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Falmouth horseman with 'infinite energy' celebrates 70th anniversary at the Hants County Exhibition

Children and adults gravitated to this Clydesdale within a minute of Leon Taylor and his daughter, Emma-Lee Taylor, bringing Jake outside. The long-time blacksmith loves to spend time with his horses, and telling people about them.
Children and adults gravitated to this Clydesdale within a minute of Leon Taylor and his daughter, Emma-Lee Taylor, bringing Jake outside. The long-time blacksmith loves to spend time with his horses, and telling people about them.

WINDSOR, N.S. — Mention Clydesdale horses around Leon Taylor and his eyes begin to twinkle and a smile spreads across his face.

Leon Taylor sits outside the stall for his Clydesdales at the Hants County Exhibition. The Falmouth man has been showing horses for 70 years.

He’ll be the first to ask, ‘what do you want to know?’ and will proceed to tell you all about the horses he’s raised over the years.

The Falmouth blacksmith has been showing the gentle giants at the Hants County Exhibition for decades and his love of the breed shines through when he speaks about them.

“You'd have to have a horse to tell somebody how good it is to have these horses. They're a part of your family — not just the Clydesdale but the Percheron and Belgian too,” said Taylor.

The 83-year-old celebrated his 70th anniversary of showing horses at the exhibition rather quietly, with just a small sign hanging near his horses’ stall to let people know of the milestone.

His family said he didn’t want to “make a fuss.”

The affable horseman started out attending shows with his father, William Taylor, when he was a 13-year-old boy growing up in Martock.

Within a few years, he took the reins.

“It kind of fell back onto me to look after them,” said Taylor.

Leon Taylor double checks the harness as he brings Jake, “one of the nicest” Clydesdales he's ever owned, outside.

Since then, he’s bred and raised several award-winning horses, and has had much luck in the show ring — a fact he humbly skims over. (He’s won multiple Nova Scotia Grand Championship plowman titles over the years, and countless local honours.)

“I bought some, sold some and I've had good luck with them and I've had a lot of fun with them,” he said.

One of his favourite horses was Nova Thunder Royal — a stallion that was shipped down from Ontario.

“He was 18 two hands high,” recalled Taylor. “He was 22 years old when I had to part with him.”

Nova Thunder Royal helped sire several colts and competed in the ring on multiple occasions. Prior to joining Taylor’s clan, the horse almost wound up being a hitch horse for Budweiser.

“They had no hard feelings about it at all. They said it was their own fault that they never followed it up,” said Taylor, about how he wound up buying Nova Thunder Royal.

“I bought him sight unseen. I just had a picture of him but I knew what he looked like. I knew the mare.”

When asked why he has carried on the tradition of showing horses at the exhibition, he doesn't take more than a second to think about it.

“I just enjoy the horses. People want to see them,” he said, noting it’s not unusual for people to show up at his Falmouth farm for impromptu tours.

Leon Taylor, pictured here in 2013 with his loving Clydesdale Jake, often welcomes people to his farm to meet the horses.

During exhibition time, a steady stream of people walk by the stall, some stopping to pat him on the shoulder to say hi. Children, seeing the size of the horses, pass by wide-eyed, seemingly oblivious to Taylor as he watches them, smiling all the while.

This year, Jake and Storm competed at the exhibition — Jake being a solid, quiet, reliable horse, and Storm being younger, less experienced.

“You've got to start getting them ready back in March or April. You've got to work on his legs and feet all summer to get him in shape, where you want him to work,” explained Taylor.

Storm wasn’t slated to show at the exhibition, but when his brother hurt his hock and couldn’t attend, Taylor said it was the next logical option.

“He's a nice horse. People gave me a hard time — they said I'd never get that thing out in a show ring. Well, he was here… and I showed him and he had a good day,” said Taylor.

Jake won first place in the Clydesdale Light Aged Gelding category and the wagon team placed second in the Light Clydesdale Team on Sept. 15.

When it comes to his Clydesdales — he currently has four: Jake, Storm, Mack and Lacie — he is dedicated to keeping them healthy and happy.

“Your day doesn't end at 5 o'clock in the afternoon. You're committed to them 24 hours a day,” said Taylor.

 

Blacksmith Leon Taylor, with his daughter, Emma-Lee, and award-winning Clydesdale, Jake, is well-known in Hants County, and beyond.

 

'Truly loves it'

Emma-Lee Taylor says she couldn’t be more proud of her father.

“I know how tired I am at the end of one day showing. It's an exhausting experience so the fact that he's been able to do it for 70 years amazes me,” she said. “I have no idea how he does it. He just has infinite energy.”

Emma-Lee, who is an accomplished barrel racer in her own right, has been competing since she was nine years old and for the last few years, has been helping her father.

“We do it for the love of our horses,” she said, who has her own horse, Rico.

“Dad is one of the few people I know who, at the end of the day, does it because he loves it. He truly does not care how he places in the classes. He does it because he enjoys seeing how our horses improve from year to year, show to show,” she said, adding that his positivity is inspiring.

Stephen Kelsey, from Newfoundland, Sheldon Caldwell, from Chester Road, and John George, from Mount Denson, all work behind the scenes leading up to the exhibition.

“It's all those people that come together that make what we do doable,” said Emma-Lee.

“Help like that really goes under-appreciated sometimes because you just see the big names but we definitely could not do it without them.”

Leon Taylor never tires of talking about horses and listening to stories.

Lisa Hines, the president of the Windsor Agricultural Society, said dedication, like that of Taylor, helps keep the exhibition going.

“The exhibition is really dependent on dedicated local competitors and local volunteers... They’re kind of what keeps everything spinning and moving along,” she said.

The Hants County Exhibition is the longest running agricultural fair in North America, celebrating 252 years in 2017.

“He’s a real horseman. He’s dedicated to his horses and his family and what he believes in,” Hines said, adding that it’s nice to see his daughter carrying on the tradition.

“He’s got a wonderful daughter and she’s a great asset to the exhibition as well,” said Hines. “We just hope he’s here for a good many more years.”

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