The Jockey Club Thoroughbred Incentive Program Sept. 13 announced the recipients of its two non-competition awards for 2016: the TIP Thoroughbred of the Year Award and the TIP Young Rider of the Year Award.
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 Big Saga, also know as "Louie" or "Shadow Dancer," a therapy horse with The Right Step Inc., in Littleton, Colo.
Big Saga is a 27-year-old gelding by Arctic Saga out of Don't Plan (Eumenides), and was foaled in Idaho. Before transitioning into therapeutic riding, Big Saga excelled in the show ring. For many years, he was division champion in the Colorado Hunter Jumper Association. He taught numerous children about riding, and he had three different young owners who he helped bring up through the horse show ranks.
Big Saga has also excelled as a therapy horse. According to The Right Step, he has a wonderful work ethic and is always ready to go. He is kind and patient with humans and horses alike and carries some of the youngest and smallest clients with great care.
"Louie isn't a horse to stop and hold still for very long. But one remarkable day he did just that," said Christine Remy, board chairman of The Right Step. "In a therapeutic riding lesson he stopped, planted, and refused to budge no matter what his horse leader did. The instructor realized what was happening and had the side walkers secure the rider. The rider lost control of his body and proceeded to have a seizure. Louie's sensitivity had kept the rider safe. He had predicted the rider's seizure.
"The Right Step and our clients are honored to have Louie as a therapy horse. He is a Thoroughbred who has had something to give back and teach us humans in all the stages of his life. And we humans have loved and treasured him all the way through."
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 thee riders: Caitlin Dinkel, Morgan Kastner, and Ella MacMaster.
Dinkel is 18 and lives in Springville, Utah. She rides mainly hunters and jumpers with her Colorado-bred unraced 2009 Thoroughbred gelding Monstruo. She plans to use her award to further her college education at Utah State University, where she majors in equine science. Her goal is to work in the racing industry.
"I am so fortunate to have been introduced to the Thoroughbred breed, and to own one that has been able to not only help me grow as an equestrian, but has also been able to help other people reach their full potential as well," Dinkel said.
Kastner, from Glyndon, Minn., is 18 years old and focuses on 4-H and Western riding, including competitive trail riding, barrel racing, and goat tying. She rides two Thoroughbreds. Thrill Ride is an unraced Ohio-bred mare that has two named foals, and Rockin Spat is a 2004 unraced gelding that sired one named foal.
Kastner has already organized TIP awards at two local show series in 2016. She plans to use her TIP award to continue her business education degree at Valley City University. She hopes her business degree with help her learn to effectively run a business.
"I would like to start a nonprofit in my area to provide education to Thoroughbred owners and retrain and re-home Thoroughbreds for second careers," Kastner said.
MacMaster is 16 and lives in Woodstock, Vt., where she is an eventer. Her Thoroughbred, 2002 Kentucky-bred gelding Dalahast, was adopted in 2007 from Second Stride Inc., and she started leasing him in 2014.
MacMaster plans to use her award for training, focusing on attending the North American Junior Young Riders Championships in 2017.
"As I live in Vermont, I would need to travel to the south to compete at spring horse trials next year, including Carolina International and the Fork Horse Trials," she said. "This is a very expensive goal, but I am dedicated to making my dreams come true."
Created and announced in October 2011, TIP recognizes and rewards the versatility of the Thoroughbred through sponsorship of Thoroughbred classes and high point awards at sanctioned horse shows, performance awards, and non-competition awards. Additional information about TIP is available at tjctip.com and on the TIP Facebook page at facebook.com/tjctip.