Springfield, IL --- Taser Gun returned to Illinois over the weekend, but not in harness. The millionaire retiree has a new vocation -- saddle horse.
|Susan Wellman and Taser Gun are ready to go into the arena.|
As part of the Breed/Sport demonstrations for the Illinois Horse Fair, the American Standardbred Adoption Program teamed with the Ervin Miller stable to represent the Standardbred breed. Horses currently racing, along with the ASAP group, demonstrated before a standing room-only crowd at the Livestock Center on the Illinois State fairgrounds.
Led by ASAP director Susan Wellman in the saddle aboard Taser Gun, along with Wellman’s daughter Rachel riding Janimal, Christian Daniels aboard Rhyma Rose and Katie Daniels riding Lonely Dreamer, the quartet paraded in the center of the arena. Meanwhile, Ervin Miller stable trainees Pansference, driven by Miller’s daughter Hannah in the famous Miller stable pink racebike, and To The Left, driven by James Austin in a restored vintage Jerald high wheel sulky, circled along the rail.
The Illinois Standardbred Owners & Breeders Association sponsored two of the stalls in the barn area occupied by ASAP, allowing the group to make what has now become an annual pilgrimage to Springfield. USTA District 5 director and ISOBA Executive secretary John Cisna was instrumental in providing the script and “Call to the Post” read and played in the background as the Standardbreds performed.
ASAP, from DeSoto, Wisconsin, is fortunate to have as ambassadors for the program not only world champion Taser Gun, but also Little Brown Jug champion Timesareachanging. And both have adapted well to a new life, sans the harness, under saddle.
|Timothy M. Jones photos|
|James Austin in the high wheel sulky behind To The Left.|
“John Lyons was the first person to sit on Taser Gun’s back,” explained Wellman about the re-training program. “It was really an uneventful process. John spent an entire morning assessing Taser’s willingness to bend, flex, and accept a saddle on his back. We tool around the farm on him, but haven’t had him on a trail ride yet. We’ll probably do that this summer.
“I’ve actually spent more time riding Timesareachanging than Taser. He’s a real joy to ride. There’s just something about being on the back of an animal with that much spirit and energy that’s exhilarating.”
ASAP is currently home to 26 horses, the majority Standardbreds. Because the program is lifetime, Wellman sees horses adopted, but also some returned to the program because of the economy.
“It’s not an adopted horse returning to the program that saddens me -- those horses will always have a home -- it’s people forgetting about them once they leave a career on the racetrack. High profile horses like Taser Gun and Times, as well as the adoptees like those who demonstrated with us today, attending events across the country like the Illinois Horse Fair are a reminder that the breed is very adaptable to more than one discipline.
“I think they like their life as a saddle horse,” Wellman theorized. “It's something new and different, and they take to it very well. There will always be more that come to us from the racing game that need placement. Hopefully we can get them homes too.”