Dante when he arrived at the farm

Dante when he arrived at the farm

Meet Royal Diamante, or “Dante,” as I lovingly call him. I purchased Dante last year, turning him out to pasture from September through December of 2016. I plucked him out of a handful of thoroughbreds freshly off the track, and taken to a wonderful thoroughbred repurposing farm in Waterford, VA. This red-head struck a chord with me, as he looked kind of pathetic, a little skinnier than others, a little rain rot throughout his coat, and a touch of discoloration to his eyes, which I didn’t think much of at the time. As a matter of fact, I assumed he had a weakened immune system, and maybe had some allergies. I paid for big red, and as we headed home with truck, trailer, and a new thoroughbred, I was feeling quite proud that he hopped right in the trailer with little hesitation.

January rolled around, and we started ground work, learning about manners, respecting my space and how to use his body parts separately. He took to the work well, and seemed eager to learn. January and February brought a lot of wet, cold weather, so we spent most of our time on the ground, with minimal ride time on the trails and under-saddle. However, Dante did participate in his first “Intro to Dressage Clinic in February,” as our favorite Cavalia trainer, Julien Beaugnon, graced us with his presence for a clinic with The Natural Connection students and horses

Intro to Dressage Clinic in February" as Our favorite Cavalia trainer, Julien Beaugnon on Dante

Intro to Dressage Clinic in February” with our favorite Cavalia trainer, Julien Beaugnon on Dante

February also brought our new sponsors, CFC Farm & Home Center, and their Equine Nutritionist, Shelby Edwards, into our lives. I was extremely proud to switch all my horses to Pace-Maker feeds, and Dante was put on Kalm Ultra, a Tribute feed that would help with his amino acids, muscle growth and weight gain.


Shelby, the nutritionalist at CFC weighs Dante during his assessment

Shelby, the equine nutritionalist at CFC weighs Dante during his assessment in February.

March and April brought big changes for Dante. Dante became very ill in late February, and showed signs of weight loss and jaundice. We assumed his immune system was compromised from a tick-borne disease, and he started his antibiotics, probiotics and an all-natural liver support blend. At the end of March, Dante was looking and feeling better, so we joined Clinton Anderson in Lexington, VA for a 3-day Fundamentals clinic. Dante was exposed to riding with 20 riders in the arena, and an up-close-and-personal audience, and walked away a much better horse for the experience.


Dante during the Clinton Anderson clinic in March

Dante during the Clinton Anderson clinic in March

April was exciting as my business, as family and horses all moved to the Marriott Ranch in Linden, VA. Dante had no idea what was in store for him. Texas longhorns, living outdoors with run-in sheds and no stalls, and tons of trail riding – 4 to 8 miles a day!
April at the Marriott Ranch

April at the Marriott Ranch

May, June and July were amazing learning curves, as Dante learned to adjust to ranch life. He participated in a cattle drive in May (which he was not a fan of), was trailered over to the Pavilion at our B&B in June to help run rides for Corporate events, with 20 of our ranch horses, and was the lead horse on a day ride in July, which was 6 hours in the saddle from one side of the ranch to the other!

Dante leading a trail ride

Dante leading a trail ride in July

So, here we are in August, and you might be asking, what has Dante become opinionated about in the last few months? Well, Dante has taken countless trail rides, most of the time leading each ride, with customers on horseback following. He has told me over and over again that he doesn’t like those Texas Longhorn jumping out of the woods and scaring him, and he has told me that he loves to lead the ride, but can tolerate following. He has also told me that he LOVES working in the arena! Dante has trailered over to our arena behind the B&B 4 days per week throughout August and has clearly told me that he prefers the arena over working on the trail. Dante has CLEARLY learned to appreciate working in an arena since he has spent much of his time on trails since being under my ownership.

Needless to say, Dante has been very busy. He has been exposed to a lot, works 3-4 days per week, and has gained a lot of weight since being switched over to Tribute’s Ultra GH. I suspected that Dante was suffering from some gastric issues with all the stress in his life, so switching to a feed specifically designed for gastric balance was exactly what we needed.

Dante with

Dante with a Longhorn

So what will we be competing in at the Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Challenge? Well, I decided to compromise with Dante and he will still have to deal with cattle, but in an arena! So we are competing in the Working Ranch Division on Thursday, and then the Freestyle on Friday. How is this a compromise? Dante will only have to work with one cow in the arena, my compromise of not pulling him away from cattle, but teaching him to deal with cattle in a place that he seems to be more comfortable, the arena! We have not competed in the Working Ranch division before, but please cheer us on as we take on this new challenge together to prove that just because he doesn’t “like or prefer” the cattle, that doesn’t mean he can’t work with them to become a better horse overall! If Dante could share his opinion on my choice of classes for him, I’m sure he would disapprove, but that’s ok.

Article and photos by Jean French, owner of Royal Diamante 
For more information about CFC Farm and Home, go to https://www.cfcfarmhome.com/ or call 540-825-2200.