Don and Joanne Heath have been associated with the show horse scene in Ontario and the United States for close to 50 years. The Heath family from Hastings County, Ontario, had always been known for showing horses, giving Don his start. Joanne had been involved in harness racing and, with her three young children Kathy, Ken and Lisa Galbraith involved, Don and Joanne started showing Road horses and Hackney ponies. Laurie came along next and the family was complete. Weekends and spare time was spent travelling across Ontario with occasional ventures to the United States to compete. They would exhibit a mix of Road horses and ponies that would show in many classes that were offered at any horse show. Early ponies would be Callaway’s Little Lady, May Day Masterpiece, and Pony Vista's Pirate Pete. Young ponies from the Kennedy Pony Farm and started by the Heath’s came next, Poppin’ Up and Treasure Trove. Kathy and Ken would win a lot of Junior Exhibitor hand and harness classes with these ponies and do well in open competition. Laurie would start her junior exhibiting with Maid My Decision and Debonaire's Hot Shot. Another favourite with whom they enjoyed many wins was Unanimous Success. Evenings were spent with the whole family working together keeping the horses and ponies fitted and ready to show.
As the family grew, the next generation of exhibitors took part. Kathy's children, Halie and Jari Wagner, started competing with Halie capturing numerous Junior Exhibitor titles in various divisions. Laurie's daughter, Taylor Palmer, is now enjoying showing the stable of ponies and continuing the winning tradition. Like in the early years, the priority has been to have horses and ponies that all members of the family can show. With family living a distance apart, meeting at horse events allows for a close-knit family with a common interest.
Ponies that the Heath family have exhibited recently include family favourite Made You Look, Fast and Furious, Mystic Presence, The Lightning Thief and Mark My Word. Made You Look has been a “once-in-a-lifetime” pony having won multiple Championships at the RAWF, including 7 Canadian-Owned (2011, 2013-18; 2019 Reserve), Amateur (2018), Reserve Open (2019), Jr. Exhibitor Hackney Driving (2013-14, 2017-19), and Jr. Exhibitor Hackney Showmanship (2014-16) in addition to earning many provincial and local honours.
In addition to being in the show ring, Don and Joanne have given time and energy to many associations in their chosen hobby, serving on Industry boards including the Canadian Road Horse Association, Canadian Hackney Society, Ontario Hackney Association, Canadian National Exhibition, Equine Canada, Milton Fair, and the Ontario Association of Agricultural Societies of which they are both past District Directors and Don a Past President. Don currently sits on the Horse Show Committee at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair and is a Past Chairman of the Breeding Horse Committee. Over the years, he has judged many shows in Ontario and Manitoba.
When asked about what they enjoy most about showing horses, both Don and Joanne speak fondly of the many lifelong friends that they have made. In addition, they love watching their grandchildren compete and carry on with the hobby and legacy that they began years ago.
The talented family has been great supporters to all facets of the horse show scene and the Canadian Hackney Society takes great pride in recognizing this achievement with their induction into the CHS Hall of Fame.