02/23/2013 9:06PM

Declan’s Moon takes successful steps to become a dressage horse

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Retired Racehorse Training Project
Declan's Moon

Declan’s Moon, the 2004 champion juvenile, was voted Best Suited for Dressage Saturday at the Pennsylvania Horse World Exposition, the penultimate event in the Retired Racehorse Training Project’s 100-Day Challenge.

Declan’s Moon was one of four horses in the challenge, which trainer Steuart Pittman founded as a way to promote retired Thoroughbred racehorses’ talents in a wide range of second careers. During the challenge, Pittman and his staff at Dodon Farm in Maryland have taught Declan’s Moon and three other former racehorses—Alluring Punch, Suave Jazz, and Gunport—basic dressage and jumping and also hacked them across country.

The horses had undergone 11 weeks of training when they arrived at the Pennsylvania Horse World Expo, where three judges and the public voted on the horses’ suitability for various disciplines. After the expo, the four horses were to return to Dodon for two more weeks of training before being offered for new careers. Unlike the other three, Declan’s Moon will not be offered for sale but could be available to a rider under a lease agreement or similar arrangement. The Siegel family’s Jay Em Ess Stable will retain ownership of Declan’s Moon in any second career.

Declan’s Moon, an 11-year-old Malibu Moon gelding, had spent almost five years in retirement at Mike and Josh Pons’ Merryland Farm in Hydes, Md., before Samantha Siegel agreed to include him in the 100-Day Challenge.

“He was my favorite horse because he has an incredibly elastic way of moving and amazing balance all the time, which is what made him a great athlete,” Pittman said. “He never felt like he was leaning on his forehand, and there’s so much suspension in every step he takes, it just makes you feel good to ride him. The reason I thought he was so valuable in this competition was that he so clearly destroyed the stereotype that sport horse people have created, that a top racehorse that wins as a 2-year-old is not suited to dressage particularly and even jumping.

“They say that the racehorse industry is no longer breeding the big, rangy, distance-type horses and that those are better for sport. I’ve been finding that, in fact, that’s not true. Even horses that are sprinters or that win as 2-year-olds are often really fantastic. Declan’s Moon has good bone, big feet, great conformation, and unbelievable movement. People’s jaws would drop when they saw him move.”

Among the other competitors, Suave Jazz, a 10-year-old Suave Prospect stakes winner, was voted Best Suited for Foxhunting and Trails; Alluring Punch, a 4-year-old by Two Punch who was a winner, was voted Best Suited for Show Jumping and Eventing; and Gunport, a 4-year-old Mizzen Mast filly who started once, was voted Best Suited for Show Hunter. Alluring Punch also was voted tops in the Horse You’d Most Like to Own poll.

The three judges were California hunter-jumper trainer Nick Karazissis; Mid-Atlantic Horse Rescue director, racehorse trainer, and eventer Bev Strauss; and Donnan Jones, dressage trainer and wife of longtime bloodstock adviser Russell Jones.

The 100-Day Challenge’s “graduation day” finale will take place on March 9 at Caves Farm near Baltimore, where the horses will show off their final two weeks of training. Tickets are available for $50 for adults and $20 for those under 21. For more information, visit www.retiredracehorsetraining.org.