Cheltenham, Kauto Star, and Dressage

Who will win the Cheltenham Gold Cup this year? I’m sure it will be an exciting time betting at the 2013 Cheltenham Festival!

I have my eye on Long Run, but that’s only because the former star and fan favorite, Kauto Star, who won the Gold Cup twice during his epic career as a champion National Hunt horse, is busy learning dressage!

The big horse took the Gold Cup in 2007 and 2009, becoming the first horse to win the cup, lose the cup, and then win it back again.

Kauto Star

Kauto Star in flight…

Just because they took steeplechasing out of eventing doesn’t mean we have to take stop taking eventers out of steeplechasing, and Kauto Star is proving to be no exception to that rule — like so many big bold Thoroughbreds before him, he’s learning to move in a new way, respond to his rider in new ways, and use all his bravery and style to get through a dressage round and, someday, get round a cross-country course.

Kauto Star is with Laura Collett, a leading British eventer. In a recent interview with the Telegraph, Collett talked about the retired racehorse’s attitude about learning dressage:

“He’s definitely taken to this challenge, willing to work with you and not against you,” says Collett.

“When he’s worked something out, he doesn’t forget it.

“What he’s found hardest and what’s going to take him longest is how to do a steady canter because he’s only ever known gallops.

“He’s getting there but finds it quiet hard to hold it because the muscles he uses most in dressage are not those needed to stretch himself in racing.”

Although it’s no stretch to those of us who are Thoroughbred advocates to see a horse like Kauto Star as a successful sporthorse, there has been some backlash to the decision to keep him in work instead of kicking the horse out to pasture. I personally can’t imagine why anyone would want to waste the mind and talents of a sound, young gelding, but apparently not everyone shares my opinion.

Kauto Star’s trainer, Paul Nicholls, had expected the retired horse to stay at his yard for the remainder of his life. But his owner, Clive Smith, had other plans, intent on giving the horse a job. He tells the Telegraph:

“Nobody has Kauto’s best interests more at heart than myself.

“He’s been fantastic for me and if I can’t look after him properly for the rest of his days, then it’s a very poor show. I just want to do right for him.”

Sounds like an ideal owner, to me. We need more of this attitude in racing, National Hunt or flat.

If you want to keep up with Kauto Star’s daily life, Laura Collett has a great Twitter account, @colletteventing, where she posts pictures of horses she works with on a daily basis. Even if you don’t use Twitter, you can visit the link to see the pictures.

I hope Kauto Star is the next Thoroughbred in a long line of poster children for what retired racehorses can do!

Kauto Star out for a hack.

….and out for a hack. Photo: @colletteventing

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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