I can relate to this week's featured OTTB. Growing up as both a daughter and niece of professional musicians and the sister to another, musical prowess was more or less expected in our family. I could bang around on the drums enough to play in the band, and I muscled through years of piano lessons, but when my little sister and parents would eagerly play “Name That Composer” while listening to the classical music stations on long car rides, I was typically zoned out and buried in the most recent issues of Daily Racing Form, Practical Horseman, or Blood-Horse. I found my calling though, finding that the same drive, attention to detail, and strive for perfection that my family showed in their playing helped me achieve goal after goal on the back of a horse.
Whether he knows it or not, Dream Steeler's life is a different verse of the same song.
Steeler hails from a family of elite racers. His father – the recently passed Unbridled's Song – was a standout on the track, winning the Grade 1 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and G1 Florida Derby among other races. Pilfer, his mother, was also a stakes winner on the track and later proved to be a standout broodmare, producing Steeler's half-brother, To Honor and Serve, and later selling for $1,950,000.
To Honor and Serve was the golden child, becoming a Grade 1 winner several times over with earnings of $1,798,840. That lofty resume earned him a spot in the breeding shed at Gainesway Farm and boosted the family bloodlines into the stratosphere.
It's not to say that Steeler wasn't athletic. He just wasn't cut out to be a racehorse.
“Dream Steeler had two starts as a four-year-old,” explained his current owner, Christine Siegel. “He injured his lower suspensory, and was rehabbed and put out to pasture at Twin Creeks. He's been off for about two years.”
That's where Christine first came across him. A lifelong and well-rounded equestrian who, along with her husband, Jon, and their partner Joel Eckman, owns PM Advertising, Christine endured a string of bad luck with her horses this past year.
“My show horse was injured and rehabbed, and a horse I adopted turned out to be a ‘dirty ditcher,'” explained Christine. “I contacted the trainer to try to gain some insight, and he found it funny that I was trying to retrain him because he was so bad that no jockey would take the mount when he was a racehorse. Needless to say, I sent him back to the adoption agency.”
Through this ordeal, Christine's friend, Kim Gullatt, who with her husband, Randy, owns and operates Twin Creeks Farm, kept telling Christine that she had the perfect horse just sitting in a field waiting for her.
“I finally went over to check him out and just adored his playful, yet sweet personality,” said Christine. “I brought him home and he quickly settled into his new show pony life.”
Steeler has made the transition from racehorse to pasture potato to budding show horse with ease, hacking like a champ on the flat and eagerly taking the jumps that Christine has been incorporating into his training.
“The first bit of our time together just consisted of hanging out and getting to know each other. I wanted him to know that I've got his back…literally,” said Christine. “He seems to love jumping and gets very perky on the approach to a fence, which makes me a happy girl.”
If all goes well, Christine hopes to start showing Steeler next year but also wants to simply enjoy him as a riding horse.
“I will go at his pace and do what is right by him, but I would like to start showing him in the spring,” said Christine. “I cherish the Masterson Station trips and Shaker Village trail rides. I love just being able to relax and enjoy spending time with other riders who share the same passions I do.”
Christine's approach to allowing her horses to find their sweet-spot career-wise has helped her to transition many Thoroughbreds from racetrack to riding horse over the years.
“Thoroughbreds are so willing to give you all they have,” said Christine. “Many I've had the pleasure of working with over the years would break their own heart before they broke yours. You just can't beat that!”
Name: Dream Steeler (a.k.a. “Steeler”)
Born: February 25, 2007
Color: Dk b/br
Sire: Unbridled's Song
Sale History: none
Race Record: 2-0-0-0
Race Earnings: $5,985
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 ([email protected]) 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.
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