I recently had the distinct pleasure of meeting Tom Santelli, president of the Traders Point Hunt Club. My introduction to Tom came through a mutual friend, local Zionsville artist Freddie Kelvin. I mentioned to Freddie that a goal of this magazine is to include stories that reflect all the varied interests in the Zionsville community. It also seemed fairly obvious that the equine community is a big part of the Zionsville community. I admitted to Freddie that, despite growing up on a farm, I knew next to nothing about horses.
After a series of emails and a phone call, and without having met personally, Tom graciously invited my wife and me to an annual event at the Traders Point Hunt Club. This black tie soiree was known as the “Croppers Party.” Without hesitation, I told Tom that my wife and I would love to attend the “Croppers Party,” although neither of us had any idea what a “cropper” was or, for that matter, what the Trader’s Point Hunt Club was really about. After some cursory internet research I learned, to my great surprise, that the Traders Point Hunt Club is essentially a club which organizes fox hunts. Being dedicated “Downton Abbey” watchers, my wife and I could only imagine that Tom must surely be the modern-day version of Lord Grantham.
Upon arriving at the “Croppers Party,” we finally met Tom. He looked remarkably regal in his bright red riding coat with tails and vest. However, the “croppers,” as I quickly learned, were more “Survivor: Zionsville” than “Downton Abbey.” Tom quickly explained that the “croppers” were an exclusive group – or “tribe” – within the club. Membership in this exclusive group was earned by incurring the indignity of having fallen off your horse or “having dismounted your horse without permission” during the hunt season. Surviving a fall from a 1,500-pound horse traveling at over 30 miles an hour can be a harrowing experience, thus creating a sense of community for those who have fallen. It’s no wonder that Tom refers to fox hunting as an “adrenaline sport.”
Tom’s interest in riding does not stop at the “Croppers Party.” As the president of the Traders Point Hunt Club, Tom coordinates the 30-40 volunteers required to put on the Traders Point Charity Horse Show every August. Tom takes pride in the fact that the TPCHS is one of the top five horse shows in the country. It is also the only one that donates its proceeds to cha
Recently, Tom took on a new and interesting challenge of tr
aining a young horse named Lady Biera. This horse is an 8 year old with an impressive pedigree. High Scope, a horse that placed fifth in the Sydney Olympics, sired it. It was also only one of five horses to double clear in stadium and cross-country. Given that the name “Lady Biera” is Celtic for “Ice Princess,” this may be one of Tom’s greatest challenges.
Throughout my time with him, I quickly realized that Tom Santelli is a far cry from Lord Grantham. Tom’s life story is significantly more interesting than any fictional lord. Having grown up in a middle class family in Toledo, Ohio, Tom’s love of riding came from his parents “packing him off” to a YMCA summer camp in Michigan at the age of ten. During the many summers at the camp, Tom’s passion for riding, as well as his expertise, grew quickly. By age 14, he was running the riding programs at the camp. Tom continued to be involved in the camp until his twenties.
In addition to being an avid rider, Tom is also an accomplished inventor. With
a degree in biochemistry and an MBA from Bowling Green State University, Tom has worked on the development of many new products over the years. Early in his career, he worked on creating the plasma digital screen that was an integral part of the development of the ATM machine. Tom has also been contracted by the U.S. Post Office to develop their self-closing box. The USPS also recruited Tom to develop a system that kills anthrax and other bacteria to prevent the spread of disease through the mail. Furthermore, if you
have eaten a hamburger recently at McDonalds, that burger was shipped to that McDonalds in special high-tech packaging developed by Tom. In addition to these achievements, Tom has held 14 patents over the years.
After having worked for large corporations for over 30 years, in which he moved 23 times, Tom grew tired of the gypsy lifestyle. Tom settled in Zions
ville and started his own company, The Technology Group, in 2004. When asked what this organization does, Tom explained that it is involved in developing new products. Sometimes the new products come from a request by a company like the U.S. Post Office, while other times they are simply problem solutions Tom has conceived. Tom is currently working on developing solutions to make our homes more sustainable.
Unlike the fictional characters on “Downton Abbey,” Tom was not born into the majesty of royal blood. Instead, Tom managed to create his own grandeur through his hard work and dedication. Tom is a man of many titles. To limit him to the title of “inventor” would be inadequate. Through my time spent with him, I began to understand not only a little more about a certain community within Zionsville, but also about a wonderful real character within it.