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AHHS Bill Robinson Trainer of the Year Award

Much like the namesake of this award, this year’s recipient has become known for a level of excellence that he lives up to year after year from his family’s pristine 12-stall facility on the outskirts of Toronto.

With a competitive heart as big as the motors of the world’s and national champion Hackneys he shows today, our honoree grew up playing hockey and showing ponies with his family in Canada. 

A reserve champion prize at the Royal Winter Fair at the age of eight left a lasting impression on him, however, training ponies started out as a sideline. Following high school he and his wife-to-be worked together for an insurance company and he would work a few ponies at night.

When George and Mildred Lewis decided to build a barn and get some horses, they offered our honoree his first job. He started training full time, while Diane took over the insurance company. They would soon start raising two daughters, Amanda and Shannon and they too would develop of a love for the Hackney and the show ring.
It was also for the Lewis family that our recipient would have his first great pony. They sent  him a dark brown, white stockinged stallion named Mark Of Success. From a futurity champion to a world’s grand champion, he was remarkable for our honoree.

He and his wife, along with John and Paula Goncalves, would purchase a Mark Of Success son, Mark Of Excellence, and he too made a great impact on the life of our recipient. Not only did he win the World’s Grand Champion Hackney Pony title in 1994 at the age of four, he would also go on to sire an amazing list of champions. One of those champions, Par Excellence, helped create a bond between our honoree and his now extended family, Karen Waldron and Shawn Ricci.

Other ponies like On The Mark, Spirit Of Success, Moment Of Excellence, Raymonda, Tri-Mark, Sweetheart Of Success, Kilbro’s Unimaginable, Kilbro’s Irishman and the incomparable multi-titled world’s grand champion Giselle have also been part of that relationship.

Tonight’s honoree again soared in 2019 with assistance from his daughter Amanda. In addition to Giselle adding another world’s champion mare honor and the reserve world’s grand championship to her storied career, he directed Karen Waldron and Steely Dan to World’s Champion of Champions Amateur Harness Pony and Canadian National Champion Harness Pony honors. Steely Dan was also “Best of Show” at Syracuse this year, following in the footsteps of Giselle in 2018. Tonight’s recipient also drove Moment Of Excellence to a reserve world’s championship this past season.

Hackney Horses have been a part of this trainer’s career and this season he was responsible for Heartland King’s Treasure who won the open class at Toronto with Amanda and came back as the reserve world grand champion. Barn mate Heartland Good-Bye was the Amateur Hackney Horse World Champion for the fourth consecutive year with longtime acquaintance, Adam Bovaird.

Our trainer honoree also goes beyond just winning championship titles when it comes to the Hackney. He’s also there to help the Canadian Hackney Society and this past year at Louisville for the  AHHS Youth he had Moment Of Excellence on hand for a meet and greet session. He loves sharing his passion with others.
“We are all a big family,” said Karen Waldron of our honoree and his family. “This partnership has so far exceeded any expectations that I had. When he purchased Mark Of Excellence that sealed our future and our fate.

“What I love about his whole family is their seriousness about evaluating what we want to see in a Hackney. They are about being true to the Hackney and making the correct moves to better the Hackney breed. 
“He’s tenacious and a very thoughtful man when it comes to evaluating stock. He’s extremely honest and I greatly appreciate that. It might not be what I want to hear, but it’s going to be what he sees and thinks. In the long run, he wants a Hackney that everyone would be proud of.”

Our honoree also has the respect of his peers. “He does things his own way,” said Rodney Hicks. “He does what works for him and he’s really dedicated to the Hackney breed. He grew up showing nice Shetlands with his family and he was always watching the other top trainers like Bill Robinson, Laurence Carss, my uncle Denny Lang. He took different things from each of them and figured out how to make them work for him.
“He’s a very loyal person with good clients. His ponies are good in the bridle and very four-cornered. He’s done his homework to get to where he is today. He has studied pedigrees and is very particular about Hackney type and standards. He’s also studied shoeing so he knows about helping correct or accentuate a pony who moves a certain way. He’s a complete horseman.”

For his success in the show ring and his part in the advancement of the Hackney breed, the American Hackney Horse Society is pleased to present Larry Ella with the Bill Robinson Trainer of the Year Award.

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