SUMMERSIDE – Sisters Gillian and Nicole Reeves developed a love for horses at a very young age.
Their passion continues to grow today.
“I’ve always had a thing for horses since I was little,” said Gillian. “I never wanted dolls or anything like that, I liked horse toys.”
Nicole said she has always loved animals, adding, “Animals are my passion.”
The sisters, who also have two dogs, are regulars on the backstretch of historic Summerside Raceway, having quietly put in countless hours over the last six years. They do everything from mucking stalls to feeding, watering, brushing, walking and jogging to making sure proper equipment is ready for the horses.
“It’s really fun to work with (horses) ,” said 13-year-old Gillian, who will enter Grade 8 at Athena Consolidated School in September. “Mom (Tanya Reeves) has been with them since she was younger, and that’s where we get our love of horses from.”
The Reeves live on neighbouring Northumberland Street with their mother, Tanya Reeves, and older brother, Frankie Reeves, 18.
“When we first moved here there were horses on the track,” explained Gillian. “I asked Mom if we could come over and see them, and she said, ‘Sure.’”
Frank Banks and Kenny Waite were the only two horsemen there at the time.
“They took us under their wing and taught us most of what we know,” said Nicole, 15.
Banks, who has been a mentor to the sisters, praised their work ethic.
“They are pretty eager girls and good to help out,” said Banks. “They are here early in the mornings, and probably the last ones to leave in the evening.”
Nicole, who is going into Grade 10 at Three Oaks Senior High School in Summerside, and Gillian are at the barn each day at 5:30 a.m., and return from 3 to 7 or 8 p.m. In the morning, Nicole usually finishes up around 9 a.m., while Gillian is there until noon.
“It’s like a full-time job,” said Nicole. “In the mornings I have to be here to jog them, and at night we come back to feed them.”
Both sisters are licensed grooms, with Gillian looking after 10 horses while Nicole has “eight or nine” under her care.
Naturally, working closely with animals every day, both girls have developed a “special bond” with their favourite horse.
“Their bond is something special,” said Nicole of the relationship between Gillian and Keystone Nobility. “Gill can stick her hand in that horse’s mouth, and she will not bite her.”
How about another example?
“When she is lying down, I will put a towel down so I won’t get dirty and will lie down with her by her side and pet her until she falls asleep,” explained Gillian.
In the stall across from Keystone Nobility is Paradise Rose, Nicole’s favourite horse.
"I’ve always had a thing for horses since I was little. I never wanted dolls or anything like that, I liked horse toys.” Gillian Reeves
Nicole describes “Rosie” as hyperactive.
“She has her moments when she is cranky, and loves to kick,” said Nicole. “When I’m there she won’t kick me. The horse knows who is good to them and who is not.”
How’s this for an example of the relationship between “Rosie” and Nicole?
“I had just got home from school one day and was having a snack and Gill was over at the barn,” recalled Nicole. “The vet came to see Rosie, and they couldn’t catch her. After they all tried, they had to call my house and get me because no one could get her.
“I caught her and they did the vet work.”
Harness racing has been and will continue to be a big part of Nicole and Gillian’s lives. Both want to pursue their training and driving licences when they reach the required ages of 16 and 18.
“I want to be in a race with her,” said Nicole smiling at Gillian.
It should not come as a surprise, given their passion and love for animals, that both Nicole and Gillian want to become veterinarians.
“Seeing how the vets work around the horses, I would really like to do this,” said Gillian.