We all know that horses can race on dirt and turf, but did you know horses can also race on snow? That was the case for Encanto, a grandson of Unbridled who switched between turf and snow throughout his career racing in Europe.
The gelding started his career in Germany, where he won his debut in 2002 before being sold to Switzerland shortly after placing third in a stakes race in 2004. The gelding found success on both surfaces in that country and by the end of his career had run 56 times – with two of those races taking place over jumps – and earned over $100,000.
Racing as an 8-year-old in 2007, Encanto met a person four months before his retirement that would play a large part in the rest of his life.
“I used to work as an exercise and race rider for his last trainer,” said Regina Klein. “I liked him from the first time I had to ride him and got on him almost every day after that. He was retired four months later, because his results dropped dramatically. I didn't think I actually had a chance to get him, but apparently I was the first to say so directly to his owner, and because I was his regular exercise rider I must have had some advantage, luckily! It didn't look very smart at the time to get a second OTTB because I was at college and didn't have too much money, but I simply could not let go of him.”
Nicknamed “Candyman” or “The Man” because of his sweet nature, Encanto’s transition from the track was first handled by Klein’s partner. Because of her partner’s background in dressage, Klein felt that he would be better suited to transition the gelding from the track, and Encanto quickly progressed to competing in show jumping competitions until hoof issues caused Encanto to need another career change.
From there, Klein took back over and showed him in trail riding classes, and then returned him to the show jumping ring after his hoof issue healed (although the hoof has caused him to have time off in the paddock throughout his career). Still, Klein says the main challenge for Encanto when he was younger wasn’t his hoof, but trying to get him to come to his rider’s way of thinking.
“Encanto used to be very dominant at a younger age and did not like working from the ground,” she said. “He actually kicked me once and broke my arm because we had a little difference in opinion on what I would have liked him to do. Criticism did not go down very well with Encanto in younger years, and I got very lucky that day that he actually just got my arm and not my upper body where one of his hooves was very close to.”
Klein says that even though they did have that difference of opinion, overall Encanto is willing to do whatever she asks and is a pleasure to be around. At 20 years old, he can still be a handful at times but is a very reliable horse.
“Even though he used to be – and still can be on some occasions – very hot tempered and easily clicks the ‘on button,’ he is one of the coolest OTTBs we ever had,” she said. “I don't remember him ever being in a panic and doing something very stupid or dangerous to himself. He hardly ever spooks, is very reliable in traffic and does not mind strange or loud noises.”
But Klein’s favorite thing is how he makes her feel whenever she goes to the barn.
“Whenever I go on one of my rare vacations and am gone for a few days, he visibly perks up when I get back and he sees me for the first time again. Funny, and of course very sweet,” she said. “And the most favorite thing about him: He gives kisses when you ask him to. Sometimes he gives you kisses every few seconds for minutes on end. It’s hilarious, especially the face he makes while doing it!”
To learn more about the “White Turf” races Encanto ran in that take place each February, you can visit https://www.whiteturf.ch/en.