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The Horse That Changed My Life | Michelle Vande Belt - Quat R Winner

"He wanted to be with me at all possible times and wouldn't come for others that worked at the farm.”
(Photo - QUAT R WINNER is front and centre of this picture. The youngster was bottle-fed by Michelle Vande Belt early in his life. Photo courtesy of Michelle Vande Belt)

MICHELLE VANDE BELT was only a teenager working on a farm with Thoroughbred and Standardbred horses when she discovered that there was another exciting breed of racers in Ontario.

“A man named Clarence Baines, who had done so much for me and the Arabian horse I owned at the time. was bringing in a horse to be re-trained,” said Vande Belt, 41. “I was told it was a Quarter Horse and I assumed it was from the United States. I was shocked it was an Ontario Quarter Horse.”

Thus, when Vande Belt returned to working with horses following the birth and raising of her now 18-year-old son six years ago, the Newmarket, Ontario resident dove right into the Quarter Horse industry. It was just about a year after joining the team at Darlene Ballis-Hunderup and René Hunderup’s Norse Ridge Farm in King City when she met the horse who changed her life.

In late April of 2012, the broodmare Quat produced a colt by the Hunderup’s top Quarter Horse stallion Winners Award but the mare died two days after foaling.

“I had to bottle feed him until we made a nurse mare out of a ‘dry’ mare for him,” said Vande Belt.  “I couldn't have two days off in a row because he would only take a bottle from me before we made a nurse mare for him. He wanted to be with me at all possible times and wouldn't come for others that worked at the farm.”

Named Quat R Winner, the youngster grew up to be a racehorse but not without some eventful days.
“At first, he was too gangly to go to the races as a 2-year-old,” said Vande Belt, “He would trip over his own feet.”

“His first race [July, 2015 as a 3-year-old) he nearly flipped [over] in the paddock,” said Vande Belt, “But by his second race, I took him over to the paddock and he went around with his head under my arm.”

Quat R Winner had six races in 2015 and one outing in the summer of 2016 but, according to Vande Belt, the races at Ajax Downs have not been long enough for his big stride.

In fact, Quat R Winner’s name Quat, was a Thoroughbred and her grandsire is the legendary Secretariat, the American Triple Crown winner who loved long distances.

Vande Belt calls Quat R Winner her ‘Boo’ and while she now works for Quarter Horse owners Michelle Woodley and John McInerney, she hopes she gets to see her special horse at the races again in 2017.

“He was my cuddle buddy. He was special because of the way he acted around me compared to the other horses at the farm. And if they had 660 yard races at Ajax Downs, he would shine!”

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