You never forget the name of your first lesson horse – that horse who taught you what you need to know to work with every one that follows.

In this series, participants throughout the Thoroughbred industry share the names and stories of the horses that have taught them the most about life, revealing the limitless ways that horses can impact the people around them. Some came early on in their careers and helped them set a course for the rest of their lives, while others brought valuable lessons to veterans of the business.

Question: Which horse has taught you the most about life?

Graham Motion

Graham Motion, trainer: “Probably Flatterer was the most important to me at that stage. I was very young, I was straight out of high school, and I ended up looking after him. The responsibility, the work ethic, the success, the traveling – I did that all with him. He was an incredibly important horse, and I was just lucky to come around when he was at Jonathan (Sheppard)’s.

“He carried the most weight ever (by a winning horse in a steeplechase race). Not only that, he was such a brave horse. We ran him in the French Champion Hurdle, and I’ve never seen a horse as tired as he was after that race. He was kind of out of it when he was cooling out, because I think he was just that tired. To see a horse try that hard can have an incredible effect on you.

“I didn’t ride him. At Jonathan’s, we all did everything, but I sort of became his groom. We didn’t really have set horses like we do at the track, but I ended up looking after him because he was very important. He traveled a lot, and I got to travel with him. Betsy Wells, who was Jonathan’s assistant, and at the end of the day, I would put him on the cross ties in the barn, and I would just take care of him. I learned a lot about taking care of horses, wrapping his legs. That was kind of my job at the end of the day, every day.

“He’s been lost in the shuffle a little bit because the money’s so much better than it was then, but he did so many amazing things. He was an amazing horse.”

About Flatterer
1979, h, Mo Bay x Horizontal, by Nade

Flatterer was the top North American steeplechase horse of the 1980s, earning the Eclipse Award as champion steeplechaser each year from 1983 to 1986. He raced as a Pennsylvania homebred for trainer Jonathan Sheppard and owner William L. Pape, and he started his career on the flat, where he was a multiple allowance winner at Keystone Race Track.

He was moved to the jumps at the beginning of his 4-year-old campaign, where he won at first asking. Flatterer would go on to win 13 stakes races as a steeplechaser, including four runnings of the Colonial Cup at Camden. Even back-breaking imposts couldn’t hold Flatterer down, posting three wins carrying 170 pounds or more, topped by a record 176 pounds in the 1986 National Hunt Cup.

Flatterer was also competitive overseas, where he finished second in the 1986 French Champion Hurdle. He was runner-up a year later in the English Champion Hurdle.

Flatterer retired with 24 wins in 52 starts for earnings of $534,854. He was named to the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame in 1994, and he died in 2014 at age 35.

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