The old saying goes ‘the best goes first’ and in this instance, that is sadly the truth. Thursday 22 July 2021, the Arabian horse community worldwide lost one of its greatest performance stallions, a phenomenal athlete who, while alive, forever printed his name in the Arabian horse history books.
This story began on Saturday 17 April 1999, when Suzanne and Rick Flammer from Texas, USA, saw the arrival of a colt foal with a phenomenal old world Polish pedigree. On paper alone, this colt would prove to be something extraordinary, and I think it is fair to say he proved to the world that he was just that. He became a living legend. His name was Ontario HF.
Combining some of the best Polish racing families, it was only natural for his owners Rene’ and Todd Moak to send Ontario HF (Monarch AH x HF Orzonna) into race training. He raced for three seasons between 2003-2005 with 22 starts (8-3-5-6), never finishing out of the money and named 2003 Darley Champion 4-year old colt. His victories include the 2003 Olimans Arabians Cup Handicap, the 2003 Independence Sprint, the 2004 Arabian Cup Championship Sprint Delaware, and the 2004 Independence Spring Colts and Geldings Stakes. The biggest highlight for myself was his win at the 2004 Arabian Cup Championship Sprint Delaware, a Group 1 race where he left the field standing, finishing the 6 furlongs in just 1.18.1. In second place was TH Richie (Calin du Loup x Char Rich Louise) who is known for being a fast horse, yet he was no match and no threat at all, not even making it onto the winning photograph as Ontario HF crossed the post.
Ontario HF winning the Arabian Cup Spring Championship Group 1 race at Delaware Park USA
In 2006, Ontario HF was sold to the homeland of his blood and in January 2007 he arrived at Tarnawka Stud in Poland. The Polish breeders understood the value of Ontario HF as a sire and the interest to use him was high. In 2014, Michałow State Stud used him on some of their mares and they continued to use him for three seasons with great results.
While still in his prime, Ontario HF was tested as an endurance horse in Poland. He competed nationally up to 80km race rides, showing excellent recovery and a resting heart rate of 28bpm. The endurance was not taken further; after all there was no need as the stallion was already proven under saddle and his main job was being a breeding stallion.
Ontario HF at Little Arabians. Credit Anne Walters
Ontario HF had his first runners in Poland in 2011, some of his best progeny includes Addis (ex Amina), who had 75 starts over nine seasons and is 1400m track record holder at Służewiec in Warsaw; Wares (ex Wienerva), who won the 2013 Derby, the Criterium and several other stakes races; Wielki Damati (ex Wielki Dama), winner of the Kurozwęki Stakes; Wielka Damira (ex Wielki Dama), winner of the 2013 Oaks and whose son, Wielki Dakris (by Mared al Sahra) won the Derby; plus Stakes winners Netka (ex Nesstika Bint Nessa), full siblings Esponna and Etorio (ex Elegantka Z IZB), and Wasilew (ex Warta) to name just a few.
Ontario HF placed first on the 2012 list of Racing Sires in Poland in terms of the amount of money won by progeny. To this day, he is still among the top-producing sires, his son Echaron (ex Echara) was the best 3-year old in Poland in 2020. At the time of his passing, Ontario had sired over 60 winners on the racecourses, as well as 6 FEI ranked endurance horses. His progeny are further proving their worth as breeding stock, producing winners on the racecourses and FEI endurance horses. They are all athletic and trainable horses.
Ontario HF. Credit Wojtek Kwiatkowski
On a more personal level, I gained interest in Ontario HF when I came across him in 2009. A few times in my life I have managed to fall head over heels in love with a horse I had not even met, and this was certainly one of those special horses. I have watched his videos on YouTube countless times, I have even shred tears in awe of this amazing stallion, hoping that one day I could be lucky enough to use him on one of my mares; for several years, one thing or another just made the dream impossible.
Since 2007, I have had a small stud, Little Arabians, breeding Polish Arabian horses. I knew from the minute I found him I needed Ontario HF blood in my herd. In December 2018 I was lucky enough to be able to purchase the stakes winning mare Minorella (El Bak x Minorka). I kept her in Poland so I could have her served by Ontario HF – finally, the dream would become reality, finally Little Arabians would have the blood of the legendary Ontario HF.
Spring of 2019 arrived, as did the breeding season, and Minorella was taken to Ontario HF and served. Sadly, she didn’t get in foal. I was quite upset and started to think “what if it will never happen?” However, we were still early in the year, so we prepared her for another walk-in service, and this time we were in luck. It is amazing how happy we breeders get from that small black dot on the ultrasound picture. The dream was becoming reality, I was finally going to get my Ontario HF foal. In June 2019 I imported Minorella to England and that October, she had a sudden severe onset of lymphamgitis. For some weeks, we were not sure if she would survive.
I have always kept up to date on the Polish auctions, so scrolling through the new 2019 Winter Star Auction catalogue was no different than normal. However, that quickly changed when I reached lot 40 – Ontario HF. I had my good friend Geoff Lovis visit that day, and I had to get him to read the name out loud twice as I just didn’t believe my own eyes nor his words. My heart took charge and there was no doubt whatsoever that I needed to find out what the reserve price would be, so I would know if there was even a slight chance of owning this magnificent stallion. I contacted some of my Polish connections and to my big surprise some said no to even trying to help me. In the end, it was through a Polish friend, Monika Mona in England, that I managed to get in touch with a connection of the owner. While I was waiting to hear how much the reserve was, I spend hours telling Geoff how important this stallion was, explaining his achievements and his pedigree. Geoff and I decided that Ontario HF had to end his days at Little Arabians, and that we needed to make sure he would be available worldwide by frozen semen. When the connection of the owner returned with a reserve price and said: “if you pay the reserve, he hasn’t got to go to auction”, Geoff and I became financial partners and we bought Ontario HF. And so it was that Ontario HF arrived at Little Arabians late in the evening of 13 December 2019.
Minorella (El Bak x Minorka) with her Ontario HF filly foal, Little Mona. Credit Robert Green
To say this stallion lived up to my expectations was an understatement – he was every bit as regal as I had sensed from his videos. In spite of his age, he had perfect dry clean limbs, amazing feet, and the next morning he proved he still had his big stride. For me he was everything an Arabian horse should be – a beautiful functional horse with movement, type, and a kind loving temperament.
Ontario HF was only at Little Arabians for a short time before we sent him off to Stallion AI Services for semen freezing. Having known Tullis and his team for many years, I felt I could trust them to provide Ontario with the best care. He stayed there for several months and didn’t come back until we had mares ready for live cover. All the mares we covered in 2020 were scanned in foal.
While Ontario was away, my original Ontario dream foal arrived into this world. Minorella foaled down Little Mona, the filly being named in memory of my late grandmother Mona, my friend Monika Mona, and also as part of her grandsire’s name; the legendary Monarch AH (Wiking x Sasanka). Little Mona was every bit as good as I could have hoped for and she will, of course, be retained at Little Arabians. Sadly, when Mona was two months old, Minorella had a severe return of the lymphangitis and this time we were fighting a losing battle. The leg had been so swollen that the blood supply to her coronary band had been significantly compromised and sadly as a result, her hoof capsule had started to detach itself. We had had no option but to bring Little Glorianna (Ekilbr x Ginea) into milk so she could adopt Little Mona, and then sadly euthanise Minorella.
Ontario and I became great friends. I am certain he knew how much I loved him, he had me well trained as his personal assistant, and in return he would give me hugs and brighten my world every single day. He had a special ability to know when you needed him the most. During his time at Little Arabians Ontario HF lived the life of a king. His word was the law, and everybody did everything he desired to give him the best possible life. He went in the fields grazing daily next to other horses, enjoying the sun on his back, and loving a mud bath in the wetter months. Every day he would tell me when he had enough and wanted to go inside – his wish was my command – and he would immediately be brought in. Even the yard guys fell for his big liquid eyes and every time they went shopping, they bought him bags of carrots. One guy, John, who had never been around horses before, had great enjoyment standing by Ontario giving him a groom and cutting carrots into small bitesize treats, just as Ontario liked them. We all hoped this dream would last at least another decade; after all Ontario HF was fit and healthy.
Ontario HF. Credit Wojtek Kwiatkowski
Around mid-July this year, Ontario decided he did not want to come inside for the night, such a significant change in his routine. He came when he saw me, gave me a hug, and walked off to graze again a few yards away from me. Ontario’s wish was granted, and he had his feed in the field. He was now living outside, like most of the other horses at the stud, and he was happy and content. Being only a few yards from my house, sometimes he would come up to the house at night and do a very big snort so I would come running outside. It was only because he wanted a carrot and a groom, and I loved those moments.
Sadly, on the early hours of 19 July, Ontario had an accident in the field. He had grazed too close to the fence and flicked his tail, so it had twisted around the electric rope. He panicked and bolted, taking the fence with him. The outcome of this was a very broken fence and while some tiny scrapes on Ontario, we were unlucky as one could be as one of the few actual wounds was a puncture to his fetlock joint. An instant decision was made to send him to surgery as if he didn’t receive a joint flush under general anaesthesia, he would die from sepsis.
The surgery went well but Ontario was not happy being away from home and as a result, he hardly ate at all. After the dressing changes three days later, it was decided he could come home as hopefully, it would improve his mood and get him eating again.
When I fetched him home, Ontario was a very different horse. He had lost around 50kg over those three days, but when he saw me, his eyes lit up and he called for me. He travelled the short journey home very well, eating hay on the transport. When he arrived at home, he had a small drink of water but again refused to eat; he seemed okay but was tired.
I went to bed but set my alarm to check on his CCTV throughout the night. He seemed okay, either sleeping or nibbling on a tiny bit of hay. However, when I woke up in the morning, it was clear that Ontario was no longer okay and the vet was called.
In the examination, she couldn’t feel a displacement, so we hoped Ontario had a post-surgery impaction colic as that is quite common post general anaesthesia. However, after a few hours his condition became progressively worse, and the vet was called back to administer more pain relief. He didn’t respond to the medication at all at this point, and Ontario started sweating and wanting to lie down. We made another rectal examination, and I could see from the vet’s face that this time, it was not good at all. She could feel a big displacement and a twist. There were no options at this point; Ontario’s pain was too great to even consider sending him for colic surgery. I was forced to make one of the
hardest decisions of my life. We had run out of luck, and we had no choice other than to euthanise Ontario HF immediately. In his last moments, he was surrounded by friends, people who had an immense love for this magnificent stallion. My heart was shattered into a million pieces, and I do not know how I would have coped without my vet Fiona and my friend Stuart. I sat for an hour or so in the yard, just hugging my now deceased friend and my dream come true, my Ontario HF.
Jane with Ontario. Credit Anne Walters
Now four months later, that day both feels like a lifetime ago and yet as if it was yesterday. I have since moved Little Arabians back to my native Denmark. Ontario HF might have left me in body but not in soul. I have been blessed with his lovely daughter, Little Mona, and thanks to Geoff, who kindly helped get Ontario’s semen frozen, he is still available as a stallion both for my own mares and for a few select others while the supply is big enough.
Ontario my friend, you are now a shining star on the heavens above us all. I think of you every single day and I wish the outcome could have been different. Some days I am not even sure if it was just a dream, or even a nightmare; it all seems so surreal. The only thing I am sure of is that you will wait for me, we will meet again. Until that day rest peacefully knowing you were loved and will never be forgotten.
If you have any photographs or video material of Ontario HF, please contact Jane at firstname.lastname@example.org