YOGI Breisner admits it is unlikely Kauto Star will develop into an Olympic-class dressage horse following his retirement from racing.
The 12-year-old left the care of trainer Paul Nicholls on Tuesday after owner Clive Smith decided to let his star performer try a new discipline after bowing out of the National Hunt arena.
Smith’s plan was not popular with the Ditcheat team and the trainer asked the owner to remove the horse, with Kauto Star now being cared for by new rider Laura Collett. The 22-year-old is a decorated event rider at junior levels and aspiring Olympian for 2016, and she will work with the gelding alongside long-time British manager and coach Breisner.
He admits his top priority is the horse’s welfare and, while he has yet to evaluate Kauto Star’s dressage attributes, he believes any talk of an Olympic outing is premature.
Breisner said: “He’s had a fantastic racing career, he’s been brilliantly trained and looked after by Mr Nicholls and his staff, so this is just a matter of getting to see if he will settle into a different type of routine in life.
“If he does that comfortably, then maybe there’s an alternative thing he can do, but we don’t know that until we have started to work with him.
“If a horse is going to reach Olympic level, they really need to start their education when they are young, sort of four or five-year-olds. So it would be a tremendous exception if a horse could come out of retirement from racing and then go into an alternative career that was going to lead to Olympic level, never mind a medal, in any of the three disciplines.”
Eventing legend Mark Todd also believes Kauto Star will struggle to be a top-level dressage horse, but expects the veteran to thrive on a new activity.
Todd said: “He’s not old at 12, and it’s nice he will be able to do something, as horses don’t want to be bored. I retired Charisma [a double gold medal winner at the Olympics in the 1980s] at 16, and he didn’t want to be just stuck out in a field. I’ve seen Kauto Star racing, he was an exceptional horse. I think it’s unlikely he’ll hit the heights at dressage, but he’s in good hands.”
Breisner was put in touch with Smith by Di Arbuthnot, chief executive of the Retraining of Racehorses charity, which is affiliated with the British Horseracing Authority.
Arbuthnot said: “The Retraining of Racehorses is all about life after racing. A lot of people do take these horses on and give them a second career, whether it’s in the show ring, or the polo field or eventing or hunting or simply just happy hacking.”
“Neptune Collonges has been doing some dressage and Monet’s Garden has been in the show ring up in the north.
“The Tatling appeared at a show class in Wales in the summer and is going to be doing a bit more and Straw Bear reached the championship at Hickstead but it’s not just about the well-known horses.
“He [Kauto Star] is a very fit, healthy horse and looks magnificent. He’ll be reassessed and retrained as any other horse would be. I’m sure they’ll know fairly quickly what he will and won’t be able to do, but it won’t be done any more easily than any other horse that goes through the retraining process.
“Let’s hope he has a nice life and enjoys himself.”
Collett herself had a first taste of riding Kauto Star yesterday morning and she thoroughly enjoyed the experience. She tweeted: “I am officially the LUCKIEST girl in the world right now.... I have just ridden Kauto Star... He is a truly amazing horse... Felt like a fresh 4yo which is all credit to @PFNicholls and his team.”