The Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive Program (T.I.P.) Sept. 18 announced the recipients of its two non-competition awards, the T.I.P. Thoroughbred of the Year Award and the T.I.P. Young Rider of the Year Award, for 2015.
The Thoroughbred of the Year Award recognizes a Thoroughbred that has excelled in a non-competitive career, such as equine-assisted therapy or police work.
This year's winner is Tap Til Dawn, aka Tristan, a 24-year-old gelding that excels as a therapy horse.
Tristan's career as a therapy horse began in 2009 when he was donated to Dream Catcher Los Angeles Therapeutic Riding Center, a nonprofit center dedicated to helping people with physical and cognitive disabilities such as cerebral palsy and autism, veterans returning home from war with PTSD or physical impairments, and at-risk teens with emotional difficulties.
Tristan was Dream Catcher's first therapy horse and the center's mainstay as its only horse for more than a year.
"Standing 16.1 hands, Tristan is tall for a therapy horse. Yet his sensitivity, intelligence, and stability make him one of the most sought-after and versatile horses at Dream Catcher," said Joan Blank, executive director of Dream Catcher. "The versatile gelding is also an exceptional on-the-ground partner in individual and group Equine Assisted Psychotherapy sessions where participants learn about themselves and others by engaging in activities with horses."
Before becoming a therapy horse, Tristan ran in only two races and was unplaced in both, but he spent more than a decade as a show horse.
The young rider award, which recognizes a rider 18 or under who owns or leases a Thoroughbred for use in 4-H, Pony Club or other activities, was split among four riders: Chloe Bellerive, Caroline Kingsbury, Sarah Schultheis, and Teri Simone.
Bellerive, from Keedysville, Md., is 16 and is a three-time winner of the award. She has tried almost every discipline, from Western pleasure and barrel racing to English pleasure and foxhunting, and even jousting.
She is an ambassador for Thoroughbreds and tries to increase awareness about their versatility in second careers.
"If through my hard work and determination and absolute love for the breed, I am able to change people's minds and open their hearts to owning a thoroughbred and giving them a chance, I will feel I am succeeding, Bellerive said. "With each ride we take, and each obstacle we overcome, I help illustrate their endless potential."
Bellerive plans to use her T.I.P. award funds for training and to help pay for surgery for one of her Thoroughbreds, Grady.
Caroline Kingsbury, 16, from Ellicott City, Md., credits her Thoroughbred mare, Fool Me Nice (aka Brontë), with helping her recover from major back surgery. She purchased Fool Me Nice when she was 14, after recently being diagnosed with advanced scoliosis and having a spinal fusion and metal rod implant.
"I had my surgery Thanksgiving 2013. One month later I was able to visit Brontë at the barn. Four months later I was doing "yoga" on horseback and taking long hacks. Eight months later, I competed her at U.S. Pony Club Champs in Kentucky for eventing," Kingsbury said. "In addition to being brave and athletic, my OTTB defies her stereotype in that she is sensible and calm. She understood I was broken and took care of me."
Kingsbury plans to use her T.I.P. award funds for clinics and lessons. "I am committed to maximizing her well-being and development by making sure I grow in my knowledge and skill," she said.
Fool Me Nice, a 2009 mare, was foaled in Pennsylvania and was unplaced in four starts.
Sarah Schultheis, 14, from Sterling, Va., was in the market for a bigger horse when she came across the Thoroughbred she is leasing with hopes to own, Vigoroso (aka Lou), a 17.1-hand gray gelding.
"Lou was raced a few times then sold to someone who was looking for a jumper but that person didn't really have time for him," Schultheis said. "When I got him he was pretty inexperienced as a hunter but because of his incredible athleticism and his sensitivity he progressed quickly and as my trust in him increased so did I. We started training and showing as soon as he arrived and we have grown so much together. He always takes care of me and I know he can do anything."
Schultheis will use her T.I.P. award funds to further her training and to help pay for college with the hope of taking Vigoroso with her.
A 2006 gelding bred in Maryland, Vigoroso was unplaced in two starts.
Teri Simone is 17 and from Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario. She has been riding for more than 11 years.
Simone's Thoroughbred, Indy League (aka Indy), arrived at her farm as an off-the-track 3-year-old and was offered as a project horse to Simone after he had been given a few months to settle in.
"From my first ride, he was a very special horse. It wasn't always easy; in fact it was never easy. I grew and learned along with him. He forced me to improve. If I didn't, I'd learn a lesson the hard way! After a year of work, an offer came from outside the barn. I felt so strongly about Indy that I said to my coach that maybe I could buy him," Simone said. "After much discussion, I purchased Indy League 50/50 with my mother. I continue to work to cover my portion of board, vet, and farrier bills."
Simone will use her T.I.P. award funds for competing and college.
Bred in Ontario, Indy League, was unplaced in four starts.