LOIS AND HER HORSE
The horse may be retiring but her owner isn’t. Hamilton East-Wentworth Rotary club member Lois Allison has informed us that her 11 year old trotting mare has run her last race and will now go on to produce more racers for this popular sport. ‘Brontewine’, who is the last racing progeny of ‘Balanced Image’, a famous Hall of Fame stallion whose offspring has earned over $111 million to date, for their various owners. Lois tells us that as she got older she got faster – the horse I mean – although Lois herself at 90 is no slowpoke.
Lois and her late husband, long time Rotarian Harley purchased their first horse in the late ‘60s and Lois continues to enjoy being very involved in the sport with her son Wayne. Apart from the racing there is showing and very importantly, breeding.
Lois attends the Royal Canadian Winter Fair every year with her show  horses and has hosted her fellow Rotarians there in the horse stall.
Lois you are a credit to us all so keep inspiring us.
 
-Jim McDowell
 
In His Image
Brontewine
Sometimes a horse comes along to serve a greater purpose. Sometimes a horse brings people together when they need it most. This is the remarkable story of the last Balanced Image still racing. By Keith McCalmont
A number of incredible people cross paths through the race lines of 11-year-old trotting mare Brontewine. The plain brown mare, who only just surpassed $200,000 in earnings, is owned by the 90-years young Lois Allison and trained by up-and-coming 26-year-old whippersnapper Travis Henry.
Legacy leads the racing game. Horses pass their genes down the line as one great horse begets another. And often, the same holds true for the people of the sport with parents passing on the necessary skills to their kids to start the next generation.
Allison’s love of horses bloomed in the company of her late husband Harley. Young Travis learned the game from his father, the well-regarded horseman Paul Henry who died at the age of 48, a little more than a year ago.
And it is through Brontewine, the last racing progeny of the prolific Hall of Fame stallion Balanced Image, that the lives of young and old connect.
Balanced Image, a bay son of Noble Gesture, enjoyed a modest racing career winning 11 of 38 starts, including a win in the American National Maturity, while banking in excess of $175,000.
A fractured sesamoid brought his promising career to an end, but the talented trotter truly found his stride as a stallion producing winners of more than $111 million, ten millionaires and dozens with records of 1:55 of better including the likes of Goodtimes, Glorys Comet, Arch Madness and Liberty Balance.
And as for Brontewine? Well, she’s really only just figuring the game out now.
“As she’s gotten older, she’s gotten better,” says Lois. “She’s 11 now and she’s getting faster and winning more races. Of 24 races this year, she’s been in the money 16 times.”
What Brontewine lacks in stats, she more than makes up for with personality.
“Balanced Image didn’t have a good disposition and that’s come out in her. It’s nothing she can’t race with, it’s just that she likes to kick a lot,” laughs Lois. “One time, she had to go to the test barn and she kicked the side of the stall down.
“She’s not too well liked by others. She’s not a high-class mare and doesn’t make the money the big ones make but she’s doing well. I’m happy with her.”
When her husband passed on in 2008, it was racing and showing horses that helped to keep Lois young and vibrant. It’s strange to think that a horse purchased for $20,000 in the Forest City Yearling Sale by Paul Henry for Harley and Lois way back in 2005 has helped teach his own son a number of lessons in the racing game - - as well as providing comfort and stability in his absence.
“She’s like a grandmother to me,” says Travis of Brontewine’s vibrant owner.
“I’ve known her since I was a little kid and it feels like she’s always been in my life. I see her nearly every weekend. She’s amazing. She still drives, she bowls twice a week and you’d never guess she was ninety.”
And the way Brontewine is racing, having just lowered her career mark to 1:59.2h, you’d never guess this mare was nearing the end of the line as a racehorse.
The Allison family name is much revered in the road horse circuit. Lois’ husband Harley was inducted into the Canadian Road Horse Racing Hall of Fame in 2005 and had served as President and Director for the organization.
“We married 66 years ago and he’s been gone six years,” recalls Allison. “I grew up in Hamilton and, before we met, I was never around a horse in my life.
“One day, long before we got married, we went to a fair and watched the road horses. He said to me, ‘One day I’m going to have one of those horses.’”
Road horse racing is made up of many classes including buggy and team, bike and stake and gentleman turnout. The stars of the sport are off-the-track trotters.
In the late 1960’s, after years of going to the Royal Winter Fair as spectators, Harley acquired his first road horse, Slade Hanover.
“Eventually he bought a trotter and we bought a jogger to show with, which we still use. It’s got to be over 40 years old,” says Allison.
The Allison family learned about road horse racing through Slade Hanover and that association propelled them into the standardbred industry.
“It’s standardbred trotters that you show at the fall fairs. You want a horse that has good action at the front and a nice head set. Most of ours have come from the track and we’ve been quite successful with them,” says Lois.
Their son Wayne, a teacher at Sheridan College and well-regarded horseman in his own right, says it was his mom that got the family started in harness racing.
“My dad was an old-time horse guy, but my mom really liked racing them,” he recalls. “Buying Brontewine goes back to Travis’ dad Paul. All the credit should go to him. He was a great guy and he picked this horse out for my mom and dad.”
To this day, Wayne and Lois, travel to the local fairs together with mom helping out by cleaning the harness, a glass of white wine within reach.
Their great success with road horses hasn’t quite been matched in harness racing. Brontewine, despite the purchase price and family lines, proved to be a handful and only made it to the races in time for her three-year-old season.
“Balanced Image horses can be pretty silly sometimes and it took her forever to be ready to go,” says Wayne. “But, Paul stayed with her and it’s really only been the last three or four years where she’s come into her own.”
And it’s over that same time frame that young Travis has flourished, as well.
“The Henry family has been very good to us. Travis is only 26 and he’s doing a very good job,” says Lois. “He’s a likeable young man. His mom Linda said to me that when Paul died, Travis was beside himself...and ‘Bronte’ helped to keep Travis going.”
Losing a parent is tough at any age. But the loss is that much greater when there’s a farm and a family business involved.
“I didn’t know if I was ready for it, but I had to mature,” says Travis. “Everything came to me. I wanted to do it, and I took it on. I just hope I’m doing a good job.”
According to the numbers, Travis is doing a great job. With 104 wins from 749 starts in 2015, he’s reached a new top with his driving numbers. And with 22 wins from 134 training starts, he seems well on his way to surpassing last season’s breakthrough campaign when he notched a career-best 29 wins and $143,301 in purse earnings.
Travis has been with Brontewine since day one.
“I helped my dad break her and train her down as a baby,” he recalls. “She taught me a lot about driving and a lot about training. She’s been there with me from the beginning.”
A slow learner, it took forever for Brontewine to come good, finally graduating from the maiden ranks on December 8, 2007 (her three-year-old year) with Trevor Henry in the bike. The winning time, a glacial 2:04.2 around Western Fair’s half-mile oval.
Eventually, the reins were handed over to Travis.
“The first day I drove her, I was terrible,” he recalls with a laugh.
Brontewine, with the fresh-faced Travis in the bike, finished last of eight at Western Fair on April 22, 2010.
“I was off her for awhile after that,” he says. “But, that following winter I won with her at Flamboro, and afterwards they always wanted me to drive.”
By July of 2013, Travis was not only driving Brontewine on the regular but training her as well. He says he’s as close to her as you can be, but it doesn’t seem to help much.
“She doesn’t like anything. She likes to get her neck scratched a little bit and she likes carrots. That’s all I’ve ever found that she wants,” says Travis.
The headstrong miss simply has to have her own way. Taking a page from his dad’s book, he likes to give all his horses some paddock time in the morning.
All, that is, except for one.
“I throw them all out in the morning before they jog but you can’t with her because you’ll never catch her. So, she gets jogged first,” he laughs
On September 2, 2015 at Grand River, Brontewine, making her 219th career start reached the longest of long term goals.
With Trevor Henry in the bike, the temperamental trotter posted a remarkable 8 ¾ length win. In the process, she rolled over $200,000 in career earnings and lowered her mark to 1:59.2. A far cry quicker than the 2:04 the duo posted in London some eight years earlier.
“Trevor said that’s the best she’s ever been. He was really happy with her,” recalls Travis.
In a rather bizarre bit of form, Brontewine has won more races in the past year (8) than she did in her first four years of racing combined.
“We’d like to breed her, but every time we go to breed her she gives us a reason not to quit with her,” he says.
Travis credits Brontewine’s modest success to his father’s patience. A trait he’s keen to carry on.
“I think we’ve managed her really well. She gets two weeks off here and there and it keeps her fresh,” he says.
Well on his way to making his own name in the game, Travis is pleased to be carrying the torch and to have a hard-knocking veteran like Brontewine in his barn.
“I wish my dad was still here. I’m glad I’ve been having some luck and hopefully doing a good job. I know he’d be proud of me,” he says.
Brontewine is undoubtedly the end of the line for the great Balanced Image, as she’s his only offspring to make a start in 2015. But when Lois decides to retire the mare from racing, she plans to keep her horse busy.
“I can’t believe no one has ever claimed her over all the years,” she says. “I don’t want to lose her now after all this time. She’s become part of the family. She’ll either be a broodmare or a show horse.”
Staying active is the key to Allison’s youthful lifestyle.
“I was on a bus trip today and a lady on the trip was 102 so I felt young,” she laughs.
And an active Brontewine is part of that fountain of youth.
“She’s been a good horse for me. My husband was alive when we got her and since he’s passed she’s been great for me,” she says. “I like to watch her race and the fact that she’s racing better is great. I can’t believe what she’s doing right now.”
Time will eventually catch up the mare, however.
“When she’s done racing we might try and breed her or she could try the show ring, but I worry about her temperament,” says Lois. “She has a long neck, keeps her head in the air and has plenty of motion, which is what we look for, so I might give that a try.
“We’ll have to wait and see. We’re only a couple months away from her being 12 and she can’t go on forever. Travis and I have talked and we’ll make a decision about her in the spring.”
Until then, Brontewine will continue to represent the proud Balanced Image name.
“She’s done well for us and I’m sure there are some people that might read this and think that horse isn’t much, but to us she is,” says Lois. “If she can get her nose to the top, in that class, she’s pretty tough to beat. She’s tough as nails.”