The gray mare danced in the mist, waiting her turn in the novice dressage ring.
Her ears pricked forward; her eyes followed the commotion of horses, dogs and children milling about in a setting so foreign to her. The petite gray Thoroughbred called Mystaire had previously worked as a racehorse only 23 miles away at Suffolk Downs in Boston, but the famed Groton House Farm in Hamilton was worlds away from her former life.
All around, horses and their riders entered and exited the showground, some spooking, as one of the most well-known New England shows got underway on the wet grass of the sprawling Massachusetts farm.
Attired in black tack, and a white saddle pad, Mystaire’s job on the June 24 morning was to stay correct and controlled as she moved through the walk, trot and canter work. And when the time came to enter the grassy ring bordered by low, white fencing and potted geraniums, she switched into a different gear.
Gone was the prancing and the watchful attention to other horses, as her focus shifted to the work at hand.
“The minute we got into the ring she was just so workmen about it,” says owner and rider Sara Molyneaux. “Going to Groton House was a very ambitious first show. It’s so busy; some people Race name: Mystaire
Sire: French Legionaire
Foal date: 2002describe it as electric. But, I felt it was a great place to start because I was personally very familiar with it.”
Twenty-two years ago, and in what was to be her last ride for years, Molyneaux competed at the same showground riding her trusty Thoroughbred Dewey who retired shortly thereafter, at age 16.
When Dewey stopped competing, Molyneaux decided it was a good ending point for her as well.
“We rode in Preliminary Level all around New England. We were in classes with Olympians,” Molyneaux says. “When we finished in the 1980s, I was done. I had to retire Dewey, and I had really had enough.”
She figured her life was too busy for horses. A land conservationist and environmental activist, wife and mother, Molyneaux’s schedule was increasingly crowded. Finding two hours a day to ride was becoming increasingly difficult.
And so for 15 years, Molyneaux stayed out of the saddle.
Until, one day in 2007, she saw Mystaire’s photo on CANTER New England’s Fall Showcase listing.
“I found a website that mentioned Mystaire and as I read about her I was struck by how few (ex-racehorses) actually get sold” to new homes, she says. She started to think about the sheer numbers of throwaway animals there are in the world, and decided then and there that if she ever bought another horse she would re-home an ex-racer.
Mystaire was everything she was looking for: She was beautiful, no-nonsense, and a good mover.
And she would be hers after the Ohio-bred mare ran her last race on Oct. 23, 2007, hitting the board in second place.
With the help of trainer Stephie Baer, Molyneaux and Mystaire began a very gradual training process. “ I didn’t get on her for six months,” she says. “I finally decided I had to go out and ride the poor girl, so I took her out on a trail ride with my son. She was absolutely terrific.”
Over time, lessons became better and better experiences. “My husband would ask, ‘How was your ride?’ and I realized my answers were always the same. It was either fabulous or it was great!”
Returning to Groton House after 22 years to compete with her young Thoroughbred against Warmbloods who possessed “all the bells and whistles” was a personal triumph, she says.
“I was thrilled with how good and correct her trot and canter work was for both tests,” Molyneaux says. “Her trot work, especially in the second test, was really smooth and had a fair amount of power.”
Mystaire proved her merit to her new owner, at the show, and during the trail rides and lessons that prepared her for her debut. The mare’s responsiveness and focus on her job at hand are so attuned that Molyneaux says it’s as though she has only to “think” a command for Mystaire to respond.
Her good nature and natural talent earned Molyneaux’s love and respect. So much so that the gray mare is the one she considers her horse of a lifetime.
“I never had any interest in owning a fancy Warmblood prospect,” she says. “I find it thrilling that I’m on a retired racehorse who is as sensational as she can be.”
(To view RNSvideo footage of Mystaire’s test at Groton House, please click here).