This weekend marked two years since the passing of a dear friend of mine, Ruth Young. On October 24, 2008, Ruth lost a 21-year battle with liver disease. Ruth, a single mother of an eight-year-old daughter, was 39.
I of course will never forget the moment I heard about Ruth's death, and in the ensuing two years, it has tormented me. People will say everything happens for a reason, but there is no reason why a young woman, so kind, compassionate, and full of life, should be taken from her loved ones way before her time. And there is no reason why a sweet little girl should be left without a mother.
I met Ruth when I was 15; she gave me my first job with Thoroughbreds. I have been thinking about her a lot in the past month leading up this anniversary, because she always believed in me. Hardly a day would pass without Ruth telling me I was going to do great things, and thinking about where I am now, I know I always had her support.
Ruth didn't tell anyone but her boyfriend Jimmy how ill she actually was in the final few months of her life. She didn't want anyone to worry; she was just that type of person. The last time I saw Ruth was in September at the yearling sale at Woodbine. After her death, Jimmy told me Ruth had returned home that night and said to him, "I saw Kelsey today. That will be the last time I see her."
Below is an obituary I wrote for Ruth that ran in The Game, a local Toronto racing newspaper:
Ruth Anne Young
February 8, 1969-October 24, 2008
On October 24, horse racing in Ontario suffered a great loss. Ruth Young, a lifelong horse enthusiast and supporter of horse racing, lost her battle with liver disease at age 39.
Being an eternal optimist, Ruth would want to be remembered for the wonderful things she accomplished in her life. Ruth harboured a boundless belief that things work out the way they should. This belief took her to many places to do great things. Ruth overcame many challenges, including a liver transplant at age 18 and a lymphoma diagnosis three months later.
In 1989 Ruth graduated first in her class from Humber College with honours in Equine Studies and Level One Coaching. That fall Ruth traveled to Singapore to compete at the World Transplant Games, finishing fourth in swimming. She returned to the event two years later in Hungary where she won a silver in track and two bronze medals in swimming.
Ruth had a great interest in and outstanding knowledge of horse conformation and nutrition. After working for a year with Dr. Darryl Bonder, Ruth studied animal sciences part time at the University of Guelph for three years.
Ruth’s love of horses knew no boundaries. After being told she should not be around animals during her illness, Ruth would return home and head straight to the stables. When Ruth broke her wrist in a riding fall, doctors were quick to guess the cause of the injury. Their exasperation with Ruth caused them to further explore the affects of animals on their patients. Their search came up empty, and the restrictions were dropped.
After working at various farms coaching and riding, Ruth started Castleview Farm near Ancaster, Ontario in 1999. A breaking, training and layup facility for thoroughbreds, Castleview was the starting point for many winners, including 2003 Canadian Champion two-year-old filly My Vintage Port. Castleview was also where my special friendship with Ruth began.
As a 15-year-old racing enthusiast, I would do anything the creative mind could conjure just to be around Thoroughbreds. So naturally, when I learned racehorses were being trained at a farm a mere 10 minutes from my home, it was all I talked about until my parents dropped me off at Ruth’s doorstep on October 25, 2003.
In my two years working at Castleview and the time following, I grew to appreciate the special type of person Ruth was. She treated her staff like family. In taking me under her wing Ruth gave me my first job with racehorses; the start to my career with thoroughbreds. For that I know she was always an angel.
When I remember Ruth there are two qualities that stand out: her beautiful smile and her compassionate character. Ruth could talk for hours. She never failed to share stories, advice or simple words of encouragement. In the words of her companion Jimmy McLaren, Ruth “always had that smile on her face.”
Perhaps the only thing Ruth loved more than horses was her daughter Ainsley. Three years old when I began working at Castleview, Ainsley was the epitome of a horse lover in training: bold, determined and impossible to keep clean. I have no doubt that Ainsley will embody and carry on all the wonderful qualities that define her mother.
Ruth strongly believed Jesus Christ helped her overcome adversity, and she encouraged faith in those around her. She wanted everyone to be aware of organ donation, the importance of signing a donor card and informing family of one’s wishes. After living for almost 21 years with the gift of another’s donation, Ruth herself is now an organ donor.
Ruth was so fittingly described at her funeral with the following words inspired by William Shakespeare: “All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players; They have their exits and their entrances; And one (woman) in (her) time plays many parts. To her colleagues and business associates, Ruth was a devoted and hard working rider, coach, trainer, business owner and mentor. To her family, a loving daughter, mother, sister, niece and companion. To every life she touched, a friend. To Ruth I say thank you. Thank you for making me your colleague, family member and friend. Thanks for the start. I will miss you, my friend