The Virden Indoor Rodeo and Wild West Daze has established a Horseman’s Hall of Fame, and each year inducts someone who has made an outstanding contribution to the horse industry in this area as a breeder, promoter, organizer, by accomplishments in competition, or in countless other ways.
This year’s inductee is Doug Sexsmith. His name is synonymous with harness racing in Manitoba. He owned, trained, and raced Standardbred pacers over almost 40 years.
Doug took over the farm from his father Bob, who then began starting Standardbred race horses for John Clarke. He purchased colts for his father to break and train for the Standardbred track, and went on to win his very first race in 1973 at the Deloraine harness meet. Doug continued to enjoy his share of victories until he retired in 2009. This retirement was signaled by the sale of his last horse, Oakridge Rambler, who set a Manitoba Great Western Harness Racing Circuit record pacing a mile in 1.56 and 4 tenths at Wawanesa in 2008. This record stood for six years until just a month ago when it was broken by a horse brought in from Alberta.
Although Doug only started a couple of colts each year, he had a lot of good horses over the years. He seldom bred his own colts, choosing to buy them as youngsters from breeders. Doug seemed to have a gift of being able to determine the heart and ability in a horse’s future. After selecting a colt, he trained with patience, making sure that it was well trained to drive and then slowly and properly conditioned so to be physically and mentally ready before asking for speed.
Once Doug had a horse ready to race, realizing that the art of driving in races was best left to a professional to give it the best chance to succeed, he turned the equine athlete over to Ron Cullen of Glenboro.
When Doug started training Standardbreds, he credited the many families in the Virden area who also train and race them with being guiding lights for his success. His wife Mabel did a lot of work with the horses as well – harnessing, cooling out, and caring for them while Doug was driving. She has taken care of many details – all the paper work and record keeping, especially maintaining an organized history of all the horses and people which became invaluable as time passed.
Doug has shifted gears now, occasionally driving a team for hay rides, and trail riding with friends, but his passion for horses continues.
Congratulations to Doug Sexsmith on being inducted into the Virden Indoor Rodeo and Wild West Daze Horseman’s Hall of Fame.
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