She gave up jock’s life, and took t’bred with her

Anna K. Roberts gave up her jockey life to pursue a nursing career, and she took a racehorse with her into a new life. Photo by Lynn Towery Roberts

Anna K. Roberts gave up her jockey life to pursue a nursing career, and she took a racehorse with her into a new life. Photos by Lynn Towery Roberts

Anna K. Roberts coolly surveyed the good-looking colt as she readied to mount up for a race at Ellis Park.

It was a hot day in Henderson, Ky., and Benziger, a bay brown Thoroughbred, was the 9-5 favorite back in August 2011. But to the young jockey, who was fresh from the North American Racing Academy, the aloof animal didn’t strike her one way or the other; they were there to do a job, and that was pretty much it.

“I liked him well enough in the post parade, but he was just a horse I was riding in a race,” she recalls. “He was very well behaved and really comfortable to ride.”

Race name: Benziger
Barn name: Benny
Sire: Malibu Moon
Dam: Stephie Brown Eyes
Foal date: May 5, 2007
With what amounts to a mental shrug of her shoulders, they made their way to the starting gate, and moments later, rocketed toward the finish line. And as Roberts felt the colt give a mighty effort that would turn out to be his last on any racetrack, her opinion of him began to soften, to change.

It would turn out that Benziger couldn’t breathe very well due to a mild problem that appeared aggravated by racing. Though he wasn’t a “roarer” like some horses, nor did he stop dead on the racetrack like other horses with similar difficulties, he toughed it out, dug deep and ran like hell.

“A lot of horses would have stopped suddenly, but he ran as hard and fast as he could,” she recalls. “We ended up 4th that day” and Benziger rose up several notches in the young jockey’s estimation.

Anna and Benny didn't fall in love immediately. But once the pair worked together, they grew accustomed to each other.

Anna and Benny didn’t fall in love immediately. But once the pair worked together, they grew accustomed to each other.

Though she did not fall immediately in love with the handsome animal—he was fairly aloof himself— the two started to spend quality time together at his trainer’s farm where he was learning to become a racetrack pony. That’s where one thing just led to another.

“I got bored one day and I wondered if Benny could jump,” she says. “So I set up a two-by-four by the fence, and somehow lunged him over it. And he jumped it decently!”

Intrigued, the young rider started spending more time with him, and suddenly, Mr. Aloof turned into a big puppy dog. “When I went to the paddock, I just called his name and he came running over,” she says. “I learned he had a lot of personality and could be pretty spunky, and the biggest thing was that he just wanted to please.”

She adds, “He wants to do whatever you want him to do. If you wanted him to jump a car, he would try to jump a car for you.”

Since that first leap over a makeshift jump, the pair has trained consistently in Eventing. Benny’s trainer Ronny Werner could see how well suited the pair was for each other, and gave the animal to Roberts.

And now, every day is better than the last as the two shoot for the stars in a sport that seems made for them.
“When we walk out to do cross country, he swells up with excitement” because he is so pleased to be there, she says.

And Roberts is so jazzed by her horse and the sport, that she is actively pursuing a new career in nursing that will afford her the time and funds to pursue something she loves even more: Eventing her off-track Thoroughbred! —This article was originally published on Sept. 24, 2013. ♥

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Country Side, oldest Secretariat stallion, dies

Country Side had the stocky look of a Quarter Horse and the class and brilliance of his sire, Secretariat. He died in late August at age 29.

Country Side had the stocky look of a Quarter Horse and the class and brilliance of his sire, Secretariat. He died in late August at age 29.

Country Side, the oldest living Secretariat stallion, died peacefully at Diamond J. Farms in Texas at the end of summer, leaving many good-brained, big-strided offspring to continue the famous line in Thoroughbreds and in Quarter Horses. And an owner/caretaker who says she never met a horse like her polite, funny stallion.

“Country Side wasn’t one of those stallions walking in on his hind legs. He was a gentleman to work with and he was such a lover” with the mares and fillies, says owner Joycelyn Kasmir. “We had a teaser stall next to his and when he’d first a mare, he’d do a bravado routine, acting all big and proud. But it tended to scare the young fillies, who would back way up and stand on the other side of their stall. When Country noticed they were scared, all of a sudden he’d change his tactics, as if to say, ‘I’m really a gentleman.’

“When they walked over to him, he’d reach his head over the stall wall and lick the fillies up and down their necks, he’d put cowlicks all over them and nicker softly to them.”

Country Side kept her smiling and filled with admiration from the day she purchased him in 1996 until his death on Aug. 26, 2014. He was 29.

Country Side
Sire: Secretariat
Dam: Consant Nymph
Foal date: Feb. 4, 1985
Kasmir and her husband purchased the stallion from a California farm the day after they married, then moved shortly to Texas.

As a child Kasmir had dreamed of Secretariat, the great red wonder, and of breeding her own Quarter Horse to him. So when she had the opportunity to buy the stocky, 15.2 Secretariat stallion, she leapt at the chance.

“Before we bought him, I told his owner I intended to breed him to Quarter Horses, and he almost didn’t sell him to me,” she says. “But I felt Secretariat’s lines should be shared, and was confident any breed could be improved by them.”

Country Side’s personality and intelligence never ceased to amaze her, and the crop of foals he produced, including Thoroughbreds, Quarter Horses, Paints, and performance horses did not disappoint.

Country Side was 25 in this picture.

Country Side was 25 in this picture.

“I got letters from people telling me how great his babies were. Racehorse people told me his (offspring) would pony themselves to the gate as though they’d been racing for years, and Quarter Horse people told me their horses were small enough to get around the barrels, but that they had that Secretariat surge, and were surprisingly fast,” she says. “I’ve heard from so many Country Side owners that their horses had a calmness to them, a regal quality; they had so much sense they seemed human.”

Toward the end of his life Country Side had a harder time dealing with the Texas heat. Despite fans, Chinese herbs, acupuncture, supplements and an abundance of care, he went off his feed a few days before he died, and days before Kasmir planned to call the vet out to euthanize him, he went peacefully in his grassy paddock.

His body has been buried near the barn, and Kasmir plans to plant an oak tree above it as a mighty testament to the warrior pedigree of a legend. ♦

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Swiftly, wildly fun; and then he was gone

Darian Maude and Inside Trading had a great bond.

Darian Maude and Inside Trading had a great bond.

He came flashing into their lives, a “crazy, crazy thing” and made them better horsemen. Then he was gone.

After three years with the Sherwood Farm family of riders in Canada, Inside Trading left proprietor Marilyn Lee, her daughter Robin Hannah, and two dedicated students who learned much from the bright bay T-bred everybody expected to “go big.”

Instead, his flame was extinguished without warning on Oct. 20. After he became suddenly sick with colic, the animal was rushed to the hospital and surgery was begun to correct a twisted gut, but to no avail.

Nicknamed Woody for a family member who also died young, the excitable T-bred who took his students on some wild rides, departed for good on Oct. 20.

“He had such a deep impact on the students in his life, especially Darian Maude and Kayla White,” Lee says. “It’s just so sad because he was the horse everybody thought was going places. I always thought that, and so did my daughter Robin. We knew he was destined for the A circuit.”

Inside Trading
Show name: Curb Appeal
Barn name: Woody
Sire: Toccet
Dam: Inner Circle
Foal date: April 18, 2008
And it was to be 17-year-old Darian, a modest student who reveled in their exciting rides, who planned to do so much with him after a promising first show. One of the few people who could ride the blustery animal, the pair won the championship at their very first show: the Niagara Cup Series, in 2013.

Remembering that day, Darian says she was nervous. He was still “pretty wild” and yet, the two clicked so well that other competitors didn’t have a chance.

“I’ve been riding him for about two years. He started off as this crazy, crazy thing, and I just loved it,” Darian says. “It was exciting to me because you never knew what he would do next. As he grew, I grew, and I learned to be the rider I am today because of him.”

Woody and Kayla White after a winning round.

Woody and Kayla White after a winning round.

Sadly, he died on the day after her birthday. The day before, the pair took advantage of a rare sunny day and took an outdoor hack. Afterwards, she posed with him for photographs, now treasured reminders of their short time together.

“He taught me so much,” Darian says. “One of the biggest things is that almost all horses can be amazing if someone is willing to put in the time, and be dedicated to them and not give up on them.” ♥ —Author’s note: Marilyn Lee asks anyone with a Toccet T-bred to please contact her.

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