OTTB Showcase: BONARCTIC (Show Name: Good to Go; Nickname: Doc)
THE DEETS: BONARCTIC (Show Name: Good to Go; Nickname: Doc)
Name: Bonarctic (Show Name: Good to Go; Nickname: Doc)
Born: March 12, 1980
Height: 16.2 hands
Sire: Arctic Art
Sale History: Sold for $7,200 at OBSMAR 1982
Race Record: 65-6-7-6
Race Earnings: $24,416
It was October of 2000 and Maryland-based rider/trainer Michele Markward was on the search for a horse well-suited to teaching young riders the basics of jumping and take them through their first horse shows.
“A friend of mine told me about a nice Thoroughbred that one of her customers had been showing in the adult jumpers, but had outgrown,” said Michele. “I was told ‘Doc’ was sixteen, had done a few grand prix before moving down to the adult amateur jumpers, and was very brave and scopey. Since I trusted my friend, I bought him sight unseen for $1,500.”
Doc proved to be exactly as advertised; sound, reliable and great with kids and adults alike. But who was this horse? What was his story? Thanks to the all-telling lip tattoo that every ex-racer sports on the inside of his or her upper lip, Michele got her answer, and it was quite a surprise.
“This beautiful, athletic, capable horse with not a hint of lameness or a bump or lump on him was 20! Only his tattoo was the proof – nobody would have guessed it otherwise,” explained Michele.
Over the course of the next five years, Doc carried a number of Michele’s students through the lower ranks of the jumper world, competing all along the East Coast at local and rated shows.
“He really taught them how to sit still and feel what the horse was doing, then use their skills to make their ride clean and fast,” said Michele. “He was definitely not a beginner’s horse, but he was very reliable and safe. You always knew if you aimed him at a jump, he would go for it, and he gave his riders confidence about jumping different types of fences, including water jumps.”
Even though Doc was considered a senior on paper, nobody had filled him in on that fact. At horse shows he was on his toes. He understood the difference between the schooling area and the competition ring. He’d help his riders build confidence in the warm up rings by allowing them to feel, but easily harness his power and athleticism, but to get to the competition ring he had to be led, his eagerness to compete bursting at the seams.
“”He certainly knew when it was show time, and was always in the ribbons, as long as his rider did not interfere with his plan,” said Michele. “Then, when his round was over, anyone could lead him. He would drop his head and follow you like a puppy.”
After a long day of showing, any grown man enjoys an ice cold beer, and Doc was no different. He’d excitedly slurp a brew from his rider’s hands, and eventually Michele would simply pour a beer into his feed tub after a long afternoon of showing, signaling to Doc “job well done, your day is done.”
After realizing Doc’s age soon after buying him, Michele and her husband were cognizant of the fact that they’d have to have a retirement plan in place for him in the not-so-distant future.
“We kept a close eye on him for any signs that he was ready to be done,” explained Michele.
After attempting to retire him to pasture a first time, a scenario that Doc displayed his thorough displeasure with, at age 25 Doc began showing the signs that he was finally ready for a slower pace of life.
“It’s like he said, ‘OK, I’m done,’” said Michele. “He didn’t want to come to the front of his stall to go out and be ridden, and he just wasn’t his happy self. The first time we tried retirement, he’d run the fence and whinny to the horses when they were being ridden. The second time we tried retiring him, he was content with the slower pace of life. He would just watch happily when other horses were out and being ridden.”
Today, Doc is 32-years-old and still retired in a pasture behind Michele’s house. Michele keeps his treat quota in check with an ample supply of crushed peppermints and applesauce, but says his true love these days is being inside his stall in front of his fan.
“He’s still a character. He’ll race up the field, bucking and kicking, and then rear up as high as he can and strike out like a stallion. I don’t think he knows his age,” said Michele.
“Doc is living proof that the Thoroughbred is the most athletic, versatile breed there is. They make you think about what you are doing. You need to listen to them, because they have a lot to teach if you’re willing to learn.”
If you have or know of a retired Thoroughbred with an interesting story to tell, we’d love to hear about it! Just email Jen Roytz (Jenlroytz@gmail.com) with the horse’s Jockey Club name, background story, and a few photos.
Jen Roytz is the marketing and communications director at Three Chimneys Farm in Midway, Kentucky. She also handles the farm’s Thoroughbred aftercare efforts. She currently owns two retired Thoroughbreds: Point of Impact (by Point Given; a.k.a. Boomer), who retired from racing in late 2011 and is just starting back under saddle to find his forte as a riding horse, and Shotgun Shine (by Tale of the Cat, a.k.a. Gage), who is in training as a hunter/jumper. Contact Jen on Facebook and Twitter.