Upon graduation from the Ontario College of Art in 1972 Elaine Macpherson went on to create artwork for the Ontario Jockey Club, various tack stores and equine magazines before moving to Alberta in 1989 to become part owner of a farm in Okotoks where she entered the world of thoroughbred breeding.
Most Alberta thoroughbred fans will recognize the name of the multiple stakes winner who was the first foal for Macpherson’s breeding program — Timely Ruckus. This CTHS Alberta sale graduate by Bold Executive out of Shy Beauty became one of Alberta’s best all-time sprinters. Timely Ruckus created numerous track records that still stand at Northlands and earned over $600,000 in his race career.
Macpherson then returned to her art career that now includes creating equine bronzes for racing organizations and the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society in both Alberta and Ontario.
Fast forward to 2016 and Macpherson has dedicated the past four decades of her life to an involvement with racing both through her artwork and through the breeding and racing of thoroughbreds. She is now evolving to another phase of her connection with the breed through the creation of White Windows Thoroughbreds, an organization dedicated to transitioning thoroughbreds from the track to a new career.
The philosophy behind White Windows Thoroughbreds is that the exceptional intelligence of the thoroughbred can be channeled in to something “pretty special” as a riding horse with the right program. Macpherson said that we need to “get the thoroughbred back in the public eye” and have their value recognized beyond the racetrack, “We need to get some of thoroughbred as sport horse cachet back and put them up on a pedestal again where they really belong as athletes and as intelligent, well bred beings.”
She prefers to refer to her equine students as ‘post-graduates’ rather than ‘rescues’ in order to recognize their true worth. Ex-racehorses already have solid experience and exposure to the busy atmosphere of the track and extensive handling including wash racks, grooming and under saddle work. The program will take in thoroughbreds that have retired from the track and spend 90 or 120 days developing skills in that particular horse to make him or her useful for a new career in a discipline that suits the individual. The new career opportunities for this versatile breed are many in fields such as hunter-jumper, polo, trail, dressage, barrel racing and polocrosse.
The trainer for White Windows is Manuel Panfili, an accomplished horseman originally from Italy whom Macpherson says is a “talented and dedicated rider with a fabulous work ethic.” Panfili was previously working as an executive chef in Toronto but came to audition for Macpherson earlier this year as his true passion and love is horses. White Windows presently has five thoroughbreds in for training and transitioning with the current group made up of ‘post-graduates’ Dawnscape, Annie-O, Banquo’s Ghost, Cowboy Trail, Reggie Dunlop and Harlington Club.
Thoroughbreds taken into the program may be horses off the track or ones that have been standing around unused in a field, but they must be completely sound. Macpherson notes that all five thoroughbreds are lovely horses with various potential talents for future riding careers.
Dawnscape is the horse that gave Macpherson the initial idea for White Windows with his beauty and athleticism. This Alberta-bred gelding by Cape Canaveral raced for one year before Macpherson made the decision to retire him and give him a year off ahead of starting his training as a jumper. She remarks that he has transitioned from a difficult horse to one that comes running when it’s time for him to go to work. The now seven-year-old gelding is progressing quickly in his training and showing impressive talent over bigger jumps. Dawnscape is being shown at venues such as Spruce Meadows and Rocky Mountain Show Jumping with the plan being to hopefully show him at the Royal Horse Show in Toronto in the fall. The program at White Windows includes placing high importance on exposing the horses to shows to enable them to gain experience and also to give the breed much deserved recognition.
The inspiration for the name ‘White Windows’ came from a book that Macpherson was reading when on a recent trip to England called ‘English Private Gardens.’ White Windows was the title given to one of the gardens described in the book and gave her the idea that “Eyes are the window to the soul that will lead in to that horse.” Each thoroughbred would be like “taking a blank canvas and creating a type of horse magic with the idea that the unrealized potential of the horse can blossom under the hand of the trainer.”
A White Windows website is currently in development and Macpherson said she plans to have videos available for every horse in the program with windows that open up showing every stage of that horse’s development. She notes that White Windows is in the business of “creating stars” and will follow the progress of each horse after they complete their training.
It’s time for the thoroughbred breed to return to being recognized and valued for its beauty, boldness and talent beyond the track. The White Windows Thoroughbreds program offers post-graduates the opportunity to show the public the many talents of this exceptional athlete.
To find out more information about White Windows, please contact Elaine Macpherson at [email protected]