Secret Lives of Horses: Designed to Dazzle

by Nancy Johnson

 At 27, Designed to Dazzle, a Palomino gelding, still dazzles in appearance and action. His owner, Kathie Rindge, describes the double registered Quarter Horse/Palomino as the color of butterscotch. “He’s just beautiful all the way around,” she says. Dazzle lives with another horse, JD, at Three Runs Plantation in Aiken, along with Kathie and her husband Dana.

Kathie bought Dazzle, who was sired by Designated Hitter and out of Razzle Dazzle, just before he turned 2 at a Quarter Horse training barn in Connecticut near where she lived at the time. “I was looking for a young horse to bring along to drive and ride,” she says. “I really wasn’t looking for a Quarter Horse, but I did specifically want a Palomino.” Dazzle had not been backed yet and Kathie asked the trainer not to let anyone get on him for a few weeks until she was definite about buying him. 

The trainer agreed to her request not to break the colt, so when Kathie took him home to her 7-acre farm in Amston, Connecticut, she began his training the way she wanted to, nice and slow. “We truly grew up together,” she says.

“I didn’t want to put any weight on him until he was 4,” she continues. “Instead, we did a lot of groundwork, including driving.” Shortly after he turned 4, Kathie did a clinic with a natural horsemanship professional. “It worked out great because that was the first time Dazzle was ridden. He was totally good with it, but I was so glad to have such a perfect place to get him started under saddle.”

Kathie continued Dazzle’s driving training after she began riding him. Soon she was driving him consistently down dirt roads near her home in Connecticut. “As he got older, I began taking him on pleasure drives with a driving club. He just loved it!” Kathie and Dana especially enjoyed trips to the Rockefeller State Park. They would pack a picnic and take a long, leisurely drive through the miles of carriage trails there.

Kathie and Dazzle also competed through various driving clubs such as the Litchfield Driving Club, Connecticut Valley Driving Club and a few clubs in Massachusetts. They did driving derbies, scurry races, and three phase Combined Driving Events (CDEs). She explains that scurry races are timed events through a course of cones and two or three obstacles. A driving derby is similar to a scurry race, but is a shorter and tighter course. “The derbies were especially fun, and he was very good at them because being a Quarter Horse he’s so maneuverable. It’s like power steering plus!” The marathon phase of the CDE, with its challenging obstacles set in varied terrain, was Dazzle’s favorite. For those events, Dana served as an able navigator.

While she had trained Dazzle to become a very solid driving horse, Kathie didn’t neglect his under saddle training and the pair even started jumping. Kathie recalls a highlight, winning the 2007 Connecticut Horse Show Association year-end championship in the Long Stirrup Hunter and Long Stirrup Equitation divisions. 

Kathie and Dana moved to Aiken 2019, bringing Dazzle and an ex-harness horse, JD, with them. Since coming to Aiken, Kathie and Dazzle contested three driving derbies at Highfields, but she now considers Dazzle retired from the show world and is preparing JD to be her next partner for competitive driving. 

“I still ride and drive Dazzle regularly,” Kathie says. “I am a firm believer that if you keep them moving, they’ll last much longer.” Dazzle is something of a celebrity in Three Runs Plantation. “He is known as the best buddy horse in the neighborhood,” Kathie says. “People with green or nervous horses often ask me if Dazzle and I can accompany them on the trails because he is just totally unfazed by things that would spook most horses.” 

Dazzle is also the unofficial driving spokesman in Three Runs. Kathie has hosted several two-day driving desensitizing clinics for those in her community to help them and their horses prepare for seeing other equines on the trails pulling carts. “The first day we begin by just letting the other horses come up at their own pace to Dazzle standing with a cart. Then, they follow me around at a distance. On the second day I take them, one-on-one, out on the trails,” she explains. “It has done wonders for a lot of horses and riders and Dazzle has the patience to do it all day long.”

Kathie says Dazzle is a very affectionate horse. He’s also a talker, offering a nicker whenever he sees you. Kathie says, “He especially loves to be scratched. If you are working in his paddock, he’ll just keep coming up to you asking to be scratched and when you oblige his request, he does that funny thing horses do with their nose.”

Dazzle does have some arthritis and is on medication for Cushings Disease. “Just in the past year, he’s starting to show his age a bit,” Kathie admits. “But he’s so happy and is a ‘lifer’ here with us. I’ve loved every minute that I’ve owned him. He’s worth his weight in gold – or maybe it’s platinum!”  

The Secret Lives of Horses is a regular feature in The Aiken Horse newspaper, telling the story of a retired horse in the Aiken area, 20 years or older. Do you have an older horse that needs his or her story told? Email us!. Secret Lives is sponsored by Triple Crown Nutrition, providing nutrition beyond compare.