S. D. trainer, horse prepare for Baltimore competition | TSLN.com

S. D. trainer, horse prepare for Baltimore competition

Baltimore, Maryland will host the second Thoroughbred makeover challenge Oct. 4-5. Dale Simanton, Newell, S.D., has made arrangements to haul his second horse to the competition to show how an off-track Thoroughbred transitions into working as a ranch saddle horse. Simanton is one of three repeat trainers at the symposium.

The 2014 Retired Race Horse America's Most Wanted contestants will compete in 10 equine disciplines, all on retired racetrack Thoroughbreds. Chosen by a committee, the 10 competitors will have the opportunity to show what their horse has learned toward its new career and also have the option to offer the horse for sale.

Simanton had many fine geldings to choose from in the Gate To Great program at Horse Creek Thoroughbreds, so it wasn't easy to settle on just one to use in the competition. Rikim, a 2005 Kentucky-bred gelding, had arrived just a day after his last race in Michigan, then was turned out for about six weeks to relax and let down from the track and training. Rikim is a son of Van Nistelrooy and out of the Nureyev daughter, Dakini.

Rikim is a 15.2 hand chestnut with stocking legs and a bald face. He isn't all looks, however, as he ran seven years on 14 different tracks up and down the East Coast. With 75 race starts in his career, he racked up 12 firsts, 13 seconds and 12 thirds under several owners and trainers. His last trainer thought so much of him that they bought him and decided to retire him when he showed he was ready to change careers. When that decision was made, they called Simanton, and he was put on a transport and sent to South Dakota the next day.

Simanton says, "About 10 days after he got here, I got on him bareback and rode him around the yard with a halter. He was so nice that I decided he could be turned out and rested a while.

"He's got a two speed tranny: a slow-fast walk and a slow-fast lope. He's really fun to ride and work with. He's really smooth moving and has a rocking chair lope. He'll just go wherever you point him to, across a boggy crossing or whatever," says Simanton. "He's way ahead of the game and whatever you want to do, he tries to help you.

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"The first branding I took him to, I just rode into the pen and started dragging calves on him. No warm up or anything. I think it was probably the first time he'd ever even seen cattle but he was just so unconcerned. He can drag calves all day and never gets excited or nervous. He's stout on the horn and just goes to work," says Simanton.

"He's dead honest in everything he does. He's absolutely a pleasure to work with and always comes when you call him to go to work. He's pretty easy to like."

Besides general ranch work of gathering, sorting, branding and doctoring cattle, Simanton is showing Rikim everything else around the place too, including irrigation tarps and sheep teepeesa and anything else he can think of in preparation for a ranch rodeo over Labor Day weekend in Newell, S.D. He will be working on side-passing, gate-opening, hobble breaking and other handy skills as well.

Dorothy Snowden, partner at Horse Creek Thoroughbreds, also took Rikim to a training show in the spring. "We just took him for the experience and to let him fidget and fret over the crowd and noise. He didn't though. Dorothy ended up entering several classes and won the High Point walk/trot with him. He got a little excited when they lined the class up to place them, but then he realized it wasn't a horse race and settled right down," says Simanton.

Rikim will recognize the scenery when they get to Pimlico in Baltimore, as that's where he broke his maiden as a 3-year-old. With his attitude and looks, he should represent the Thoroughbred as a ranch horse very well and Simanton is excited about the future for Rikim. "He could just go do anything. He's a really solid horse with a great mind and plenty of ability no matter what a person would want to do."