Penzance with Alex Evans in the saddle
Image supplied by Alex Evans

Many readers will remember Penzance landing the 2005 Triumph Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.

It was a race to remember for his trainer Alan King, who commented that he thought the winning line would never arrive, as Faasel bore down on the flashy chesnut.

But Penzance, owned by Elite Club Racing, did prevail – and became one of the most popular jumps horses in training.

Now aged seventeen, Penzance continues to thrive in new events.

Course-Specialist was privileged to speak recently with his doting owner, Alex Evans, who meticulously re-trained him to scale new heights.

Penzance in action
Image supplied by Alex Evans

When did you get into racing and did you follow Penzance’s career?

From a young age I used to watch horse racing on the TV on a saturday as my parents used to watch it.

Then from about 8 years of age I  often went to my local track Chester with my family. Sometimes even having the afternoon off school which was an added bonus.

I joined Elite Racing Club on the 27th of February 2002 which unknowingly at the time was was Penzance’s first birthday. I followed his whole career and being a big fan of a flashy chesnut he became my favourite racehorse right from the start.

What was your own equestrian background?

My mum and my older sister both rode so as soon as I was old enough I began to ride myself. I continued to ride all through childhood, being part of the pony club and competing in most disciplines.

Penzance (right) beats Faasel in the 2005 Triumph Hurdle
Image supplied by Alex Evans

When and how did you acquire Penzance?

After following Penzance for a number of years you could see that his heart didn’t seem to be in racing any more after some lacklustre runs. At this point I emailed Elite Racing Club to ask if he was going to be retired could I buy him. I didn’t actually dream they would agree. I then went to visit and ride Penzance to make sure we were suitable and the rest is history. I’ve been the happiest horse owner ever since.

How old was he then?

It was just before his 9th birthday.

Did you obtain him straight from racing?

Yes. He ran his last race on the 20th of December 2008 and he was living with me by February 2009.

Had he already been re-trained or is that something you have undertaken?

I re-trained Penzance myself which took patience and time but was definitely worth it. It helped that he was a pretty laid-back character and wanted to please.

Where is he based? Is he with other horses?

I live on a farm in Shropshire so he lives here  along with four horses and two ponies, so he has plenty of company.

Penzance in his racing days
Image supplied by Alex Evans

Had you owned an ex-racehorse before Penzance?

No. Penzance is the first ex-racehorse I’ve owned.

How would his diet differ from his racing days?

An ex-racehorse straight out of training, will have been used to a high energy, low fibre diet, consuming large amounts of concentrate feed, whilst often only being fed relatively small volumes of forage. It would have been a high energy, low fibre diet.

Penzance now has a high fibre diet and a lot more haylage than he would have had as a racehorse. He also has chaff, sugar beet and  slow energy releasing cubes, which contain vitamins and minerals. Penzance also spends a lot more time in a field than he would have done as a racehorse.

How tractable was he when he first arrived?

Penzance was very amenable from the moment he arrived with me. For the first six months all I  did with him was hack out around the lanes, with the other horses, to give him time to adjust to a new life away from racing.

I then began to re-school him, where he had to learn new aids and a new way of being ridden.

Although at first he did not understand what I was asking with some of the aids,  he was always so willing to try without throwing any strops!

How does a racehorse differ in terms of power and temperament, from other horses?

Racehorses have a reputation for being crazy though I have found this to be completely untrue.

Of course there will always be the odd one who is rather hot to handle, but that is true with any breed.

I have found they have a strong work ethic. They love to be on the go, doing something. They are highly intelligent and want to be mentally stimulated. They want to know their job and be allowed to get on with it.

When riding one you can feel the athletic power beneath you.

Thoroughbreds are very sensitive compared to other breeds, they will definitely let you know when something bothers them but this is just their way of communicating with you, if they aren’t happy.

Penzance excelling in his vocation as a show jumper
Image supplied by Alex Evans

Is Penzance a quick learner? What have you taught him?

Penzance took a bit of time to learn a new way of being ridden although he was always very genuine. It took a little while to get used to the fact you sit and use  leg aids to canter instead of standing in your stirrups like jockeys do.

When we first introduced  Pen to trotting poles he thought they were a little bizarre especially if there were a few in a row. We did a lot of pole and gridwork in the beginning, as being a hurdler he was used to jumping fast and quite flat.

When we progressed to show jumps, a single jump was no issue for him, but a double was completely alien.

Having another  obstacle to jump as soon as he had landed over the first jump, was not what he had been used too!

What does a routine day consist of for Penzance now?

A routine day for Pen varies, depending on if we’re going to a competition, hack around the lanes, schooling or if I’m working, when he will spend the day with his friends in the field, before being stabled at night.

If we’re going to a competition he will have breakfast about 7am, before being groomed, dolled up and then head off to the competition. On his return he will spend a few hours in the field before being brought in for the night about half four and given his tea.

Penzance loves eventing
Image supplied by Alex Evans

What disciplines does Penzance do now?

Penzance mainly competes at Show Jumping, Arena Eventing and Hunter Trials. He loves to jump and enjoys  cross-country the best, as he can speed across fields. He has also competed at Dressage and showing in the past, but we have retired from these events as its not his forte and I think he finds it all rather tedious!

Penzance at an RoR Parade at Cheltenham
Image supplied by Alex Evans

What accolades has he achieved in his new career?

Penzance has won many rosettes in Showjumping, arena eventing and hunter trials. He has twice qualified and competed at the  Horseware National Hunter Trials Championship going clear on both occasions.

At the start of the year he also won the winter league arena eventing series at my local venue having totalled up the most points across three competitions.

We have also had the great honour of taking part in the Retraining of Racehorses parade twice at the Cheltenham Festival. Pen definitely knew where he was, getting extremely excited on both occasions!

Penzance maintains his zest for life
Image supplied by Alex Evans

Is he generally in good health at the age of seventeen?

Penzance is in very good health. He has a great zest for life and is a keen as ever to be getting out and about.

What do you enjoy most about owning Penzance?

I feel extremely honoured to own a horse as amazing as Penzance. I adore his kind, genuine and loveable temperament. He is a complete pleasure to ride, a perfect gentleman. He always makes you smile. He really is my dream horse.