Rural Ethan, S.D., man remembered for devotion to horses at Minnesota trackETHAN — Robert “Bun” Colvin’s 50-year career in horse racing came to a sudden stop in December when he died at 74 of an aortic aneurism in his living room. But his horses are still running.
By: Anna Jauhola, The Daily Republic
ETHAN — Robert “Bun” Colvin’s 50-year career in horse racing came to a sudden stop in December when he died at 74 of an aortic aneurism in his living room.
But his horses are still running.
To honor Colvin’s and his wife Marlene’s lifelong passion for raising horses to race, Canterbury Park in Shakopee, Minn., held the Bun Colvin Memorial Race on Saturday. The Colvins began racing horses at the park in 1985.
Thirty-five relatives and friends attended the race, compliments of the park. Marlene, who still lives at the rural Ethan horse farm they purchased in 1968, said they were treated to clubhouse seats with a great view of the race.
Canterbury Park’s website has a feature story on the Colvins.
“I met him when I was 12 years old at Aksarben and I’ve been friends with him and his wife, Marlene, ever since,” trainer Mac Robertson said in the online story. “He was a hard-working man, an honest man. Not many around like him.”
Marlene, 73, said the couple shared in everything. They were married in Mitchell in 1954, when Bun was 17 and she was 16.
“I would clean stalls, groom horses and tack them up,” she said. “My husband did everything else. We worked really hard with our horses. My husband left no stone unturned.”
Horse racing wasn’t just a weekend venture for the Colvins — it was a major part of their days and how they made their living.
Marlene still cares for Plana Dance, a filly-turned-brood mare and the only two-time winner of the Princess Elaine Stakes at Canterbury Park. Marlene is out early every morning feeding, grooming and generally taking care of Plana Dance, who is now producing foals and is due in the spring.
Plana Dance is one of many horses over the years that netted a great income. She brought in approximately $200,000 for the Colvins, Marlene said.
The couple’s love affair with horses began after Bun completed vocational school for auto body repair at Rapid City.
“That was a disaster,” Marlene said with a laugh. “Eighteen months of schooling, but the horses were always in the background.”
The first horses they had were a brood mare and her foal in the late 1950s. A Plankinton veterinarian was looking to give the horse away because she was injured.
The couple had also received a horse that had been ruled out of racing, but Bun worked with the horse to ready it for racing once more.
“He worked with the horse a lot, galloping out in the field and all,” Marlene said. “That’s the one that won the first time we ran a horse. That was 1960.”
The Colvins began their racing career in Fort Pierre, eventually traveling throughout South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Arizona, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, New York and Arkansas to compete with their horses.
The couple helped influence their nephew Bill’s future when he came to live with them at the age of 12. Dr. William Hemminger, now an equine veterinarian in Arkansas, traveled with the Colvins on many occasions and developed a love of horses.
Marlene isn’t sure of her future in horse racing yet. Currently, two thoroughbreds she owns are in Arkansas and are up for sale. Depending on the economy, Marlene may sell Plana Dance’s foal this spring as well.
Although the Colvins’ racing career together came to a bittersweet end, Marlene said she has to thank all those who helped her get through this past tough winter.
Since the Colvins were always on the road, most of their friends were at various race parks. Some of their best friends and close acquaintances in the Mitchell and surrounding area are the Hutterites of Rosedale Colony.
“The last five years I’ve had to stay home and take care of the farm while he (Bun) was on the road,” Marlene said. “Thank you to them that have been helping me all winter, checking on me when it was bad.”
The close-knit community of horse racing also brought some comfort to Marlene when Bun died.
She said within 24 hours, about three-fourths of their friends and acquaintances contacted her and offered their sympathies.
Bun was well-loved and known for his affectionate and personable nature, Marlene said. He hugged nearly everyone he met, enjoyed breaking colts and found particular pleasure in being in his 70s and exercising horses at the track.
One of his favorite horses, Morgans a Blumin, which they received as a gift, ran for Bun in the memorial race in his honor Saturday, Marlene said.
Even though Morgan took second place, it was a good finish for Bun’s career in the world of horse racing, she said.