Since the age of seven, Dr. Brenda E. Abbey has been a horse owner and equine enthusiast, but for the past 20 years, she has been captivated by the thoroughbred industry. She is active with thoroughbreds both in her personal life as a racehorse breeder and owner and in her professional life as a psychologist using the thoroughbred as a therapy horse. Abbey estimates she has owned 40 horses in her life and currently owns eight thoroughbreds.

Abbey always had a love of horses. As a child, she recalls her veterinarian father, Dr. Ken Abbey, taking her to the track when he filled in for the track veterinarian on race days in Edmonton. These experiences sparked the passion for racing that has lasted throughout her life. Influenced by her father, Brenda has also been a student of thoroughbred bloodlines and has carefully researched and planned the breeding of her broodmares over the years with Alberta based stallions. She notes that her “homebreds and broodmares are from generations of proven black type producing families.” A principle that guides her racing decisions that was passed on by her father is to “always put the welfare of the horse first.”

There are many highlights from the racing careers of the horses Brenda has owned, but a few are particularly memorable. Most of Brenda’s thoroughbreds work dual careers either as broodmare and therapy horse or racehorse and therapy horse. The racehorse Brass Hit became Brenda’s first racing filly after she purchased the Brass Minister filly at the 1993 CTHS Fall sale as a yearling. Brass Hit went on to race for four years and now at 22 years of age is a retired broodmare and therapy horse. She produced six foals including the successful racehorse Prospective Hit by the Mr. Prospector sire Ihtiman. Prospective Hit raced for six years before retiring in 2007, earning almost $120,000 for owner Bar None Ranches. The last foal from Brass Hit is A Hit Indeed by Alydeed born in 2008 who is a broodmare and therapy horse. Brass Hit now has a Wilko granddaughter produced by A Hit Indeed born in 2014 named Awesome Hit. The multiple stakes placed runner Mocha John by John the Magician out of En Plus was bred by Brenda and raced for a total of six years from 2005 through 2010. He finished his race career with $133,443 in earnings.

The champion filly Crimson Hue was purchased by Brenda as a yearling at the 1998 CTHS Alberta Summer Yearling Sale. The big filly by McIvor Road by Pole Position went on to become a multiple stakes winner with victories in the John Patrick Handicap, the M.R. Jenkins Memorial Handicap and the Sonoma Handicap. Crimson Hue was named the Champion Three Year Old filly in 2000 and finished her racing career in 2001 with $113,806 in earnings. Bred to Alydeed, she produced her last foal, the filly Crimson Deed, in 2008 but sadly passed away when Crimson Deed was only three months old. The young filly went in to a field that fall when all the foals were weaned at Peaceful Valley where “she loved to run with the other young horses and they entertained themselves with imaginary races.” Crimson Deed went on become a “real” racehorse in her four-year-old season racing at Northlands in 2012 and 2013 and also worked at her other job as a therapy horse for Brenda. At her first gate work out with a jockey in 2012, Brenda said she had tears in her eyes because Crimson Deed looked and ran like her mother Crimson Hue.

“I felt and thought that Crimson Hue’s spirit was running with her daughter on the racetrack,” Brenda said.

The broodmare and therapy horse Avonmore by Dr. Adagio out of En Plus by Golden Reserve was a successful racehorse until a racetrack stall injury cut her career short. This half sister to Mocha John has since produced the full brother and sister Avonly and Alymore. Avonly by Alydeed is a four-year-old race filly that has already established a career as a therapy horse when she was a yearling and foal. Her full brother Alymore is now a two-year-old gelding in training to be a racehorse.

Brenda believes in the importance of the racing industry for Alberta and the hard working individuals involved. She is excited about the future of the Alberta thoroughbred industry and said she is looking forward to the new track in Balzac. Brenda will be even more involved in the future of the sport as she has just been appointed as a director of the CTHS Alberta Division for a three-year term.

As a registered Child Cognitive Psychologist, Brenda works with at risk and under privileged children and believes that horses can offer valuable benefits for children in therapy. She originally made the connection between her professional work with children and the thoroughbred world in the mid-1990s when she was working with at risk youth at a high needs under-privileged school.

A police resource officer at the school who was interested in horses teamed up with Dr. Abbey to form the “Girls Horse Club” at the school. Club outings included visiting Stampede Park to watch her racehorse Brass Hit run and meeting the thoroughbred in the paddock.

Brenda realized that the outings were making a difference and created a way of engaging children. “Relationships are key to keeping them in school and horses do not judge,” Brenda said.

An important lesson from Crimson Hue was that “she had a crooked leg, but ran in spite of that — everybody is not perfect, but they can still be the best they can be.”

Brenda said Equine Assisted Therapy offers a different experience than office therapy in a number of ways. Horses can increase a person’s self-esteem and help to promote the expression of feelings. The children’s desire to visit the horses promotes self-regulation where they are mindful of their actions so the horses are not scared away.

“There is no finer mirror of our true nature than the horse,” Brenda said.

Brenda offers a program called ‘Healing with Horses’ which creates an opportunity for children in therapy to individually visit and interact with the thoroughbreds at Peaceful Valley farm.

In particular, Brenda values thoroughbreds for Equine Assisted Therapy.

“(Thoroughbreds are) wired to be very, very attached to people” and create connections easily with people. The children in therapy are much more comfortable talking and opening up emotionally with the horse as a therapy tool.

To read more about Dr. Brenda E. Abbey and her work with Equine Assisted Therapy, visit her website: