There is an office in the Alberta Agriculture Centre in Airdrie that is sitting vacant for the first time in over 40 years. The horse industry specialist position was eliminated in April which prompted Les Burwash’s retirement, and with that the entire horse industry in Alberta lost a vocal proponent and a loyal and dedicated friend.
Les Burwash was hired in 1974 to develop programs and services that were designed specifically to meet the needs of the horse industry in Alberta. For 41 years Les provided resources and extension education to enhance the production of horses as an agricultural business, conducted research and surveys, worked with all breeds to promote and market horses domestically and internationally, and worked tirelessly to help the industry breed, feed, produce, train, use and sell better horses. From writing articles on “What to expect from riding lessons” to research projects on feed requirements for optimal growth in young horses and equine genetics and reproduction to representing Alberta on the Equine Heath Research Advisory Board, Les has worked with all members of the industry from the beginner to the veteran.
Alberta is the home of one-third of all horses in Canada, and Les has criss-crossed the province from one end to the other and has provided leadership for all disciplines. Les devoted his working life to the Alberta horse industry, and has worked on many projects and served on countless boards over the years. He was instrumental in organizing the popular Horse Breeders and Owners Conference for 33 years, worked for the Canadian Warmblood Horse Breeders Association on the Soundness Committee, worked on the Alberta Breeds for the World showcase at the Spruce Meadows “Masters” Tournament and gives the seminar ‘Horses 101’ for the Horse Industry Association of Alberta.
For Horse Racing Alberta CEO Shirley McClellan, attending Les’s retirement party at Century Downs Racetrack on Friday, June 12 was bittersweet, “Les’s commitment and dedication to the equine industry is unmatched, and his support of horse racing in Alberta has been invaluable. Les has been a wealth of information for Horse Racing Alberta and was always available to share his experience and information. If Les didn’t have the answer to a question, he found it and shared it.” Les gave a lot of support to Century Downs, and it was fitting for his retirement party to be held on the second floor during the Friday night card with representatives from ASHA, CTHS and HRA in attendance to wish him well.
Over the years Les contributed a wealth of knowledge, provided crucial leadership and gained the respect of the horse industry in Alberta. The office in the Agriculture Centre in Airdrie is empty, but Les’s legacy as a resource, an expert on horses and the horse industry and a friend to all breeds and disciplines will continue in Alberta for many years to come. Horse Racing Alberta thanks Les for all of his support and we wish Les all the best in his retirement and many years of happy trails!