Tucking the prayer card from her father’s funeral service into her saddle, Karen Benson and her Thoroughbred Money Makes Money, once vanned off a southern Florida racetrack, stood ready at the big Virginia Thoroughbred horse show last month. They had “wings.”
When March 17 dawned at the Thoroughbred Celebration Horse Show, Benson and her versatile bay gelding, who she now calls Kit, were unbeatable.
“He was nothing short of a superstar,” she says. “It was indoors, under bright lights and other horses were spooking.”
But not Kit. A once-injured racehorse, he jumped clean on all his rounds, and netted five championships that day!
They won the championships of both the Churchill and Belmont Jumper Divisions, and also were recognized as the Jockey Club Incentive Award’s High Point Jumper champion, and as the Senior Rider High Point Jumper. Kit also won the Jumper Style Award.
“It’s the most I’ve ever won. We won saddle pads, cash, picture frames, and coolers,” she says.
All in all, it was a pretty terrific performance for an animal who was vanned off Gulfstream Park in 2006 for a badly bowed tendon, and for his owner, who nursed him through nine months of recovery. (Please see related story in Off Track Thoroughbreds.com).
For Benson, the show was like a blessing after the heart-wrenching loss of her father a only week before.
Benson’s 76-year-old father died of a blood clot following a period of illness, and, after spending a week in New York at his bedside, and attending the funeral, she was ready to cancel her plans to attend the Thoroughbred show.
“But at the least second, I decided to go,” she says. “My father passed away on Saturday, and I flew to the show the following Tuesday. My father had never been to one of my horse shows, and I took his prayer card and said, ‘You’re coming with me!’ ”
When Benson and her OTTB took their victory gallop after unparalleled success, she felt nothing if not the rays of joy; like sunshine, shining through after a terrible storm.
Benson agreed to take in Money Makes Money in 2006 after he bowed a tendon so badly at the track that he was vanned off. She nursed him back to health over nine long months, and then gradually taught him to ride a variety of disciplines, ranging from Cowboy Challenges and trail rides to more traditional hunter/jumpers.
With a keen intelligence, he adapted to everything with great aplomb. In 2011, he won the Versatility Award at the Thoroughbred Celebration Horse Show, and in the same year, beat out all the Warmbloods to win the Low Jumper Classic at the Tryon Hunt Club, his first A-Rated show.
“My father never was much into horses, but my mother and I were,” she says. “After I’d go to a show, he’d ask, ‘Did you win? Did you win any money?’ ”
And with thoughts of him riding along that day, she could imagine herself saying, “Yes, yes, I surely did!” as she collected her ribbons, coolers and other gifts and posed for a winner’s circle photo.
And now the sky is the limit for the pair.
“Since I put that card in my saddle, I haven’t had a rail down, and he has won more championships!” she says, noting that she is now aiming to get him to the World’s Extreme Cowboy Challenge this year.