Cosequin Presents Aftercare Spotlight: The Giant Of A Horse With A Heart Of ‘Gold’

The world lost a giant of a horse last month, both in size and in heart. Standing every bit of 18.3 hands, “Dino” was quite possibly one of the largest American Thoroughbreds to ever grace this earth. He required a ladder for grooming, had a presence that cast its light far and wide, and attracted onlookers that soon became friends wherever he went.

A son of the great Slew o’ Gold, a large horse himself who won Grade 1 races for fun – seven of them in total – and out of the mare Wondrous Me (who also had no shortcomings in the size department), “Kenogami,” as Dino was originally named for racing purposes, was expected to be a big, sturdy horse. What his breeder, Joe Allen, didn’t expect was for his young horse to tower over his peers in a staggeringly noticeable way.

“It was while he was just 3-years-old when he first arrived in Greenwich, that he got the name ‘Dino,’” said Jean Bickley, a life-long equestrian who has worked for Allen’s cousin and noted Thoroughbred owner/breeder, Peter Brant, to help manage his stable and bloodstock holdings since the 1980s. “Dr. James Belden, his wife, Erika, and I were trying to figure out a name for him, and standing among a group of yearlings, we watched him reach up into the trees to pick leaves that none of the other horses could have come close to touching. He looked just like Dino from the Flinstones, and the name stuck.”

While the intention early on was for Dino to race, it was soon apparent that he would simply be too big for that to be a successful or safe career. Instead, he was sold to Bickley as a 3-year-old for a single dollar. Little did she know he would become her horse of a lifetime.

Bickley had grown up riding, showing as a junior and attending Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., largely to pursue her equestrian endeavors. It’s difficult not to fall in love with horse racing in a town like Saratoga Springs, and Bickley did so willingly, walking hots and galloping racehorses after college before landing the job with Brant in 1988.

“That’s how I got this job. I had a college degree, I knew horses and I knew the [racing] business. It’s a unique combination of things that just fit,” said Bickley. “In the 1980s [Peter Brant’s] White Birch was a well-known stable. To work for a true horseman, not just an owner, is amazing. Peter has a passion for the sport and the animals and he rides as well. I’ve learned a lot from him and those he’s associated with. My career is a gift and I am grateful.”

While Dino had been started under saddle, he was very much green-broke when Bickley first began working with him. And with the size and density that earned him the nickname of the world’s favorite brontosaurus-looking cartoon character, one can imagine he had the strength to match.

“Once he grew into his body, he was extremely sure-footed, especially considering how big he was, but he was also really strong,” said Bickley. “Back then Warmblood-sized tack wasn’t as readily available as it is today, so we would have to buy his girths from a shop in Virginia that carried larger sizes. For his bridle, we’d have to piece together a regular size and an over-sized bridle to fit him properly. He was so worth it though.”

Together Bickley and Dino did everything from show in the hunters in “A” shows (where he showed under the name “Jem Hill,” which had been the name of Bickley’s grandfather’s property) to combined training events, cross-country outings, hunter paces, trips to the beach and trail rides. His trailer – larger than average to suit his size – was even outfitted with his very own “Dino” license plate.

“He was such a fun horse with a larger-than-life personality and a true gentleman. While you couldn’t make him do something he didn’t want to do, there wasn’t really much out there that he didn’t want to do,” said Bickley. “Every vet, every racetrack person, everyone who would come up to meet him at shows – everyone would always say he was the biggest Thoroughbred they’d ever seen, and between his size and personality he would leave an impression on them that would last a lifetime.”

Dino towers over an otherwise normal-sized pasture mate

Dino seemed to get along with other horses just as easily as he did humans. Over the years his pasture-mates included everything from a dwarf mini named Dolly to other Thoroughbreds embarking on their second careers. As his riding and show career geared down later in life, Dino was a trusted babysitter for yearlings and older horses needing a friend, as his size and stature seemed to offer a sense of protection to horses around him.

“It’s important to help these horses find new jobs throughout their lives when the time is right,” said Bickley of Thoroughbreds retiring from racing, showing or otherwise. “It’s about being a good custodian for them through their entire lives and finding roles and jobs that suit them and give them purpose. Sometimes it takes a bit of time to help them find and transition into that spot.”

Dino had been enjoying his life of a retiree in Aiken, S.C., at Sue Sisco and Andy Miller’s Sunfield Farm. Bickley, who is based in Connecticut and also owns and shows Dino’s nephew, a former racehorse named Felton, visited him whenever she could. It was earlier in March, just a few weeks before he passed, that Bickley got to visit her old friend, not knowing for sure, but somehow sensing, it would be their final goodbye.

“I am so happy I got to spend a good hour currying him and brushing out that thick, long, gorgeous tail – which was a family trait – and feeding him carrots and treats. It made my heart sing to see him canter across the field as we came through the gate or to nicker and look up when he heard my voice,” said Bickley, before chuckling. “I’d like to think it was me, but it was likely just the treats.”

As one of the oldest-living sons of Slew o’ Gold, Dino passed away peacefully under the warm Aiken sun the morning of March 13. Once his passing was made public, Bickley received numerous notes from friends and fellow equestrians who were grieving with her over his passing.

So sorry to hear about Dino, the giant of a horse was only dwarfed by the size of his heart. He certainly was one of a kind and he had an amazing life with you.  – Daragh

I’m so sorry to hear of the passing of your most gentle giant, Dino. You were indeed blessed to have shared the life of this horse extraordinaire. You were kind enough to have let me ride your noble beast while my horse rehabbed from colic surgery. I remember sitting on him and feeling like I was on top of the world… – Claudia

So sorry to hear the news about Dino. The one thing I can say is, it was life well lived. So many incredible memories. Know that you gave him the best and he is now galloping free. RIP, Dino.  – Leslie

“All horses should be so lucky to have a forever loving home until the end, and all people should be as lucky as me to have such a great, loving animal,” said Bickley. “Rest in peace, Dino, and know that you were very, very loved.”

Name: Kenogami (Show Name: Jem Hill; Nickname: Dino)
Born: 1992
Color: Chestnut
Sire: Slew o’ Gold
Dam: Wondrous Me
Sale History: None
Race Record: 0-0-0-0
Race Earnings: $0

Jen Roytz is a marketing, publicity and comprehensive communications specialist based in Lexington, Kentucky and was recently named the Executive Director of the Retired Racehorse Project. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, her professional focus lies in the fields of equine, health care, corporate and non-profit marketing. She is the go-to food source for one dog, two cats and two off-track Thoroughbreds.

Email Jen your story ideas at [email protected] or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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