Paceway’s board since 2010,’ Bankstown Paceway president Les Bentley told Harnesslink. ‘Together, the pair has worked to raise the profile of harness racing within the competitive Australian sporting market – engaging with government, business and community organisations to create charity race days, community festivals and musical extravaganzas. Some of their initiatives have included establishing the Australasian Harness Racing Art Prize, Sydney Camel Races and Seniors Scooter Speedway,’ Mr Bentley said. ‘While it is indeed an exceedingly humbling experience to even be considered for such an auspicious accolade, Bankstown Paceway has always been a close knit community of hard working volunteers – and a garland bestowed upon any one of us rightly belongs to each and every one of the members who have worked tirelessly for our race club over a multitude of years,’ Ms Lavender told Harnesslink. ‘Any glory, laud or honour is the product and the consequence of a concerted team effort by Bankstown Paceway members and staff for whom harness racing is not just a sport, a business or a hobby, but, in fact, a quintessential part of the Australian way of life. For they are the true heroes of harness racing – and we salute them,’ Mr Ho told Harnesslink. The 2012/13 Harness Racing New South Wales Industry Awards will be presented at a gala awards dinner at Sydney’s Hilton Hotel tomorrow night (Saturday, October 26th, 2013).  

‘Multiple award winning Australian artist Dana Sypniewski has claimed yet another gong for her portrayal of standardbred horse racing at Sydney’s Bankstown Paceway by taking out the 2013 Bankstown Paceway President’s Award for Harness Racing Art with her acrylic artwork entitled Bankstown Paceway Glory No. 2,’ Bankstown Paceway director Megan Lavender told Harnesslink. ‘Depicting The Burning Log at Bankstown Paceway Pace which took place on Monday, November 5th, 2012, Bankstown Paceway Glory No. 2 encapsulates all the excitement and energy of the 2,140 metre race just as the eventual winner, Karen Cotterill’s four year old bay mare Im Tilly Devine NZ, trained by Brett Cotterill and driven by Lauren Panella, prepares to take the lead,’ Ms Lavender said. ‘Accordingly, we are very pleased to announce that this action charged artwork – recording a snapshot of Australasian sporting glory – has since been acquired for Bankstown Paceway’s permanent art collection, where it can be enjoyed by current and future generations of harness racing enthusiasts,’ she said. ‘As the personification of artistic talent, Dana Sypniewski is of course no stranger when it comes to collecting equine art prizes – and only last April (2013) she claimed top honours at the prestigious and highly competitive Forty-Ninth Annual Drummoyne Art Society Prize with the acrylic piece which started it all, namely, Bankstown Paceway Glory No. 1,’ Ms Lavender added. At the time, renowned art critic and competition judge Paul McCarthy described Bankstown Paceway Glory No. 1 as a ‘great composition and good feeling with movement and honesty with consistent “brush attack” across the whole painting.’ Other works by Ms Sypniewski include her portrayal of Bankstown trainer-driver Dorothea Schmidt which sold within minutes of going on public display in August 2012. Photos: Multiple award winning harness racing artist Dana Sypniewski with her acrylic artwork, Bankstown Paceway Glory No. 2, and The Burning Log at Bankstown Paceway Pace (held on Monday, November 5th, 2012) just as the eventual winner, Karen Cotterill’s four year old bay mare Im Tilly Devine NZ, trained by Brett Cotterill and driven by Lauren Panella, prepares to take the race lead. Andrew Ho  

A painting of amiable Condell Park farrier and race horse trainer-driver Garry Leonard shoeing a standardbred has claimed first prize at the Second Annual Australasian Harness Racing Art Exhibition, Trotsfest, held at Sydney’s Bankstown Paceway. But, for Mr Leonard, even more astonishing than the win itself was the fact that his portrait had even been painted in the first place – not to mention being entered into the internationally acclaimed equine art prize competition. ‘I just got such I shock,’ the Bankstown Paceway director and son of legendary Condell Park horseman Jack Leonard told Harnesslink. ‘I couldn’t believe it was me up there on the canvass – so, then, I bought it on the spot.’ ‘The oil painting by artist Madeline Wunsch – simply titled The Horse and the Farrier – captivated the hearts and minds of the judging panel for its enthusiasm in capturing the mood of stable life on the day of a big race,’ fellow Bankstown Paceway director and Exhibition founder Megan Lavender told Harnesslink. Respected Sydney based artist Michael Roger was highly commended for his oilwork, Heading for the Post, while Bankstown Art Society president Joyce Williams was commended for her mixed media piece, Don’t Fence Me In. Meanwhile, a pastel work of Black Caviar by acclaimed NSW Parliamentary artist Biruta ‘Berrie’ Clarke won the Exhibition’s Spirit of the Horse Section, when Joan Secombe’s watercolour, A Horse is a Horse (Of Course, Of Course), was highly commended and Richard Green’s acrylic, Dream Time (Spirit of the Horse), was commended. Trotsfest, the Australasian Harness Racing Art Exhibition will return to Sydney’s Bankstown Paceway in 2014. Photo: Condell Park farrier, horseman and Bankstown Paceway director Garry Leonard with 2013 Trotsfest Australasian Harness Racing Art Exhibition winning painting, The Horse and the Farrier, a work in oil by Sydney artist Madeline Wunsch. Megan J. Lavender  

'Entries for the Second Annual Australasian Harness Racing Art Exhibition, TrotsFest, Sydney's Bankstown Paceway are now open,' Exhibition founder and Bankstown Paceway director Megan Lavender has announced.

The harness racing breed, hunters, gallopers, jumpers, dressage, foxhunting, or mounted patrol. Many fill the role of family pleasure horses. Though a few of racing's stars have smeared paper with a painted nose and hoof to benefit charities, Metro may be the first retired racehorse to become a professional artist!

Growing up in small town in Ontario, Michelle Hogan's dreams were always filled with horses - all kinds of horses including our wonderful harness racing breed. 'From the time I could hold a pencil I would cover the refrigerator door with drawing after drawing. Almost always, those drawings were of horses,' the self confessed horse-fanatic said.

New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program is receiving 50 percent of the proceeds from the paintings of retired Thorougbred Metro, who may be the first retired racehorse to become a professional artist.

When Brianna Fenn paints a horse, she knows a horse. She's not just drawing an animal from what it looks like but from what's inside as well, as a result of her long-running relationship with harrness racing Standardbreds that started as a child.

The Detroit Free Press, on its website, has published a feature on Hazel Park Racetrack's new exhibit of rare, original Currier & Ives trotting lithographs, entitled 'The Story of Harness Racing by Currier & Ives.'

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