XENIA — Dave Elliot began working with horses on the Greene County Fairgrounds when he was 12 years old. He now owns the winning Ohio Breeders Championship horse – Cupcake.
“There’s an old saying in this business – ‘if you short the horse, you short yourself,’” Elliot said. “That’s what I live by. There’s days when I’m whipped and I’ll consider not doing something (for the horses), but I know better so I get up and do it.”
When he first began his work with horses, he would hot walk them after races for another local horseman. He later decided to purchase his own, and currently is in ownership of Crosswin Standard Bred Farm near Spring Valley and has trained, boarded and raced plenty of horses in-between.
“I’m retired and I do this because I like doing it,” he said. “I’ve been lucky – I went to a sale and saw this [horse] I really liked, so I bought her. She’s the one who has given me all these cross-win horses.”
Cupcake, who earned her name from Elliot’s wife, is the sister of another horse he owns, previously raced and earned winning titles with. Although Elliot initially wanted to call the horse “CC” instead of Cupcake, he said he has fun with the name and now enjoys it. He feels that she was slow to start in terms of training in the beginning of her race horse career, but describes her as something special.
He said when she sees the trailer before a race, she knows what’s coming. Within Cupcake’s 3-year-old career, she received the winning title of the Ohio Breeders Championship by four-to-five minutes, and will run in the Ohio State Fair race early in August. The championship race for horses of her age, which will bring home more than $200,000, will take place in September.
He feels that individuals wishing to enter into the horse business must truly love it in order to succeed. He works with the horses seven days per week beginning at 5:30 a.m. and spends his time feeding, shoeing, grooming, jogging, utilizing veterinarians if needed and training the animals.
“They’re just like kids, you worry about them the same,” he said. “You go to bed at night, and if the horse isn’t doing something right you stay up and try to figure out why. They can’t talk to you, so you have to figure it out. It’s got to be something that you like doing or you couldn’t do it.”
He enjoys seeing foals, or baby horses, grow up, and has a preference for filly’s, or female horses, as well. He feels that filly’s can be more sensitive in comparison to male horses, and owners can “hurt their feelings” sometimes – but Elliot said he has always had a way of connecting with them and building their confidence. He estimates that he’s seen “a couple hundred” horses grow from babies to adults within his lifetime.
“I like young horses because I like breaking them and getting them going, watching them develop into different stages of their life,” he said. “When you first get them (babies), they’re trying to kick and bite you – they’re not ready to go to work, but that’s what I like.”
The horse business will sometimes attach superstitions to races, and Elliot is no exception to this rule. He never gives horses haircuts the same day a race takes place, leaves a clean stall, is sure to not have anything attached to the end of pitchforks and leaves money be that he would happen to find on the ground on race day.
In addition to being a horseman, Elliot is also a member of the fair board and executive fair board. Before Elliot joined the fair board six-to-seven years ago, it lacked input from a horseman. Since, multiple other horsemen have joined, and Elliot has seen more maintenance and events scheduled on the fairgrounds with the horses in mind.
“I enjoy doing it,” Elliot said. “If you didn’t, you couldn’t stay in this business because it gets a little rough.”