Stettler might have its hand in horse-racing history this weekend as former resident Larry (Thumper) Jones works on the Canadian horse that could win the Triple Crown.
Jones, a longtime equine and horse chiropractor, continues to play a vital role, as “I’ll Have Another” seeks to become the first horse to win the Triple Crown since 1978.
“I think we’re going to win the Triple Crown — we need it,” said Jones, who lives in Morgan Mill, Texas, where he operates Equine Athletes and has been practising equine kinetics for more than 25 years.
“As far as his body and mind are, he’s ready to go run. He’s ready to throw it at them in that last race.”
History could be made for Jones and his team if “I’ll Have Another” wins the Belmont Stakes in New York on Saturday.
The celebrated Canadian horse won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness earlier this season.
As an experienced equine chiropractor, the 53-year-old Jones uses his hands simply and briefly to allow the horse the optimum range of motion to compete at the highest level.
“Our goal is to help people and their horses reach their maximum potential,” said Jones, who operates Equine Athletes with his wife Laurie, a professional barrel racer with a proven record of training and winning in the sport.
“You move the legs around to see if there’s any resistance. You need the full range of motion in each quarter.”
Jones graduated from William E. Hay Composite High School in Stettler in 1977. He returns to Stettler occasionally to visit his parents, as he did a couple of weeks ago after the Preakness victory.
Since joining “the team,” he has helped turn the horse from a longshot — seeded 19th out of 20 horses in the first race — into a top contender that’s highly ranked.
“The whole team has stepped up to plate,” Jones said. “Everyone made sure we had what he needed, because he had the raw talent.
“It was the lengths that he endured, and that’s when we saw this horse’s potential.”
Jones also gives much credit to the late Orville Strandquist, who taught him much about the trade.
And his parents, Vernon and Leona, are most proud of their son and his progress in the field.
“It’s great that he is involved in this,” said Leona, who also grew up with horses and still has a deep love for them.
“It’s a privilege to be asked to be part of this team,” Vernon said.
He recalled one time when they watched a race at Remmington Park in Oklahoma City, where Louisiana Senator was seeded last before his chiropractor son helped pull off a miracle of sorts.
“He not only won the race, but broke the track record,” Vernon said.
Since launching his career, Jones has come and gone a long way.
“Now, I have (given) treatments in 13 countries,” he said.
Jones has worked all over North America, South America, Europe and on horses that have had much success in the Kentucky Derby, Breeder’s Cup, National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, United States Open Polo Championships, the American Futurity and Derby in New Mexico, and nearby in the Spruce Meadows Jumping Invitational, and chuckwagon races throughout Alberta.
“The horses have got me to where I want to be,” Jones said.
His nickname, Thumper, was given to him in the 1980s and is derived from a hand-held massage machine called the Equine Thumper.
“I’ll Have Another” is trying to become the 12th horse to win the Triple Crown. The last was “Affirmed” in 1978.
There are plenty of Canadian connections associated with “I’ll Have Another,” which is owned by Windsor, Ont. native Paul Reddam and ridden by Mario Gutierrez, who raced for six years in Vancouver.
RICHARD FROESE, Independent reporter