BIBLE HILL, N.S. – Chantel Gillis never expected to receive an award for doing something she’s enjoyed her entire life. But she recently received national recognition for being an outstanding harness racing groom.
The 22-year-old Bible Hill resident was presented with the award during a ceremony in Toronto earlier this month.
“I feel a lot of grooms deserve this award, so it was amazing to win,” she said. “It was a great experience, with a red carpet and everything beautifully done.”
Gillis was unaware her sister, Christina, had nominated her. In January, she was informed she was one of the finalists, but she didn’t know she was the winner until it was announced at the event.
“I felt fine until about 10 minutes before the award and then I thought, ‘Oh, my gosh, it’s happening!’” she recalled.
It was her first time at the O’Brien awards and she was thrilled to both receive an award and have the chance to meet so many people from other parts of the country involved in harness racing. The trip also gave her a chance to visit her sister, who lives in Toronto.
Chantel grew up helping her parents, Arleen and Joe, in the barn and has always found it a comfortable place.
“It’s a relaxing, fun and challenging environment,” she said. “I like doing everything around the barn and, somehow, some way, I’ll definitely always have a horse. Helping with the horses is what I enjoy.”
Gillis is in her final year at Dal AC, studying toward a BSc in agricultural business, and enjoys stopping by the barn after class. On her days off she’s at the barn early, helping her boyfriend, Paul Langille, with the horses he trains.
She is a part owner of two geldings, Rusty Riley and Neigh Monster, and has complete ownership of a mare called Maiden Heaven. She should soon have another horse of her own, as the mare is now in foal.
Kyle Burton, the track photographer at Truro Raceway, was also recognized. He received an Outstanding Photography award.