Bobby Zen

Counting the well-mannered colt’s strides as she takes him to the seven-eighths pole on a brisk Wednesday morning breeze this week at Oaklawn Park, Laura Moquett knows precisely where she wants to be. She understands how much throttle to let out and what visual markers are presenting themselves. Clocking is useful, but it is more about listening intently as she moves forward.

An accomplished horseman like Moquett relishes the routine; everyone does, but as an assistant trainer she is never shy when it comes to a good equine conundrum. In a vocation such as hers when you spend your time breaking and training Thoroughbreds to race the trade demands it.

Time

Hot Springs’s own Harry T. Rosenblum, who co-owns Time for Truth (Omaha Beach) with Cheyenne Stables, has entered that well-mannered colt this Saturday in the GI Arkansas Derby and Moquett has played an integral part in ‘Truth’s’ development.

The road to the track’s signature race has not been a cakewalk. Remember, it’s horse racing. A case in point, the 3-year-old was spooked during one of those routine workouts one morning, but according to Moquett, in situations like these what seems to be a problem can turn into an invitation for growth.

Laura Moquett breezing Time for Truth | Coady Photography

“Jogging backwards a rider got dropped,” said Moquett. “It really made him [Time for Truth] fearful because it was a surprise and it was keeping him from moving forward, so we needed to figure out a way to address it by teaching him not to be afraid. He figured it out with a little help.”

What Moquett did, along with fellow assistant Greta Kuntzweiler, was put a horse in front of the 3-year-old and show him how to move around obstacles. It seems like a simple fix. But it’s not.

The social cues and mechanisms from the saddle come from a long line of trial and error, which are based in the fundamentals of exercise riding. Moquett knows this; she’s studied it through countless hours of developing her own horseman’s database. It’s a hard drive full of experiences. In her line of work, you have to consider anatomy, kinesiology, a dab of psychotherapy, and most of all, a heavy dosage of patience to solve a horse’s Rubik’s Cube.

“You don’t get on them and just steer with your hands,” explained Moquett. “It’s about knowing their tendencies, listening and feeling their body movements. All of that comes from your legs and it has a lot to do with your weight distribution.”

Listening

The tried-and-true Socratic Method–asking a question and then receiving a response– works just fine in your garden-variety academic setting.

However, when it comes to preparing Time for Truth for Saturday’s career-defining race, what you really need is someone who understands a horse’s language.

Laura Moquett on her shedrow rounds | JN Campbell

Someone who whispers to them? Sure, but it’s equally important to know how to listen. Laura Moquett is one of those listeners.

With an intuitive sense for animals which she had from a very young age, Moquett has honed her skills over the years working with Thoroughbreds around racetracks and after they have retired.

As an assistant to husband Ron Moquett, Time for Truth’s conditioner, the question she asked when the Thoroughbred first arrived as a juvenile last year is the same one she issues to any member of the barn: “How can this colt move forward?”

“I like a good fixer,” Moquett said with a smile. “Maybe Ron understands that most of all, but what I am trying to do is guide energy. Horses can feel a fly, so what we do is help manage their senses by listening to what they tell us.”

Origins

Ron Moquett met his future wife on the backstretch while the two worked under trainer Bernie Flint in the mid-1990s. He understood early on what a natural gift for horsemanship she possessed and how equine athletes responded to her.

“Laura can find ways to get along with some of the toughest horses,” Ron Moquett said. “Instead of making them perform a task, her connection to them–all animals really–is just incredibly special and she gets into their psyche by adapting to their own ideology.”

Time for Truth with groom Jose Espinoza | Coady Photography

Laura Moquett says there’s a complex and evolving dialogue between the horses and the humans who care for them. Grooms, hotwalkers, van drivers, and of course, exercise riders all gravitate to a certain type of equine athlete.

“Oh, we’ve all got a type, everyone in this barn does,” she said. “For me, I like a big-ass colt with an attitude.”

Assistant Greta Kuntzweiler agreed, but she works well with a different sort.

“Give me the nutty filly or the cranky old gelding,” she said.

Truth

As an integral member of Moquett Racing, Kuntzweiler guided Time for Truth, along with her mentor Laura Moquett, over the course of the past several months as the colt prepared for each new obstacle. Once he broke his maiden on the last day of the year, the dark bay out of the Lookin At Lucky mare Shape Shifter had to endure time off due to a frozen second half of January, which caused his workout regimen to be altered.

An unlucky stall accident the week of the GII Rebel S. waylaid his next start, but the team behind him kept him on course. Time for Truth successfully traversed the two-turn conundrum against optional claimers at Oaklawn earlier this month, which set up the opportunity to enter the starting gate this Saturday.

“Working with Laura and Ron over the years, I’ve learned to take on challenges one step at a time, really watch how she develops the ones who need the most help,” Kuntzweiler said. “Ninety-nine percent of the time, the answer is to go forward.”

Already at Churchill Downs for the coming meet, the assistant trainer credits Moquett with teaching her everything she knows. That’s a high compliment coming from a former jockey who rode competitively, and continues to evolve.

“When my business [as a jockey] began to dry up, it was time to start thinking about a new direction and watching Laura work has really helped me add a whole new dimension to my own bag of tricks,” she said.

Greta Kuntzweiler aboard Time for Truth | courtesy of Robert Yates

Tricks

Moquett began to expand said bag when she started show jumping with OTTBs–like MGISW Whitmore (Pleasantly Perfect)–who can start new careers once their days racing and breeding are over. What she learned through this whole other universe was a different kind of problem-solving, which got her to look more inwardly at the horse–like a football player who takes ballet.

“Education in the jumping has helped my training by understanding body mechanics,” she said. “That has made me rethink how I approach 2-year-olds when they first hit the track, and it also makes me think about how we communicate with our own riders.”

Moquett is especially in-tune when it comes to checking a horse’s legs every morning for any issues and looking for social cues during training. Communicating those observations to her husband and also to the jockeys, like Time for Truth’s regular rider Rafael Bejarano, is an essential part of the conduit of information. It only adds to a jockey’s toolbox.

“Greta is the one who has done such a wonderful job of talking to jockeys and doing it in such a way that is constructive,” said Moquett. “That really shows her attention to detail. Rafael was the first to hear about Time for Truth’s new ability to pass, and that will give him the confidence to make the right decision during Saturday’s race when the moment comes.”

Time for Truth with Rafael Bejarano up | Coady Photography

Saturday

Can someone with Moquett’s background and training history over decades of development lead Time for Truth to a win in the Arkansas Derby?

Moquett offers a practical response.

“All we can answer is the question of is our horse ready?” she said. “Everyone in this barn is forward first and what this is about is running his best race. What we have done is get this specific horse to run in a specific way. He has the mind and the temperament. The rest is up to him. I will tell you though, Saturday can’t come soon enough.”

Laura Moquett might be a self-described creature of the backside much more than the front, but what she has continued to showcase with her professionalism and penchant for solving equine puzzles makes her a horseman through and through.

She will keep searching for the next good fixer or, like in the case of Time for Truth, another big-ass colt.

The post Laura Moquett’s Search For A ‘Good Fixer’ On The Eve Of The Arkansas Derby appeared first on TDN | Thoroughbred Daily News | Horse Racing News, Results and Video | Thoroughbred Breeding and Auctions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Got questions? Please complete the form below and we’ll get back to you asap.

Join Bobby's Newsletter

Enter your email to sign up for Bobby’s newsletter get new racing tips right in your inbox.