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Stories about your favorite retired racehorses. For archived stories, click here.

Talk about a tough act to follow. Ron’s Partner, a son of Partner’s Hero and the Norquestor mare Vee Vee Star, came into this world April 15, 2004. That was the year his older half-brother, Declan’s Moon, took the West Coast by storm.

Purchased from Fasig-Tipton Midlantic’s fall yearling sale in 2003 for $125,000 by Jay Em Ess Stable, Declan’s Moon won all four starts in his freshman season – a Del Mar maiden and three consecutive graded stakes to clinch the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male.

In human-athlete terms, it was akin to an older brother winning the Heisman Trophy while young Ron had yet to touch a football. High hopes and expectations understandably accompanied Ron’s Partner’s early days.

In three seasons and 20 starts, he never came close to his celebrated sibling. It took 14 starts to break his maiden as a 5-year-old at Laurel Park in December 2009 – his only win. Racing for breeder Brice Ridgely’s Spring Meadow Farm and trainers Jann Anderson and Donald Barr, Ron’s Partner ran until age 6, his last start for a $5,000 tag at Charles Town July 17, 2010. He stumbled out of the gate and finished last, retiring with a record of 20-1-2-2 and $20,822 banked.

OK, so he wasn’t Declan’s Moon. But Ron’s Partner – rechristened “Ron Juan” – found his jam as an event horse, and his story is still being told by Kirsten Knull and her daughter Scarlett “Scout” Knull.

“We purchased Ron from Emma Jones-Cesari in the spring of 2019,” Kirsten said. “Emma had gotten Ron off the track and diligently and expertly retrained him for horse trials. She competed him up through intermediate [level] successfully.”

Jones-Cesari sold him to a rider who returned him, finding him too much to handle. She kept him in training and searched for a better match.

Meanwhile, Scout Knull was competing “a hilariously naughty and very forward pony that had a reputation for bolting with kids,” with Scout being the exception. When the time came to graduate to a horse, Scout had plenty of seasoning and the fearlessness of youth. Her then-instructor, Ashley Adams, thought Ron’s Partner would be a suitable next step for her 10-year-old student.

“Ashley has an incredible sense for which horses belong with which humans,” Kirsten said.

Ron’s Partner was the first horse the Knulls looked at for Scout. “He was the first horse I ever rode,” said Scout, who turns 14 this year.

“It took one ride for Scout to know that he was the one,” Kirsten said. “They started slowly in the ring on the flat, everyone holding their breath a little. They were amazing together. Then they jumped and actually went out on to cross-country that very first ride. That was it. A team was made.”

They bought him right away.

“Ron isn’t a horse for everyone,” Scout said. “He has an opinion and a big personality. He grumbles loudly when he is working and is very particular about who grooms him and how. Even though he is picky about his cues and makes me work for it, he is an amazing partner and has taught me so much. He takes care of me, and I take care of him.”

They qualified for the American Eventing Championships in 2021 and 2022 and won the United States Pony Club Jumping Championship (3-foot-3) at the Kentucky Horse Park in 2021. Their most recent adventure was learning about the classic three-day event format alongside the likes of professionals Buck Davidson, Daniela Moguel, Dorothy Crowell and others in Ocala, Fla. Former U.S. Equestrian Team member Crowell offered plenty of praise. 

“Partnered with her horse Ron, Scout was consistently in the top 10 in a large competitive field throughout all six phases of the educational three-day,” she said. “More importantly, she was interested and engaged throughout the entire six days of education and competition. Scout is an articulate and effective advocate for her sport. She and Ron have a great future in eventing and the work ethic to continue to thrive.”

The Knulls keep their horses at home on a small family farm in Manakin-Sabot, Va., northwest of Richmond in Goochland County. For two years, Scout has worked with trainer Emily Beshear.

“Emily is simply gifted,” said Kirsten. “There is no other way to say it. Emily and Scout partner to have a consistent lesson and riding program so that both Scout and Ron are properly fit mentally and physically. Eventing is serious and can be dangerous. I am very grateful for the selfless, ego-free way Emily is truly caring for the accuracy and quality of the ride, results and partnership.”

The plan for 2023 is to move up to the modified level, created by the U.S. Eventing Association in 2017 as a bridge between training and preliminary. Typical obstacles – commonly referred to as “questions” – on cross country are angled lines, corners, varied terrain and combinations with water or narrow fences. The maximum height of cross-country and show jumping fences is 3-foot-5. Show jumping courses include two doubles or a double and triple combination. The dressage test at modified level requires leg yield, medium gaits and changes of lead through the trot. 

Somewhat bittersweet is the knowledge that Ron’s Partner, now 19, will top out at this level. Scout knows she’ll have a tough time finding a replacement, and hopes to keep him at home for a well-deserved retirement “because he’s my horse.”

The little brother became a star after all.

“Accomplishing all these amazing things with him has made me appreciate this sport more than ever,” Scout said. “Every day when I go out to ride, I see Ron dancing around with my two Dalmatian puppies, Calvin and Hobbes. It brings so much joy to our little farm to have happy moments like those.”

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