“I know I sound like a broken record, but this horse is a bloody saint.”
Just two days removed from his second in the Open Novice division at the Maryland Combined Training Association Horse Trials at Shawan Downs in Cockeysville, Md., Icabad Crane was all business as he and Phillip Dutton schooled at True Prospect Farm in West Grove, Pa.
“He had yesterday off, and this morning he’s ready to get back to work,” Dutton said, completing the earlier statement.
Dutton wasn’t the only one impressed. His close friend, fellow Australian and international competitor Boyd Martin, offered congratulations to Icabad Crane’s owner, Anita Motion. She and husband Graham attended the event Sunday, with the Kentucky Derby-winning trainer pitching in and grabbing the shank to assist Dutton’s groom before the cross-country round.
“How about your boy this weekend?” Martin beamed at Anita.
On a busy morning at True Prospect, Martin had vanned over Shamwari 4, the 12-year-old German-bred gelding he acquired this year. Shamwari 4 was a member of the Swedish Three-Day Event team in the 2012 Olympic Games in London. With Martin sidelined after breaking his leg on a young horse at Carolina International CIC3* in March, Dutton has filled in as pilot and was working Shamwari over some cross-country fences.
As a stakes winner of more than $600,000, Icabad Crane was admittedly a bit of a novelty when he arrived. But he continues to prove that he belongs at Dutton’s world-class training facility, and Dutton and the Motions continue to be amazed at the gelding’s transformation.
“Look at him. That’s not something you see with racehorses,” Anita said as Icabad Crane stood tacked up in crossties, half-dozing as he waited for Dutton. Once mounted, the New York-bred was alert and serious, flawlessly tuning up his flatwork.
“I want it to be easy for him when we get to a competition,” Dutton said.
Everything seems easy for Icabad Crane now. Dutton popped him over a few fences, each of which he cleared with nearly a foot to spare. Motion, busily shooting video of the session for sponsor Cosequin, was proud of the ex-racehorse, who is fast taking to his new career. “He’s a special boy!” she said to the horse, Dutton, anyone listening.
Dutton – the professional on Icabad Crane’s back – laughed, but echoed the sentiment.
“I really couldn’t be happier with him.”
*Photos by Maggie Kimmitt.