Joanne Colville has a lot on her plate as the new chair of Standardbred Canada, including leading the search for a new CEO, exploring whether there should be just one major yearling sale in Ontario and helping find financial stability for the industry.
by Chris Lomon
Her passion for the industry is irrefutable. Her desire to affect change is undeniable. Handed the reins of chair of the board with Standardbred Canada on Feb. 12, Joanne Colville is on a mission to be a difference maker.
One of her initial priorities with Standardbred Canada is in filling a key vacancy.
“The landscape of racing in Canada is changing and it is incumbent upon us to embrace these changes,” she said. “We are currently in a search for a new CEO. The position has been vacant for eight months. The posting was put up yesterday.”
Major Ontario yearling sales (currently two dominate: one run by Standardbred Canada, the other by Forest City) are also an increasingly talked-about topic.
“The issue of reduced numbers of horses is not going to be a quick fix. It will take time,” Colville said. “With the reduced number of yearlings, the idea of one yearling sale in Ontario has surfaced more in the last couple of years. It would make sense to have one sale and one venue with a larger number of yearlings. It’s something that’s being discussed at great lengths.”
So, too, is addressing the financial state of the standardbred industry, specifically, in seeking ways to bring stability, short and long term, to the sport.
“The Board recently revised our Strategic Plan to reflect the changing times and to shape Standardbred Canada’s future and vision,” Colville said. “One of our priorities will be to try and increase membership. I think we are off to a great start in this area. The Stable.ca has introduced the idea of fractional ownership and I think it is taking off. It’s a start and a step in the right direction that makes horse ownership affordable.”
Colville has seen the sport of standardbred racing like few others have, a lifelong aficionado of all things horses and a proud proponent of the harness game.
“I’ve been on the Standardbred Canada Board for several years and part of many committees and the executive as well,” she said. “My name was put forward by a fellow director for this and I’m truly honored to take on this new position. I’m a person of my word and action and feel we all need to do our part to contribute to the industry I’m really looking forward to meeting the challenges this position brings.”
A director of the Central Ontario Standardbred Association, Colville also the owner and operator of High Stakes Farm, a 30-acre property that focuses on breeding, boarding, rehabilitation and racing stock.
Her past endeavors include corporate jobs at Woodbine Entertainment Group — she also held the position of full-time parade marshal for nearly 10 years — and Standardbred Canada.
Colville has ridden in every discipline, winning several honors and awards for speed events, and has also worked at the Hendervale Equestrian Complex covering the Olympic Trials.
Although there is admittedly plenty on her plate, the chair role with Standardbred Canada was an opportunity Colville felt she couldn’t say no to.
“I love the game,” she said. “The horses have been good to me and it’s how my family and I make our living. I’m not a person to sit back and watch. Right or wrong, I will at least feel that I have tried to do my part in the future of the industry amid these challenging times. This industry is my whole life. I’m involved in all aspects — breeding, racing, outriding — and couldn’t be happier. I also give back to the horses that have given so much to me through my work (Events Coordinator) with the Ontario Standardbred Adoption Society.”
Candid. Vocal. Impassioned. Ardent. It’s clear Standardbred Canada’s newly minted chair isn’t daunted by the challenges that lie ahead. Instead, Colville is embracing it all, eager to speak up and listen, earnest in her desire to collaborate with those in the standardbred world.
“As someone’s who’s been heavily involved in harness racing, I’ve remained optimistic since day one that the industry could change and meet the challenges and remain healthy, vibrant and viable.”