Monthly Archives: November 2011

Wreckless horseman, wild horses or just plain bad luck?

Horse races were a very popular sport for British officers in Canada during the 1840’s. Researching Wenman Wynniatt, we noticed the references to his participation in the garrison races during his stay in both Kingston and London while he was in Canada. The garrison races appear to have been as popular in London as they were in Kingston, taking place both in spring and fall as the weather allowed. They provided good sport for the officers and great entertainment for the local townspeople.

Knowing the fate that would eventually befall Wenman Wynniatt, we couldn’t help but notice the bad luck or wrecklessness that seemed to follow the officer.

While in Kingston, Wenman Wynniatt had such a bad fall from a horse during a race that he broke his thigh bone and was laid up for a month. At the time, he was riding another officer’s horse. Based on the article from 1839, he wasn’t the only one to take a tumble that day. The reason that was given was the poor condition of the track.

Wynniatt must have been set on participating in those particular Kingston races, because his horse Beatrice was ridden by another officer in a hurdle race the very next day. Unfortunately that officer also had a nasty fall before the race even began. After obtaining an additional replacement, Wynniatt’s horse seems to have made it through all the jumps without incident, however didn’t win the race.

A year later, Wynniatt is recorded as having participated in the military races at London Upper Canada. On Monday, November 2 and Tuesday November 3, 1840, Wenman entered into the races at the New-market Course. The races were a two day event, and despite bad weather for several previous days, this time the course was in fine order.

The first match, at half a mile, was for the prize of 20pounds. Wynniatt’s grey foal Cinderella was up against Mr. Maitland’s horse.Major.

The horses started at the half mile post.. The filly, Cinderella, evidently did not know what she was expected to do, as “she took the whip very kindly from the start, and at the rails fairly bolted off the courses leaving the Major all alone in his glory.”

On the second day the races started with a Hurdle Race of a mile and a distance over four hurdles of four feet. Horses belonged to the officers and gentlemen riders. The following were entered-

Captain Davenport’s ch. h. Goliah drawn
Mr Weatherall’s br. m. Gipsey 10st 10 1/2lbs, ridden by Mr. Plunkett.
Wynniatt’s bl. m. Beatrice 12st. 3Lbs, ridden by the owner.
Mr. Courtney’s ch. g. Woodchuck 10st. ridden by Mr. Austen
Mr. Marriott’s ch. g. Young Jackdaw 10st, 3 lbs, ridden by Mr. Windham.

Betting at starting – 3 to one against Gipsey, 3 to one against Beatrice.

The rest not mentioned – any odds.

The first hurdle was taken well together…Beatrice had the lead, having passed Jackdaw at the half mile post, which “she kept over the last Hurdle at the distance when little Woodchuck challenged, passed Jackdaw-skipped up and won the race by a head.”

(London Gazette, November 7, 1840)

As with the races in Kingston, Wynniatt and his horses weren’t victorious on these days in London either. Of his two horses, it appears the grey foal Cinderella seemed to have a more skittish temperment compared to Beatrice. After reviewing these few examples of Wynniatt’s track record with the races we’re left wondering if he was riding Cinderella on May 14, 1841 when he took what would be his last tumble from a horse. Had he been riding Beatrice perhaps he would have made it to the ball after all. And yet how ironic that the very horse that he was riding that night, on the way to see Sarah at the ball, was named Cinderella, one of the most famous fairy tales about two people meeting and falling in love at a ball.

Study for Grand Military Steeplechase, Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1977-22-49v and 1977-22-50r

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