By: Erin Shea, @BH_EShea
Geno's Bambino is being fine-tuned by his owner Kate Anderson for the upcoming Arapahoe Park meet. But the 6-year-old Decarchy gelding is doing more than just breezing like a typical racehorse in training. Anderson and the Golden Creek Equine staff have been training "Geno" in classical dressage and even experimenting with some trail work when he's not at the track.
"I took some of the classical dressage theories to train Geno," said Anderson, who runs Golden Creek near Cheyenne, Wyo. "Because my background is in equine biomechanics, I figured if we can help dressage horses have longer careers and be more efficient with their movement, then surely we can do that with racehorses."
Mostly running in lower-level claiming races, Geno's Bambino has a 4-6-9 record from 38 career starts. Anderson first claimed the gelding at Arapahoe Park in June 2015. He raced two more times that Arapahoe season, finishing in the money both times for his new owner. From there, Anderson took him back to Golden Creek and began his dressage training that winter.
"We taught him how to move his hindquarters better, how to lift his withers like a dressage horse, and push from the hindquarters," she said. "He developed a lot more strength in his hindquarters.
"One of the problems he had when we got him was that he'd be a little slow out of the gate, and he stumbled in one race pretty badly. After we worked with him (in dressage) he started to break better."
In Geno's first race back that following March he was claimed from Anderson. Missing her former charge's sweet disposition and hard-working mentality, she knew she had to get him back. And she did, claiming him again last August in a 5 1/2-furlong race at Arapahoe, which he won by a half-length.
This past winter "Geno" engaged in more dressage training and even a bit of competitive trail.
"He wants to work. He wants to run, that's all he wants to do, and he's happy to do it," said Kaitlyn Rinker, who works with Anderson at Golden Creek Equine. "When he's off, he almost gets into a depressed mood. He wants to be working.
"I think that's what makes him such a great athlete," she added. "I think there's a lot of off-track and current racehorses just like him. Right now he's been doing so well and showing everyone that he's not an anomaly. He's fantastic."
Geno's Bambino and Kaitlyn Rinker at Colorado's Most Wanted Thoroughbred. Photo: The Galloping Lane Photography
The cross-training hasn't only helped Geno perform on the track, his connections think that it could help more easily make the transition to a new owner and career when he's finished racing. And since the gelding has an aptitude for other disciplines and the willingness to work, Rinker brought him to this year's Colorado's Most Wanted Thoroughbred Contest in March as part of the Rocky Mountain Horse Expo in Denver. While Geno and Rinker didn't bring home the top prize, Geno will be giving it another shot this fall in either dressage or competitive trail at the 2017 Thoroughbred Makeover Oct. 5-8 at the Kentucky Horse Park.
"We're shooting for him to race at Arapahoe again in mid-to-late June," Anderson said, adding that he'll keep racing as long as he's happy and sound. "He's going to have quite a busy summer. In mid-June he has his first dressage show, and he's slated to go to the Thoroughbred Makeover in October."
The success with Geno has made Anderson wonder what other talent is waiting to be uncovered in racehorses looking for a second career, so much so that she's launched her own nonprofit called the Center for Racehorse Retraining to help runners find homes off the track.
"We started the Center for Racehorse Retraining because we realized that there were a lot of horses like Geno—they're good minded, they're sound, they've been handled well," she said. "We started the nonprofit as a way to create the middleman between the weekend riders and the track."
As talented and willing as Geno is, Anderson doesn't think he's the only racehorse who is capable of tackling two disciplines at once.
"I think the most important thing is we learned with him is that he's not the anomaly," she said. "A lot of people could do what we're doing. These horses are happy to work and they're happy to cross-train, too. Geno is an awesome horse, but there are a lot like him."