Icabad Crane Continues to Impress In Latest Event


The Motion team with Icabad Crane and Phillip Dutton after winning his CIC1* division. (Photo by Maggie Kimmett)

For many horses, succeeding at the upper levels of one discipline is more than enough to have on a resume. But Icabad Crane isn’t most horses.

The 10-year-old former racehorse, who retired in late August 2013, won five stakes races in his career and placed third in the 2008 Preakness Stakes. Raced by Earle Mack and trained by Graham Motion, Icabad Crane made 33 starts with seven wins and 16 other on-the-board finishes for $585,980 in earnings.

When Icabad Crane retired, Mack gave the horse to Graham and Anita Motion who’d had the idea of working with eventing rider Phillip Dutton for a long time. They had sent other off-the-track horses to Dutton in the past but for a variety of reasons none of those horses had worked out. But Icabad Crane seemed like the perfect horse for their goal.

“My wife and I had always wanted to do something with Phillip and [his wife] Evie in this regard. It’s something my wife had thought about quite a long time ago, and Icabad Crane just seemed like the perfect horse to pursue it with,” Motion said in a Q&A last year. “He’s a pretty well-known horse, he was an older horse with a tremendous disposition and he didn’t have a career-ending injury. We just felt that it was time to call it a career for him. [Icabad Crane’s racing owner] Earle Mack was gracious enough to give him to my wife to pursue this. So it just was kind of the perfect scenario.

Icabad Crane entered training with Dutton about two months after retiring from racing and since then he has quickly climbed through the levels.

He had his first event in late March 2014, at beginner novice, which he won. From there, he quickly climbed the levels while also helping build awareness for what off-the-track Thoroughbreds can do with his own social media pages (his Facebook page currently has 3,750 likes) and regular Eventing Nation articles.

“Between Maggie Kimmitt, Jenni Autry (Eventing Nation) and myself, we have really made an effort to share everything Icabad does through social media,” Anita Motion said. “He has a huge following now and has had over two million views on the videos, stories and pictures we have shared. People who aren't involved in any way with horse racing or horses ask me about him.”

But eventing competitions weren’t the only thing the horse was winning at, taking the title of America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred at the Thoroughbred Makeover hosted by the Retired Racehorse Project in early October.


Video courtesy of Retired Racehorse Project

This year Icabad Crane has continued his ascent up the levels, making his CIC1* debut on Sept. 20 at Plantation Field’s event. The first of the Fédérale Equestre Internationale (FEI) levels of the sport, it is a division that many horses don’t ever make it to let alone as fast as Icabad Crane did.

But even more impressive than Icabad Crane competing in the level was how well he did. Competing in the dressage phase first, Icabad Crane was placed fourth with a score of 41.10 in what Anita Motion said is his toughest phase of eventing.


Video courtesy of Herringswell Stables

But from there, the sky was the limit at the event with him jumping a double clear  (no time or jumping faults) in cross-country. His time of four minutes and 44 seconds on the course was the second-fastest of his division by just one second and nine seconds faster than the third-fastest horse on the course.


Video courtesy of Herringswell Stables

The cross-country run vaulted him to the No. 1 spot going into the next day’s stadium jumping phase. However, his connections couldn’t breathe easy with three horses within four points of him. Knocking down a pole in the stadium phase would add four points onto his score so the only way Icabad Crane’s win would be assured was if he went clear and didn’t incur any jumping or time penalties.


Video courtesy of Herringswell Stables

Icabad Crane rubbed the second to last fence but it stayed up, and a jump later he was the winner in his first start at the level. Amazingly, his one-star debut came less than two years after he went into training with Dutton and only 18 months after his first show.

“It was a huge thrill [to see Icabad Crane win],” Anita Motion said. “I was so nervous on Sunday before the show jumping and also quite emotional! I haven't seen him [since the event] but I heard that he's doing well.”

Icabad Crane doesn’t get much time to bask in his victory as he will compete again on Oct. 2-4 at Morven Park Horse Trials as a preparation for the MidSouth Three-Day Event CCI1* on Oct. 22-25. MidSouth is held at the Kentucky Horse Park the same weekend as the Thoroughbred Makeover so Icabad Crane will be returning to the Makeover to do a demonstration during that weekend as well as his eventing duties.

"What an incredible weekend for Icabad at Plantation Field," Dutton said. "He not only won his CIC* division but he had the lowest score out of both divisions - they were huge divisions.  He truly is a special horse and I am proud to be a small part of his long career.  He seemed to come out of the weekend well.  He will have an easyish week then gear up for Morven Park the following weekend.  I will probably just do a combined test there and not run him on the cross country."

While the way Icabad Crane has moved up the eventing levels is a testament to the horse, Motion points out that his success in eventing isn’t something exclusive to him.

“Icabad is not an exception. OTTBs are competing successfully in all equestrian sports.  They have the looks, the brain, stamina and work ethic [to excel],” she said. “Our goal was to get the word out about what Thoroughbreds can do.  Icabad is an example of what we as an industry do with our retired racehorses. He has a fan club that anyone can join. “


Photos by Maggie Kimmett

While it would be easy to make long-term plans with a young, talented horse like Icabad Crane, Motion said that it is up to Icabad Crane and Dutton to decide what the future holds. They will continue with the gelding as long as he shows he is happy doing his job and will stop if he ever gives them a sign he doesn’t want to event anymore.

The Motions are grateful for the opportunity to be on the ride with Icabad Crane and everyone who has supported him through the journey, both as sponsors and fans.

“Thank you first to Earle Mack who gave Icabad to us,” Anita Motion said. “To all the people who have stepped up as sponsors and helped with his training. To Phillip and Evie Dutton and all the crew at Dutton Eventing and to everyone who has liked, shared and commented on the stories, pictures and videos we have shared.”

To learn more about Icabad Crane and his recently launched fan club, click here.

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