Thoroughbred Incentive Program February Youth Ambassador

Meet Payton Gunther!

Photo by Cynthia Gunther

T.I.P. presents February’s featured Youth Ambassador: Payton Gunther. Payton, 16, is from Illinois. Payton and her Thoroughbred, Allie, participate in Dressage.

Payton Gunther (16, IL)


  • Registered Jockey Club Name: Mayhey
  • Show Name: Mayhey
  • Barn Name: Allie

How did you start riding?

I started riding because I have always loved horses, I am told by my parents that ever since I went on my first pony ride as a toddler, I was hooked. I ride because I love horses.

What’s your favorite discipline?

My favorite discipline is Dressage of course! I was also previously an eventer, so I enjoy spectating that discipline as well. (And occasionally popping my horse and my trainer’s horses over some fences or galloping them in the lanes around my barns property)

What level do you show at?

This past year was Allie’s first year showing so we only did Training Level Dressage. I hope to move up to 1st and possibly 2nd Level this upcoming season.

What makes you like Dressage?

Dressage is a HUGE mental sport as well as physical. Although I haven’t tried every discipline, I believe that dressage is one of the hardest equestrian disciplines. Many people don’t understand it and it may look boring to them but in reality the rider is doing a million things with their body and there are a million things going through their mind. One of the best things about Dressage is seeing how much a horse can change with good Dressage training, in their mind and in their body.

How old is your horse?

Allie is 11.

What is your favorite thing about riding/or your horse?

My favorite thing about riding my horse is learning from her as well as the bond that we have created. I love when she shows that she loves and trusts me because her silly personality really shows!

My favorite thing about my horse is that she loves and trusts me. The bond that we have always blows my mind. She always gives me 110% and always knows when I walk in the barn door as well as always knowing where my head is at. I love her so much and knowing she loves me back is the best feeling in the whole world.

What’s something goofy your horse does?

I do some liberty work with Allie and recently taught her how to “smile” which is just lifting up her top lip. Now, whenever she wants a treat she smiles at me! And she hasn’t quite figured out how to keep her tongue in her mouth while she does it, which is very entertaining!

What grade are you in?

I am a Junior in High School.

What would you like to do when you are older?

I would love to ride horses professionally as a Grand Prix Dressage rider, but I will go to college as well to study Astrophysics and have that career as a “back-up”.

Who’s your biggest supporter?

Currently, I have two biggest supporters, although everyone in my barn is like family to me and we all support each other so much and my parents support me but sometimes it is difficult for them to understand my love for horses because they have never been around horses before me. One is my friend Sara, she has a horse of her own and is much more experienced than me (because she is much older) but she has always been very humble. She lets me take lessons on her horse so I can learn the upper level dressage movements and she continues to remind me to keep pushing myself out of my comfort zone. My other supporter is my trainer Heather. Heather and I have a very special relationship. She NEVER gives up on me, pushes me to be my best, but also has fun with me. She is very understanding and respectful and she works just as hard to help me and Allie as she does the professional Grand Prix riders and horses that she trains.

Tell us your favorite quote and why:

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like hard work.” – Thomas Edison. This is my favorite quote because I am a very hard worker and I have been lucky enough to take advantage of great opportunities through my hard work. I also believe this applies to my current situation applying for this ambassadorship. It will be hard work to be a youth ambassador but this is an amazing opportunity that I would not like to pass up.

What do you think the most important aspects of horsemanship are?

I think the three most important aspects of horsemanship are patience. Especially with an OTTB patience is so important to be able to be successful. Perserverance is important as well, there are many times I got so frustrated with my riding I wanted to give up but in order to be successful I had perseverance. Finally, love. It is important to love your horse unconditionally. To have that bond is more important than earning ribbons.

More Fun Facts

  • How many pets do you have (and what kind)?

2 dogs, Dane (Great Dane/German Shepard Mix) and Noble (Pure bred Great Dane)

  • What is your favorite animal (apart from a horse)?


  • What is your favorite color?

Blue (Royal)

  • What is your favorite food?

Mac and Cheese!

  • What is something unique about you?

I am a perfectionist, 110% effort is a necessity and I don’t like my hair any longer than a pixie cut.

  • What is one word that your friends would describe you as?


What is one thing you would like to tell people about Thoroughbreds or the Thoroughbred Incentive Program?

I would like to tell people that the Thoroughbred Incentive Program is a great program that they should consider participating in if they have a Thoroughbred. I would like to tell people that Thoroughbreds like all breeds, deserve a chance to shine, and not to rule out a Thoroughbred when choosing your next horse. They are, in my opinion one of the most lovable and hardworking breeds.

What are your goals for your horse in 2019?

In 2019, I would like to accomplish many things with Allie. I would like to continue to do my liberty work with her and eventually be able to ride bare back and bridleless. I would also like to move up a level from my last competition season and qualify for USDF Regionals and if possible, USDF Nationals.

The Thoroughbred Incentive Program was created by The Jockey Club to encourage second careers for Thoroughbreds when their racing days are over. The T.I.P. sponsors Thoroughbred-only classes and high point awards as well as Performance Awards, special year-end awards specifically for Thoroughbreds. The T.I.P. also recognizes non-competing Thoroughbreds through its Young Rider program as well as a special award for Thoroughbreds in careers such as therapy horses or other non-profit outlets.

To learn more about the Thoroughbred Incentive Program, please visit the organization’s website.

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