Unconventional & hot, a t’bred steals the show

Mel Tilkicioglu rides off-track Thoroughbred He's A Crafty Cat (Show name: Top Cat) while her Warmblood heals from surgery. Her Warmblood better look out!

Mel Tilkicioglu rides off-track Thoroughbred He’s A Crafty Cat (Show name: Top Cat) while her Warmblood heals from surgery. Her Warmblood better look out!

Mel Tilkicioglu was well on her way to happily-ever-after with her beautiful young Warmblood when a pair of surgeries and an unconventional gray Thoroughbred made her rethink her best laid plans.

Temporarily horseless this past spring after her 6-year-old Warmblood went first for a planned surgery, and later for an unplanned one, Mel’s riding coach Linda Worley approached her with a suggestion and a word of caution about a flea-bitten gray named He’s a Crafty Cat.

“She told me she knew of a horse, but he was a long shot,” Mel says. “She told me he was a little unconventional, that some people found him hard to ride, but that if I tried him and liked him, he would be available to me as a lease.”

He’s A Crafty Cat
Show name: Top Cat
Sire: ZZ Cat
Dam: Crafty Pass, by Pass the Tab
Foal date: March 13, 1998
She tried him the very next day.

Looking a bit worn around the edges, and nothing like her well-muscled dream horse, Mel shrugged, hopped on and took a ride that no, was not magic, but yet was good. Quite good.

“I’ve never been afraid of a hot horse, so I wasn’t afraid of him, and when we started to ride I immediately had this sense that we could make it work,” she says. “And even though he’d never met me before, he took me over the jumps with no problem.”

She agreed to lease him, and under her care, he fattened up, built muscle, and took her training and showing all summer.

The unconventional, free-lease Thoroughbred is taking Mel Tilkicioglu on a great ride.

The unconventional, free-lease Thoroughbred is taking Mel Tilkicioglu on a great ride.

Though her trainer sometimes can’t bear to watch how quickly they take the jumps—she occasionally covers her eyes rather than watch them— the pair looked pretty good to the judges who watched every move at the NW Spectacular Show last summer. They won the championship after competing against professionals on much younger mounts, and against juniors on proven jumpers!

“This guy still has so much to give that we swept many shows and he’s a fan favorite,” Mel says. “He’s launched me back into showing; we just clicked right away. I understand him and he understands me.”

As her 17.2 hand Warmblood heals from two surgeries, one to repair a tear in a hock, and another to repair a fetlock injury, Mel also feels torn.

“Since taking him, it made me rethink what I’m doing,” she says. “I got the Warmblood with the idea that he’d be my life horse. And I love my Warmblood. But I just clicked with this unconventional Thoroughbred who is at the opposite end of the spectrum. I’m in a barn that oozes big, fancy Warmbloods, but I just love this Thoroughbred.”

Though her budget does not allow her to keep two horses, Mel says she has already agreed to keep up the lease on the unconventional T-bred for another season while she has her Warmblood being schooled, possibly for sale. ♥

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7 responses to “Unconventional & hot, a t’bred steals the show”

  1. Mel T

    Thank you everyone for your kind comments, and cool glimpses into his former life. One thing I have to add to this story is that his owner, Jennifer Cox, who is a leading trainer here in Portland, OR, was the one who first saw Speedy’s full potential and brought the best out of him. This “hard-to-handle” OTTB came out to OR as a special project and she soon realized she could not part with him. Their special bond, her amazing skill as a trainer and his big heart took them to the Grand Prix ring – where he competed at age 14. Even though he was leased out on a few occasions, sometimes successfully and other times not, he holds a special place in her heart. And I am sure has made a stamp on many others along the way.

  2. Jennifer Harper

    Mel, I love this story of your success! Not everyone could manage the Speedster like you do (having hacked him a couple of time, I can certainly attest to this fact), so your meeting must have been kismet. It’s worked beautifully for both of you, and this makes us all so very happy! What remarkable pictures, by the way. You both look fabulous!!!

  3. Buffy Trott

    I had a big flee bitten grey OTTB! You couldn’t beat him!! We were mid-circuit Champions 2 years in a row when Thermal was in Indio. The super fancy warm bloods couldn’t touch him. I grew up in the 80’s. All I’ve ever known are OTTB’s. Their fast & honest, and if they love you, they’ll work twice as hard!! So enjoy your Cat. It goes by so fast, and then their gone.

  4. LL

    He is absolutely gorgeous. Good luck in future shows.

  5. Kathy Agel

    He gets his color from Pass the Tab, his broodmare sire. I remember him from the New York tracks. He was a warrior.

  6. Toni Beckelman

    I have a thoroughbred I would LOVE someone to do this with.

  7. Colmel

    Good for Mel for taking a chance. She’s finding out that our OTTBs can do just about anything given half a chance. I just love hearing about veterans like Top Cat showing up even younger “fancy” horses. I sure hope Mel decides to keep her older warrior. He seems to have found his human as well as his niche.

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