Jaws dropped when he entered the track.
It wasn’t his size, although he measures 17 hands. Or his beauty, undeniably radiating from his well-muscled body and expressive, delicate face.
What caused a stir as Circuitous entered the Aiken, S.C. training track was the perfect balance and poise exhibited by the working racehorse, who, on the side, was being taught by a three day eventer to carry himself correctly.
As he powered by in a perfect three-beat rhythm, a dressage instructor, who happened to be there that day, exclaimed, “There goes an amazing canter!”
His composure reflects a big idea coming from the small stable, the Mosaic Racing Stable of New York. Here, there are two goals: to train a horse to run a race, and simultaneously prepare them for other disciplines.
The point, says managing partner Monica Driver, is to create happy, well-rounded horses who enjoy their work on the track, but are also prepared to appeal to the kind of rider who may want to buy him after his racing career ends.
“Everybody in our racing stable is in agreement: They don’t want to be a part of racing if there aren’t plans in place” to ensure the health and wellbeing after the horse’s track career ends, Driver says. “We literally opened up a certificate of deposit at the bank for our first horse, Vicarious, so we could put money aside in the event of untoward veterinarian expenses, or when she retired.
Race name: Circuitous
Dam: Watt Ever
Foal date: April 4, 2009“We continue to put money aside from the track, and we charge each partner a little bit more every month so that each horse has its own bank account.”
The idea has proved to be a win-win, for the horses, and their connections at Mosaic Stables.
During exercises with eventer Heidi White, Circuitous has been going on trail rides, and learning to step over ground poles while working on a polo field.
Taught to reposition himself off his front end, he is able to canter beautifully on the field, and breeze brilliantly on the track.
“The first thing we did with Circuitous, was to take him out on a sandy road,” Driver says. “When he’s in training, he hacks to the track, where he has a small paddock for daily turnout.”
But lest anyone wonder if all the feel-good work makes a racehorse soft, the answer is quite the opposite. Circuitous did very well in 90 days of training on the poly track last spring before he was “turned out over the summer to grow into himself,” Driver says. As his overall balance and muscle conditioning knitted together, he worked his way up to a 3/8ths breeze about five weeks ago, and now easily goes a half mile, she adds.
“He had about six months of assorted training before he started to breeze,” Driver says.
The plan is to send him soon to work at Belmont in the next few weeks to work with well-known racehorse trainer James Jerkins.
And win, lose or draw, his fate is secure.
If Circuitous can’t make it as a racehorse, he now has the training to move into a second career!
And if he proves to be anything like the first horse who Mosaic Stables cross-trained, a gray filly named Vicarious, he will be doing well.
Although the filly’s life was sadly cut short, when she died on the operating table of colic in the early winter of 2011, she had a good life, and a decent track showing before she entered retirement.
She was trained to jump by DiAnn Langer, of Red Top Farm at Aiken. And, when Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens, a strong advocate of cross-training for racehorses, saw the results, he was “very impressed.”
“When the steeple chase barn was open at Belmont, Allen sent his horses to use the jumping chute because it was good for their minds,” she says.
Similarily, jumping work enhanced Vicarious’ balance, and, Driver says, improved her start out of the gate.
Vicarious won $114,000 while racing at Saratoga and Belmont before she was retired.
“She was no shining star, but she did very well,” Driver says. “When we did retire her, she retired sound. If she hadn’t died of colic, there were some who felt she’d have a career as a show horse.”
After grieving the regrettable loss of their beautiful gray, the membership of Mosaic Stable has turned its focus to Circuitous and a third horse, Analysis, sired by Freud, out of Watt Ever.
Both horses will train to race, but will also learn to enjoy just being a horse. They will take vacations in the winter, and will have ample turnout for rolling around after workouts, and the all experiences to make them well-rounded, happy creatures.
Without their happiness, Driver could not enjoy the work.
“I’m such an animal person that when I first thought of making money from an animal, I wasn’t sure about it,” she says. “I’ve seen horses that have been messed up by bad decisions and trainers.
“With this, I’m quite comfortable. I can look at Circuitous and see how happy he is. Every morning he shows us that he can’t wait to get out there and do what he loves. He loves to run.”
And Driver and her team love being along for the ride, and there at the end, when retirement comes.
“The agreement among all the people involved with our small partnership is that the horse will always come first, and we will make sure we take care of our horses,” Driver says. “We’re just thinking ahead with their training, so that we can help them retire successfully.”