by Debra Lewis –
“We do a lot of things here, but horses are my passion,” says Nicky Wylie, greeting me with a warm handshake on my arrival at White House Stables on West Saanich Road. White House Stables is home to Nicky and Norman Wylie, who have farmed there since 1984 and where they started breeding thoroughbred racehorses in 1987.
Nicky’s love of horses began when she was a young girl growing up in England. She worked professionally with horses, eventually riding in three-day events. In 1980, she finished fourth in a field of 40 at the Chatsworth event on the day before she and Norman moved to Canada.
“It’s a passion that never leaves you,” explains Nicky, and while her career has been varied it has always involved work with horses. Shortly after arriving in Canada, Nicky began riding and training thoroughbreds, a career which continued until 1992 when her first child was born. In 1985, Nicky and Norman purchased Yalocum Chief. With him they formed their first racing partnership, The Brentwood Inn Syndicate, and for two years enjoyed winning races at Sandown Raceway and in Vancouver at Exhibition Park.
Nicky and Norman, along with their landlady, Pat Johnson, began breeding horses to race in 1987. With the purchase of Mascaretta in 2001, they began breeding to sell. Mascaretta’s first foal went on to become champion in British Columbia, winning over $400,000 for her purchaser. In total, her foals have won their purchasers over a million dollars, earning her recognition and praise. “She’s a superstar,” says Nicky proudly.
In 2018, Nicky and her trainer, Mary-Anne Baumgartner, started Sandown Racing Club to promote local interest in horse racing and to create a racing community that was lost when Sandown Raceway closed in 1992. Today the Club has 100 members who follow the activities of three racehorses: Future Games, who won three races last year; Big Time Louie, a two-year-old in training; and Sprog, who will race this year.
Sandown Racing Club provides an opportunity for members to engage with the sport in an affordable way. “The club members don’t own the horses,” explains Nicky, but for an annual fee “they have a sense of ownership of all three horses.” They get regular updates on their training and progress through members-only websites and Facebook, and have special access to the races at Hastings Racecourse. Club members lease the horses and then apply for an owner’s license which gives them free parking at Hastings Racecourse, access to areas not open to the general public, and other benefits.
Nicky and Norman have raised “many very good horses” and three champions bred from three different mares and stallions: Ookashada, Herbie D., and Stanz in Command. Nicky attributes their success as breeders and trainers to “luck” and regular handling, to raising the foals “as athletes in fields, not barns or paddocks,” and to “excellent nutrition.”
Nicky’s love of horses is unmistakable, but so is her enthusiasm for other aspects of life at White House Stables. Nicky and Norman are passionate about “eating well and not hurting the environment” and grow all of their own food. Their concern and sense of responsibility for all of the animals in their care, horses but also dogs, cats, chickens and cows, is obvious. Nicky loves to teach organic farming. Norman, a farrier, does the shoeing for their horses as well as other metal work. They run the farm store, which sells horse feed and supplies and where they are happy to answer questions on nutrition and other horse management issues. Nicky has been on the board of the Canadian Thoroughbred Horse Society for four years.
Before I leave, Nicky takes me to a field and shows me Mascaretta, mother of champions, who is caring for another horse’s foal. That foal is sister to Exorbitant, a horse with only one eye who nonetheless won the third race at Hastings on Saturday May 4. In an adjoining field are two other thoroughbred mares and their foals. “The babies,” says Nicky, “are born to run,” and I watch one of the foals, who is only a few days old, running in circles “just for the heck of it” and squealing with joy.
For more information on Sandown Racing Club, including pictures of the horses and information on their training, visit
Photo by Nunn Other Photography.