Lara Schwartz wasn’t looking to buy a horse when she came across a video of the Retired Racehorse Training Project candidates online in January 2012.
As an adult amateur with two jobs in Washington D.C., Schwartz had enough on her plate. But then she saw Brazilian Wedding float across her screen. “About a minute into it, I saw Brazil and decided I needed to buy her,” she said. “She just had everything, including that sense of ‘Wow, this is the one I’ve been looking for.’ ”
“Brazil”, who raced 35 times before retiring, had been nominated to participate in the RRTP by her owner, Pat Dale of Three Plain Bays farm in Conowingo, Md. The then-6-year-old mare was chosen as one of four off-the-track Thoroughbreds to participate in the challenge, which paired trainers up with promising prospects in an effort to promote OTTBs.
Each trainer was given a month to work with their horse before they demonstrated their newfound knowledge at the Maryland Horse World Expo and the Pennsylvania Horse World Expo. Brazil (Milwaukee Brew—Lady In Tails, Black Tie Affair) was paired up with eventer Eric Dierks and crowned the winner in the final in February.
Then, the mare returned to Dale’s farm to spend some down time in the field. But Schwartz couldn’t get the video of the gray mare out of her head. “She was the whole package,” she said. “She has an uphill build and I really liked her gaits. I think the ‘x’ factor is incredibly important. What really nailed it for me was a moment in the video where she just stood for a conformation shot and she was looking out and she had ‘the look.’ She has very expressive eyes and ears.”
After a couple of months of what Schwartz described as “stalking” Brazil on the “Coming Soon” section of Dale’s website, she emailed Dale and asked if the mare was for sale. As soon as she came on the market, Schwartz was first in line and by June, she had her dream horse.
She kept Brazil at Dale’s farm for another month of turn-out then moved her to Waredaca Farm in Laytonsville, Md. to begin a training program with eventer Stephanie Butts. Schwartz currently has two day jobs, one in the civil rights field where she works in communications, networking and advocacy, and as a professor in the Department of Government at American University (D.C.).
Schwartz joked that she needs a “middle-aged lady horse”, and although Brazil is green, she’s taken to her job. “She won some races, but she’s perfectly willing to take the likes of me, a middle-aged person with a day job, pretty happily,” she said. “When you engage her and ride her correctly she just floats. She’s light in the bridle, she has fantastically smooth gaits you can sit. She has her [green] moments, but she doesn’t spook or do something stupid. She’s definitely a horse who says, ‘Thank you for making me go around this rectangle, but can we please go gallop?’ ”
When her job picked up again this winter, she sent Brazil down to Florida with Butts to learn the ropes. Butts competed the mare in one beginner novice event successfully, then concentrated on more training. “She’s very level-headed and brave,” said Butts, 30. “She has baby horse moments, but she’ll move on and go back to work, which makes her great for her owner. She’ll be a great amateur horse.
“She loves to jump, especially the cross-country,” she continued. “It’s just been developing the flatwork. She’s big and long and kind of gangly, so it’s taken some time to grow up and develop her muscles and topline. She wants to be good. She’s got a really good head on her. She’s been really fun.”
In August, Brazil completed her first recognized novice event at Fair Hill (Md.) where she finished in 10th place with Butts in an open division.
Schwartz plans to continue riding her as often as she can and keep her in training with Butts. She’s hoping to compete her as well and while her ultimate goal is to complete a training level three-day event, she’s just as happy to hack Brazil in the countryside surrounding Waredaca.
“I’ll keep taking my lessons and doing my amateur-lady enjoyment,” she said with a laugh. “At the same time, the most fun you can really have is hacking out with friends at the barn and cantering over little logs. You never know what else I might try.”
As a devoted Thoroughbred owner, Schwartz can’t recommend the breed enough. “She’s the best horse in the world to me, but there are tons of fantastic examples out there who are as nice and can do it all,” she said. “People should really have a look because they’re really great. [Brazil] is the epitome in what you can get with an off-the-track Thoroughbred. She really demonstrates how much fun it can be to have one of these horses in their second career.”