Devon and Don Take On Saskatchewan Thoroughbred Challenge

Retired Thoroughbred Challenges are becoming more and more popular, thanks in part to the $100,000 Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover in Kentucky.  2019 marks the first Thoroughbred Challenge at the Saskatchewan Equine Expo on February 14-16, and we have some Alberta bred/Alberta raced horses who are participating in the Challenge. There are five disciplines that the participants can compete in over the two day show – Barrel Racing, Dressage, Freestyle, Hunter/Jumper and Obstacle Challenge. They will also participate in the Extravaganza on Friday and Saturday evenings to show the results of the training and the diversity of the breed.

Saskatchewan native Devon Stead has made Alberta her summer racing home since 2013, and she graduated from the Olds College Exercise Rider program in 2015. Devon is a groom, exercise rider, pony person and trainer and so she’s done a bit of everything. Gambling Don is her Thoroughbred Challenge horse, and he’s travelled from Kentucky to Pennsylvania to Indiana and Louisiana and then found himself in Arizona in the Greg Tracy barn and was bound for Edmonton. He arrived at Northlands Park in 2014 and retired from Floyd Arthur’s barn in 2017. Gambling Don raced for seven years, had 58 starts, 11 wins, 9 seconds and 9 thirds and retired with earnings of over $125,000. Devon and Don are good partners. Devon galloped Don in the mornings for Floyd, and was quite familiar with him when his retirement was announced. Although not in the market for a new horse, Devon knew that Don had potential and with some encouragement from friends she purchased him with no set plans for his retirement schedule.

To be eligible for the Off Track Thoroughbred Challenge, horses had to have raced in 2017 or 2018, and the training period was from February 2018. It wasn’t until last fall that Devon decided to go ahead and enter the Challenge, so they have only had four months to prepare, but Devon says “he has such a good mind and great temperament and it’s probably more of a challenge for me to get ready than for him!” Don will be competing in the Obstacle and Freestyle events, with a combination of his ranch horse moves and some humour for their Freestyle. So far, Don has excelled in the Obstacle practices they have attended. “He is incredibly exuberant and very willing so he approaches every obstacle with his ears up and a go for it attitude,” says Devon and “I love being able to show off some of the different talents that thoroughbreds have. Who would have thought a 10-year-old off track racehorse would take to obstacle courses like he has?!”

The Challenge is a great way to showcase some local Saskatchewan trainers and give off-track thoroughbreds a venue to demonstrate their versatility in a predominantly western area of the equestrian world. Jody Lyn Busch is one of the organizers of the Challenge, and she is competing in the Challenge, on Johann’s Warrior, who had three starts at Northlands Park. The pair made the journey to the Thoroughbred Makeover in Kentucky and placed 7th out of 47 in the Freestyle event, and 10th in the Ranch Work event. “The Thoroughbred Makeover was an amazing experience for us, and I’m so excited to show what bright futures thoroughbreds have in their second careers.”

Jody says about the event “The Saskatchewan Equine Expo is a partnership between Prairieland Park, Western College of Veterinary Medicine and the Saskatchewan Horse Federation, and we were thrilled to add the Thoroughbred Challenge to the events. We want to celebrate the diversity of the horse industry in Saskatchewan featuring our outstanding horsemen, and the Thoroughbred Challenge fits perfectly.” They are hoping to have the Challenge on a two-year rotation and would love to see a similar event in Alberta to open up the possibilities for off-track thoroughbreds. “Alberta is the mecca of the TIPS shows in Western Canada, so we would love to have a Challenge event there as well.”

Another horse to watch for is Sur Lanci (Lanciano, out of Pleasant Lass), an Alberta bred gelding who did not win any of his eight races, but is excelling in his new career as a jumping and trick riding horse. His rider in the Thoroughbred Challenge is only 13 years old, and she might be wilder and crazier than he is!

Good luck to all of the participants in the Saskatchewan Equine Expo Thoroughbred Challenge! We look forward to watching the show and cheering on the teams!


You can follow Devon Stead and Gambling Don on Facebook at: Gambling Don. 2019 OTTB Challenge Participant

You can follow Jody Lyn Busch and Johann’s Warrior on Facebook at:  Johann’s Warrior – aka Joe

You can follow Sienna Kellar and Carlie Hart and Sur Lanci on Facebook at:  Sur Lanci – 2019 ottb trainer challenge