Kinfolk Moonshine was a Suffolk Showcase reject.
For whatever reason, he just didn’t sell.
But KC Compton DiCostanzo saw potential in his high withers—the mark, some say, of a great jumper— and in the Thoroughbred’s trademark ‘look of eagles.’
Based on what she could discern from the CANTER New England photos, and on the brief description of him as a “potential eventer,” she took a chance on the Suffolk Downs racehorse.
And in about a year’s time, both horse and rider have found their lives inextricably linked to CANTER and its mission to showcase the talents of retired racehorses.
Zeus, as Kinfolk Moonshine is now called, has been plucked like an aspiring movie star from an obscure ice cream shop to represent the month of December in a forthcoming CANTER USA calendar. His dashing good looks and fairy tale story will grace the pages of a compilation of 12 success stories, a distinction that makes his owner, a onetime model, chuckle.
Race name: Kinfolk Moonshine
New name: Resilient
Barn name: Zeus
Sire: Slew Gin Fizz
Dam: Parental Uproar
Age: 6“I’ve modeled for years and I never landed a calendar gig. But leave it to my horse to get one!” she says.
Modeling career and fame aside, Zeus is proving himself in a serious role as a cross-country eventer. And his owner, also his trainer and rider, has reinvented her own equestrian career as the result of her connection with him.
Almost from the minute Zeus stepped off the trailer last January into a swirl of snow, DiCostanzo’s professional life has revolved around her Thoroughbred. She has bounded with him over jumps he clears as naturally as a top show horse.
“This horse has more jump in him than I could have imagined,” she says. “I had him assessed by two-time Olympian Michael Page, and he said my goal to bring him to a one-star 3-7 event was the least he (Zeus) could accomplish.”
They work at it constantly, logging a significant number of hours taking lessons and completing schooling sessions; and haul to shows, to cross-country events, and to parks to fine tune his natural skills, even participating in dressage shows as well.
At the King Oak Horse Trial this year, he was impressive over all of the jumps, never putting a foot wrong. Unfortunately, his Achilles heel was the water. “The water obstacle looked like a bog because so many horses had run through it, churning up the muddy water,” she says. And Zeus declined.
He wasn’t rude about it, she adds. “It was a fear. He was just unsure of it.”
A believer in taking ones’ time to get it right, and not forcing a horse to do too much, too soon, DiCostanzo has identified water obstacles as the number one item on the lesson list.
“I want him to understand that water is not a big deal, and one of these days it will click,” she says. “I’d rather take my time though, and teach him in the right way, rather than forcing him into it.”
Her methods have been paying off. At the Oct. 9 Kent Horse Trial, Zeus ended up the day with 9th place in the Open Beginner Novice division, bravely crossing water in the woods. It was a small crossing, but its significance was huge. “After he crossed that water I could have taken him home and called it a successful day!”
Her patient and gentle method of training has caught the attention of CANTER New England volunteers, who recently enlisted DiCostanzo to re-train two other Thoroughbreds.
Her pupils Dotpower and Dewamere are two mares who she would put in her own barn if she had room. She gushes about the potential of both, especially Dotpower.
“I’m gobsmacked over this horse!” she says. “She is quiet as a lamb and has such a great head on her shoulders that she’d be perfect for a junior rider; she’s safe and sensible enough, but also athletic enough to handle just about any career.”
A pretty lady with an unusual marking on her nose resembling a dot, her biggest selling point is her kind nature. “I tried her for the first time on a very windy day out in an open field. Aside from a couple of little head tosses, she was perfect. She listened. She didn’t take off. There was no bucking, no spooking, no rearing. Nothing.
“This horse,” she adds, “will be someone’s forever horse.”
Dewamere, her other new student, is a very petite and well-built mare standing 15.1 hands. And despite being blind in her right eye, she is sweet tempered and has no vices. The sight issue is a factor, but DiCostanzo believes that she will be fine for light riding.
“She needs one person to make her own,” she adds. “Dewy was working with a high school student, and by the end of the day, she was tucking her head into the student’s stomach, just sort of melting into her.”
Coaching the mares for CANTER and building Zeus into a topflight eventer is work that the onetime city girl and model has drawn deep, personal fulfillment from. “In this day and age, there are so many horses who need another chance, and the problem seems so big,” she says. “This is just one small way I can contribute. If I can offer compassionate education for these horses, and that helps them find their forever home, then this is what I was meant to do.”
* Please check out KC’s blog Thunder Moon Farm to read more about her adventures with Zeus, other horses, and life on the farm with her husband Matt.