Laura Hansen squinted against the California sun as the gleaming, perfectly balanced racehorse loaded onto the trailer that would whisk him off to Hollywood Park.
As she ran her experienced eye over the rippled muscles and squarely built form of Innocent Til Proven, a deeply pedigreed Thoroughbred, and half brother to Three Chimney’s stud Yes It’s True, she knew exactly what she saw.
This was no racehorse; this was a show horse.
“I would watch him go out to the track everyday to train, and he was just fantastic! He was laid back and steady, and he had the most wonderful demeanor, an incredible pedigree, and beautiful conformation,” says Hansen.
“My husband Scott (Hansen) said he wasn’t going to make it as a racehorse, and I couldn’t wait to train him: I saw the show horse in him.”
Both husband and wife have lived and breathed horses for their entire professional lives. Hansen’s husband Scott last worked as an assistant to famous trainer Bobby Frankel, while she exercised horses for him; and, before that, she galloped for other world-famous trainers, including Bob Baffert and Steve Asmussen.
Race name: Innocent Til Proven
Dam: Clever Monique
Foal date: 2005Shortly after the couple went to work for Gary Broad’s sun-splashed Thoroughbred facility, Oakmont Ranch, in the hilly California countryside, Laura Hansen latched onto the idea that Innocent Til Proven could be a different kind of star for the ranch.
When it became clear that this horse wasn’t born to run, the decision was made: they would not race him at all. His training, from 2008 through 2009, concluded, and after some time letting down from track training, he was redirected toward a job that proved to be his natural calling.
“Right from the start, he was super easy to transition,” Hansen says. “He was athletic and sound.”
Beginning with flatwork and dressage training to enhance his natural gifts, it wasn’t long before he was trotting confidently over poles, and later, small jumps courses.
If a horse could say, “Ahhhh, this is much more like it!” Innocent Til Proven did.
He entered his first horse show at the Del Mar Show Park in September 2010 and went around the ring, jumping every obstacle like a pro.
“You couldn’t pick him out from the Warmbloods!” she says. “At his first show, he showcased what a classy animal he is.
“And, when I tell people that he is a Thoroughbred off the track, their jaws drop!”
In no time, Innocent Til Proven started showing in the California A Circuit hunter/jumpers, proving again and again that a Thoroughbred who isn’t winning races at the track can excel in other disciplines, and against daunting competition.
“When it was decided that he wasn’t right for racing, I knew he’d be great at something,” Hansen says. “He was only six when we started jumping him, and every time, he did his very best. He jumped way high over fences; he’s a very scopey horse. And whatever you ask of this horse, he just seems to do.”
She adds, “Thoroughbreds are so athletic that they’re great at just about anything. They barrel race, they show jump, they event, they’re really not limited in their future careers.”
Owners and trainers, she notes, need patience and imagination to nurture the natural gifts these animals possess; and thus, they tap into the talent that runs as deeply through them, as it did through their famous racing ancestors.
It may take a little time find to find the right career fit, but when it’s found, they’ll be stars in the end.
As Thoroughbreds always are.