Nick had a heart of gold

Local horse found a new life after being saved from the slaughterhouse

Nick the Clydesdale was a popular attendee of the Saanich Fair for 27 years.

A long-time regular at the Saanich Fair has died, leaving a hole in the hearts of his family as well as a collection of his fans lamenting his loss.

Nick the Clydesdale was a frequent winner as an entry in the annual agricultural fair at the Saanich Fairground. Competing in the draft horse tandem and team competitions, Nick generally finished at the top with his equine partner Ike. His owners, the Morneau family of Central Saanich’s Jingle Bell Tree Farm, had to put Nick down on June 7 after old age prevented him from getting up after a fall.

Sandra Morneau says Nick was a popular horse and has been going to the Saanich Fair for around 22 years. Nick was 27 years old when he died.

“He was the best horse, ever,” said Morneau, raw emotion in her voice. “Everyone knew him and he made an impression on people’s lives.”

His advanced age and health meant he could no longer go to the fair — his last appearance was two years ago — and Morneau said people who knew him had been asking about Nick. The horse was simply getting too old to attend the fair, she said, and his age caught up with him this month.

Having been a large part of their family for 27 years — Nick was 17.2 hands high — his absence is hard to take, Morneau said, but the memories are good ones.

She recalled that her family had gone to the U.S. to get another horse for their draft team on the farm. When they found Nick, he was 600 pounds underweight and destined for the slaughterhouse. They took a chance that they could get him healthy again, rescued the horse, brought him to the farm and fattened him up. It worked and Nick was fighter reserve or grand champion at the Saanich Fair ever since.

Nick had a wonderful personality as well Morneau said — patient, compassionate and rarely gave in to complaint. She recalls a horse show in Nanaimo when they were approached by a woman who had a mute son. Sandra’s dad, Barry, invited the boy to sit atop Nick where the pair apparently hit it off.

“The mother called us the next day to tell us her son had made a break through and his first words were ‘my horse Nick’. He was drawn to Nick,” Sandra said, adding that family would continue to visit the fair just to see Nick again.

That personality was consistent throughout Nick’s life, Sandra said, noting that when he got older and had troubles with his hooves and lost vision in one eye, he took the veterinarian visits and treatments stoically.

“He was the perfect patient.”

Nick’s teammate Ike died around two years ago and with Nick’s departure, there remain two draft horses on the farm — Mike and Spike.

Sandra said Nick will be missed.

“He had a heart of gold.”