Horowitz On OTTBs, Presented By Excel Equine: The Value Of Cross-Training For Racehorses - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report
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Horowitz On OTTBs, Presented By Excel Equine: The Value Of Cross-Training For Racehorses

The author with AA Two Face

“Is that an Arabian?”

I took that question as a compliment when asked it at the Spring Gulch Combined Test in Highlands Ranch, Colo., on April 23. That's the first horse show I competed at with the precocious 4-year-old grey Arabian racehorse AA Two Face.

The reason that question was a compliment was because the people that asked it already knew what breed he was, or else they would have phrased the question more generally. Looking at this video of us on cross country, AA Two Face has numerous characteristics of an Arabian horse, from running with his tail held high to the way he's built to the biomechanics of his stride.

So, what piqued people's attention was seeing a purebred Arabian, and one with a racing background, taking jumps as eagerly and fluidly as he was. AA Two Face, whom we call “Dos” on our Super G Sporthorses farm, is a great example of what horses with racing backgrounds can achieve when tackling a new equestrian sport and also how those achievements can come full circle back to racing through the benefits of cross training.

I started riding AA Two Face in October 2021 after the racing season at Bally's Arapahoe Park, where I'm the announcer. But, my journey with the grey gelding actually began before he was born. The first racehorse in training that I ever rode was AA Two Face's half-sister Dance With Me BW back in February 2018 at the Quarter Moon Ranch in Arenas Valley, N.M. She was an unraced 3-year-old, and I was one of the first to ride her. Two months later, on April 19, 2018, AA Two Face, out of the same dam, Shall We Dance BW, was born at Altitude Arabians in Durango, Colo.

Dance With Me BW would go on to win Darley Awards for Champion 3-Year-Old Filly for 2018 and for Champion 4-Year-Old Filly for 2019, as well as receiving Horse of the Year nominations for 2019 and 2020. I would reconnect with the grey filly at different racetracks around the United States as part of my broadcasting for the Arabian Jockey Club. She had a sweet and curious temperament in her stall and then would transform into a tenacious competitor when she would step onto the racetrack.

My connection with Dance With Me BW made me curious about AA Two Face when I saw him as a yearling during a visit to Garrett and Lisa Ford's Altitude Arabians on May 23, 2019. AA Two Face had the same gentle demeanor as his sister.

Fast forward to 2021 and AA Two Face's first race as a 3-year-old at Bally's Arapahoe Park. I visited him in the barn area. Again, just as sweet as Dance With Me BW, but not as fast, finishing fourth against tougher competition in the Emirates Breeders Derby on Sept. 2, 2021.

After another fourth-place finish in a maiden race on Oct. 7, 2021, I drove to the track the next day with a horse trailer. I believe that made me the first horse race announcer to commute to work in such a way. I picked up AA Two Face, thanks to the Fords. The day after that, our son Chase hopped on his back, and the horse just off the track with poultice still on his legs gave a kid's pony ride. A 3-year-old horse and an 8-year-old rider. While leading them, I said, “Hey, if it all goes well, maybe we could break the record for lowest combined age at Beginner Novice.”

 

Over the next six months, Chase and I would alternate riding Dos and introducing him to the equestrian sport of eventing. The combination of the horse's calm demeanor, foundation he learned with his racing connections at Altitude Arabians and at Arapahoe, and eagerness to attempt whatever was presented to him made him a quick learner. It all came together at his first horse show at Spring Gulch.

Along the way, AA Two Face's intrinsic nature as a racehorse, evolved from his breeding back to successful French racing lines and his upbringing on the racetrack, would come out. He and his pasture mates, an unraced Thoroughbred named Grizzly Creek and a Thoroughbred racehorse-turned-eventer named Take Pride, once raced up and down their turnout area on our farm.

“Let him out,” Ashley Horowitz, my wife and eventing trainer, would sometimes tell me after we took a jump on cross country, and Dos would happily accelerate into an exhilarating rhythm.

So, we've come up with a plan that Dos will have “dos” careers simultaneously as an eventer and as a racehorse. Kind of like Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders did with baseball and football.

 

While the career path we're taking with AA Two Face may be nontraditional, there can be benefits to cross training with racehorses.

Kathy Smoke, the former president of the Arabian Jockey Club, noticed that her Grade 1 Arabian racehorse Remarkable Man benefitted from having additional stimulation to his race training under trainer Lynnett Hershbell.

“He loved to train in the morning, and then he'd get so distraught in his stall that Lynette had to take him out and put a Western saddle on him and ride him around or put a saddle on him and play around at Fair Hill,” Smoke said, adding that this routine usually happened twice a week while Remarkable Man was racing at Delaware Park. “That's the only thing that kept him happy.”

Remarkable Man would go on to win a Grade 1 race on dirt in the United States, the 2008 Bob Magness Derby at Delaware Park, and a Group 1 race on turf in the United Arab Emirates, the 2009 Emirates Championship at the Abu Dhabi Equestrian Club.

“He needed that kind of diversity,” Smoke said. “It kind of opened up my eyes. The problem with the Arabians is they're almost too smart.”

The same goes for Thoroughbreds. Crown Pride, the Japanese-bred contender for the 2022 Kentucky Derby, has gotten attention for how his morning gallops are mixed with doing trot and canter circles, transforming the chute at Churchill Downs into a makeshift dressage ring.

 

In another “Horowitz on OTTBs” column from earlier this year, I wrote about how trainer Jerry O'Dwyer, whose wife is multiple Thoroughbred Makeover dressage champion Allison O'Dwyer, similarly incorporates dressage movements into race training to help his horses become more supple and evenly muscled.

“I think the dressage is great for the horses because it does make them turn left, turn right,” he said. “They get to relax a little bit and put their head down. It is a great benefit.”

While acknowledging that racehorse owners can have hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars invested in their desire for success on the track and that many professional human athletes have clauses in their million-dollar contracts limiting participation in other sports for fear of injury, there's a benefit to giving racehorses a change of pace, scenery, and stimulation. So, between races or during a break in training, consider some exposure to eventing or dressage or some trail rides.

That's why we plan both to event and to race AA Two Face. Our goal is to keep the horse happy and to have some fun ourselves, and those seem like pretty good goals to have in the big picture.

“It's nice to see a horse that's in the right hands and having fun,” Garrett Ford said. “He now might come back to the track and say, 'I like this, too.'”

After the Spring Gulch Combined Test at the Intro level of 2-feet-3, our next event will be the Archer Schooling Show in Cheyenne, Wyoming on May 15, followed by his first USEA recognized event, The Event at Archer from June 2 to 5. We're planning to move up to the Beginner Novice level of 2-feet-7, as well as participate in the USEA's Young Event Horse (YEH) Series for 4-year-olds.

We'll be in some impressive company in YEH, including competing against my wife and her fancy Irish Sport Horse imported from Ireland, Monbeg Salt Fever, as well as other upper-level eventers and their fancy Warmbloods.

Then, one month later, we're hoping to enter AA Two Face in a six-furlong maiden race on the opening day of the 2022 season at Bally's Arapahoe Park. His past performances will indicate a nine-month layoff, but if you're reading this, you'll know that he's undergone quite the training regimen between races.

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