Johnny Canoe ‘Shows’ He Belongs

Johnny Canoe ‘Shows’ He Belongs


Johnny Canoe was meant to have a stellar career on the racetrack with Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito. Or, just maybe, the well-bred Thoroughbred is right where he belongs – in Southwest Ranches, Fla. with Diane Donofrio.

Zito, one of the racing industry’s most vocal leaders in the cause to protect Thoroughbreds from harm, retired Johnny Canoe before he had a chance to make a single start due to a severe tendon injury. Donofrio adopted the son of Doneraile Court and began the rehabilitation process six years ago.

Today, Johnny Canoe is a happy, healthy, productive 9-year-old making great strides in showing, as well as providing fun for many.

“He’s such a pleaser. I have kids ride him. There’s a little kid with Down Syndrome who rides him, and he adores her,” Donofrio said. “I’ve taught people to ride on him.”

While Johnny Canoe mainly competed as a hunter for his first few years while his owner’s veteran show horse, “Henry,” starred at jumping. Donofrio is now concentrating on jumping with “Johnny,” and he’s making solid progress.

“He’s up to three-foot equitation classes,” Donofrio said. “I’m hoping he’ll go through the circuit up at Wellington. They jump a little bigger up there. He loves to go to horse shows.”

Donofrio’s parents bought her an Appaloosa-Quarter Horse when she was 7, and she’s been showing horses ever since. Her most recent experiences with “Johnny” and “Henry” have let her “partial” to Thoroughbreds.

“A lot of breeds will fight you when you try to teach them something, but Thoroughbreds want to place,” she said.

The Holiday Thoroughbred Festival, sponsored by John Deere and part of the Heritage Horse Show, will be held at the Plantation Equestrian Center Dec. 8 beginning at 8 a.m. Plantation Equestrian Center is at 1451 NW 118th Street, Plantation, Fl. Admission and parking to watch the show is free. For more information on the Holiday Thoroughbred Festival and Heritage Horse Show call 954.347.1799 or 954.448.5492.