This TR Dasher mare has exchanged her racing plates for dressage dancing shoes.
This story is sponsored by the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA). It originally appeared here.
By Andrea Caudill
With the big heart of an American Quarter Horse and the athleticism bred into racehorses, Roxie Dasher is proving her ability to transition careers from racehorse to the delicate sport of dressage.
Foaled in 2011, Roxie Dasher was bred by champion breeder Dr. Steve Burns in partnership with Roxie Lucarelli, who raced her winning dam Crystal Empire R N (TB).
Roxie Dasher’s sire, TR Dasher, is a son of First Down Dash who has sired the earners of more than $8.9 million, led by world champion Freaky ($942,222), and moved to stand at Burns Ranch in California in 2010.
Crystal Empire R N (TB) has an interesting pedigree, being sired by significant winner Empire Maker (TB), himself the son of famed racehorse and sire Unbridled (TB) and the blue hen mare Toussaud (TB). Her dam, Crystal River, was a daughter of Black Tie Affair (IRE) (TB), and was a multiple stakes winning-earner of $157,530, who produced three additional six-figure earners, including Demantoid River (TB), Ocean Terrace (TB) and River Boss (TB).
Roxie Dasher was carefully cared for during her racing career by trainer and co-owner Angela Aquino, making all her starts at Los Alamitos, and when the mare indicated she was ready to try a different path, she was retired and eventually acquired by Jenny Auer of Broadview, Montana. “Roxie” was introduced to her next career as an English riding horse.
In 2021, Eric D. Smith of Atascadero, California, was shopping for a new equine partner after retiring his successful eventing and dressage Quarter Horse, Winchexter, and noticed the athletic mare in a sale ad. He test-rode her, really liked her and decided to bring her back to her home state.
As they developed their relationship, he first refocused on basics.
“She wanted to do everything fast – walk fast, trot fast, canter fast – well, she’s a racehorse, right?” Smith said with a laugh.
They started with flat work and helping the mare to relax and slow her mind down. It took months of patient work to really produce the consistent picture they were looking for.
“When we started to get that together, I noticed she had really nice gaits,” he said. “Those were all great building blocks. I knew I wanted to show her in dressage, and my wife encouraged me to just get out there and do it.”
Smith debuted Roxie in the show ring in 2022, and even with limited showings was third in the year-end Adequan®/United States Dressage Federation’s All-Breeds AQHA Training Level standings with a 67.596% median score, and a personal best of 71.154%. She has earned her AQHA amateur performance Register of Merit, with 20 AQHA points earned to date, and they are third in the AQHA Amateur Training Level high-point.
“She’s competing against all breeds of horses, and she’s holding her own,” he said. “She’s striking to look at, and she loves people. I don’t know how many random strangers have come up to me to say, ‘I love your mare.’ Obviously, there’s a subjective element in dressage, and when you have that intangible element, it can’t hurt, right?”
In addition to the mare’s inherent athleticism, one of her biggest strengths is her Quarter Horse temperament.
“She definitely has the Quarter Horse work ethic, whether it’s jumping or dressage, she always brings her lunch pail,” Smith said. “She’ll try her heart out for you. She’s sensitive but sensible, she really wants to please you and will really, really try to do whatever you ask of her.”
They are preparing to step up to First Level dressage next year and are also training to debut in three-day eventing. The strong, friendly mare is finding her stride in more ways than one.
“She retired sound from racing and was able to repurpose into a whole other line of work, which is paying dividends for me right now,” Smith said. “These horses are bred for racing, but maybe that is not the right job for them – but they still have tremendous athletic ability. It’s just finding the right avenue to express it.”
In addition to dressage competition and three-day eventing, Smith is hoping to find an opportunity to qualify in jumping events for the AQHA World Championship Show and bring his second-career star under the lights of the premier Quarter Horse show.
“I’m really looking forward to our future together,” he said.
Second Career Stars is an ongoing series on retired racing American Quarter Horses in new careers. If you know of a horse that should be featured, write to email@example.com. AQHA News and information is a service of the American Quarter Horse Association. For more news and information, follow @AQHA Racing on Twitter, “like” Q-Racing on Facebook, and visit www.aqha.com/racing.