For the first time in its 138-year history, the Kentucky Derby has issued a fourth championship ring for the derby winners. A Stettler man, Vernon (Taffy) Jones, has that ring in his possession.
Jones, 87, returned home from Texas with the ring last Thursday, after a visit with his son, Larry (Thumper) Jones, who was awarded the ring about six weeks ago.
The young Jones was the physical therapist for “I’ll Have Another,” the horse that won the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby in May, but was denied a shot at Triple Crown glory in June when a leg injury forced it to pull out of the Belmont Stakes.
At the insistence of the horse’s owner, also a Canadian, Kentucky Derby officials issued the history-making fourth ring for Thumper. In the past, only the owner, jockey and trainer received the rings.
The impressive championship ring is a masterpiece valued at $10,000. Made of two ounces of gold and 31 diamonds, it was masterfully created to contain Jones’ name, the name of the winning horse, gate number, the year and the Kentucky Derby name and a horseshoe logo.
Taffy was given the ring by his son so he would be able to show it to friends back in Stettler. Taffy is proud to do so.
He beamed as he described the details of the ring and the work his son does. The 53-year-old Thumper, who grew up in Stettler, has had a love for horses since his youth. He prepares the horse physically for races by adjusting, using muscle stretches, massage and a massage machine called a Thumper.
Some people call it equine chiropractics, but Thumper describes it as bio-mechanical manipulation, his father said.
Just as athletes seeking peak performance call on a chiropractor to check on blocked mobility in joints and muscles, similar care can maintain peak performance in horses.
“By adjusting, the horse can gain two strides over a horse not adjusted,” said the older Jones. “It takes an unadjusted horse seven strides to accomplish what an adjusted one can do in five.”
Keenly interested in the horse races his son is associated with, Taffy enjoys good health, and is more active than most his age.
“I have never spent a day in the hospital and don’t take any pills,” he proudly declared.
This past summer, Taffy travelled to his native Wales to visit relatives, including a 102-year-old cousin.
Taffy left Wales when he was 24. He has lived in Canada for 63 years and next year will mark his 60th year in Stettler.