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‘Gentle giant’ wins horse of the year in B.C.

Abigail Cantelon plays with Kasey, a horse that was posthumously awarded Horse of the Year by Horse Council of B.C. Cantelon described Kasey as the ‘horse of a lifetime.’ - Photo contributed
Abigail Cantelon plays with Kasey, a horse that was posthumously awarded Horse of the Year by Horse Council of B.C. Cantelon described Kasey as the ‘horse of a lifetime.’
— image credit: Photo contributed

A horse is a horse, of course – unless it’s horse of the year, that is.

Locals say that Kasey, the gentle giant, was every bit as much the brave, loveable and one-of-a-kind horse which won him the Horse Council of B.C’s Horse of the Year award.

And though he was taken by cancer in the prime of his life, Kasey will always be remembered as the horse who taught other horses to play, gave dozens of disabled riders freedom in the saddle, and taught countless young riders to fly.

Every year, Horse Council of B.C. puts out a call for its awards in various categories (Horse of the Year – competitive and non-competitive, Coach of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, etc.) and holds an awards ceremony at its annual convention.

Howie Thomas and Jenny Payne, owners of Pyramid Stable, submitted Kasey’s nomination in the non-competitive horse category in October with several nomination letters and a video created by one of Kasey’s former riders, Abigail Cantelon.

Cantelon’s video ‘Someone Like You’ was played at the awards gala, held Jan. 19, where the award was presented to Payne and Thomas.

“It was a surreal moment,” said Thomas. “The nomination and the win was a celebration of Kasey’s life.”

Kasey was a familiar face at Pyramid Stables for many years. He was purchased at the age of four by Thomas, as a birthday present to Payne, his wife.

In her nomination letter to the horse council, Payne said she always had young, difficult horses to ride due to their limited budget, but Kasey, a thoroughbred-draft cross, proved to be different.

In their first few years together, Payne and Kasey worked their way through the show jumping circuit, winning championships on the Island and Lower Mainland.

Because of his unique blue roan colour and size (16hh), Kasey always stood out, Payne said.

“By the end of the show he always had a fan club,” she said.

Eventually, Kasey moved on to join Pyramid Stables’ lesson program, where he thrived as a school master known for trying to fix the riders’ mistakes when they got off course.

“Each person got the benefit of his years of experience,” Payne said. “Kasey was an amazing teacher helping each of his riders learn to ride correctly and safely and the bonus of also wanting to be your best friend. He was the perfect combination that’s so hard to find.”

Cantelon was one of three girls who leased Kasey as their personal show horse once he retired from the school horse program.

“He was the horse of a lifetime. He was my best friend, the best teacher and my first love,” Cantelon wrote in her letter. “He packed me around course after course making it look like I actually knew what I was doing. With Kasey I didn’t have to worry about fitting in or what other people thought of me, it was just him and me. He was the best teacher I have ever had.”

From an early age, Kasey had some health issues. He had tumors behind his ear that had to be removed. However, as time went by it became clear that they continued to grow.

Kasey was retired from active work and became a stable management horse, patiently standing while children learned how to bandage or groom. When Thomas and Payne relocated from their Nanoose Bay facility to Lantzville, Kasey was used as a therapeutic riding horse by the Errington Therapeutic Riding Association on site.

“He really took to his new job and so many new people joined the Kasey fan club we almost started his own Facebook page,” Payne said.

However, the tumors which had plagued Kasey most of his life took their toll. He was laid to rest at the age of 16, on July 27, 2012.

To view the video, please visit  http://pyramidstables.com/

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