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Thomas “TJ” Santaferra

How old were you when you acquired your first American Saddlebred and what was its name?

I was seven years old when I acquired my first American Saddlebred.

What or who inspired you to become involved with American Saddlebreds?

On a family vacation, my parents and I went on a trail ride in Lake George. After the ride I asked my parents if I could have a horse of my own. They quickly replied, “No.” Later that year they surprised me with a horse they picked out for me that just happened to be a Saddlebred. The horse they picked out for me was too hot to have at home, so we put her in training at a National Show Horse and Saddlebred farm in Upstate New York, where I also continued my riding lessons.

Who has been your biggest influence and/or mentor within our Saddlebred industry?

In the Saddlebred community the biggest influence to me has been Elaine Gregory. She gave me the big push into pursuing my path in the Saddlebred industry. When I was young (15) she asked me if I would be interested in spending the summer with her to learn to be a horse trainer. I eagerly replied “Of course.” Working with her not only gave me the ability to work with and show a number of nice horses in different divisions and suitabilities, but also opened the door to be a highly sought after catch-rider for the remainder of my juvenile career. She not only taught me the right way to perform daily activities but coached me on how to turn out a show horse and communicate with potential customers. I will always be grateful to Elaine and all that she offered me at such a young age, giving me the foundation to become the horseman and person that I am today.

What is the single most important trait that you admire the most about the American Saddlebred breed?

The single most important trait that I admire about the American Saddlebred is their energy. Everyone is affected directly by the people or things you spend time around. No matter what you do for a living, we all have days where we struggle to get to work. What excited me about working with these horses is that not only are they beautiful and athletic but their positive energy and good attitude makes the work experience fun. Even when the days get long and trying, at least the animals that surround you come out fresh with excitement and energy.

Name your three favorite Saddlebreds that you have personally trained or owned and explain why.

Sir Surreal because of his natural ability, quality and athleticism. These qualities not only made his transition from fine harness to under saddle effortless but made him a pleasure to work daily. Sir was not only a blast to show but the first win at the American Royal for me. Too Attached was the first horse that I trained and showed to top ribbons at the American Royal in the three-gaited pony division. We bought him as a project horse for me to finish out and re-sell without any idea that he would do such great things for us. Lady Kate was a joy to develop and show. Her happy-go-lucky attitude assured me that she was going to be a very successful show horse. I remember the first time we took her to a horse show under saddle and as soon as she hit that gate she knew what was going on. Those are the most fun, the horses that truly know what they are there to do, show off. Every day she went straight to work like a soldier getting ready for her next battle. She was focused and a straight A student, the best kind.

Name your three favorite Saddlebreds that you have not owned or trained and explain why.

Even before I began to work for Escalade Stables, I always enjoyed watching The DaVinci Code perform! The amount of energy that she put into every step and her way of moving was that of a true harness horse. You could tell she truly loved what she was doing. I also really enjoyed A Cinderella Story. Elegant, graceful and mannerly paired up with Karrie Graham are truly the perfect fit for each other. Always a lot of fun to watch. Lastly The Daily Lottery has always thrilled me in the show ring. Whether it may be with a professional or an amateur he is always on point, not missing a step. An exceptional horse overall.

Name your favorite aspect about the Saddlebred industry, not including the horses.

My favorite aspect of the business is that there is a sense of community being that its such a close knit business. We are all after the same prize; we all share the same struggles; and we all share the same successes. I think being a professional in this business takes a lot out of a person and being able to relate or have a more experienced horseman to turn to for advice can be comforting. I think the horse business is a one-of-a-kind and to be part of it means a lot to me. Being able to pay forward my knowledge and experience is one of my favorite parts of working as a professional in this business.

Name one thing you would like to change about the Saddlebred industry and what you would do to change it.

The one thing that I don’t like about the horse business is how quickly a rumor can spread about someone or something. I personally always try to nip it in the bud before it gets too far. I was once told by someone wise that you should believe half of what you see and none of what you hear. These words help me to keep perspective and focused on what’s truly important.

Not including the World’s Championship Horse Show, what is your favorite horse show and why?

One of my favorite horse shows is The Lexington Junior League. This is one of my favorite rings to show in. There is always a strong crowd, great horses and a great atmosphere to show a horse.

Name your favorite hobbies, outside of training horses, that you enjoy.

When I do have some free time outside of the barn, I really enjoy hanging with our dogs. I love grilling out and doing projects around the house. Painting and drawing are also some things I like to do. Whether it’s a drawing of our dogs laying in the sun or a picture of my favorite stallion, it’s a gratifying hobby.

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