Free Dubai was welcomed into the world in late March 2005, a spicy chestnut son of prominent Mid-Atlantic sire E Dubai and full of promise. A little more than four years and 18 starts later - races at Laurel Park and Colonial Downs - Free Dubai racked up just two victories and compiled earnings of $45,641.
His victories were a 12-length maiden romp on the dirt and a 3-length score in an allowance-optional as a 2-year-old. He raced in similar allowance company without success in 2008 before dropping into the claiming ranks in 2009, running for as little as a $5,000 tag before he was retired. Merida Arch Miller, a designer for Under Armour, adopted Free Dubai a few years later and describes the gelding as the sport horse of a lifetime.
Miller bought Free Dubai in 2013 from Full Moon Farm in Maryland to become her new event horse, after he had spent a year in training at the facility. The original plan was for "Rocky," as he's called at the barn, to become a lesson horse. His spunk and readiness to learn proved to be a bit more than most pony pal riders were capable of handling, so plans changed.
Miller eventually decided to creatively rename him Tsavo, named for a town in Kenya she visited and known for its red clay dirt, and after she saw the gelding's brilliant, gleaming copper coat, she knew it would be the perfect fit. A famous story about the town of Tsavo also exists, one that involves two maneless lions visiting night after night, regardless of the town's tactics to keep them out. She loved the story, and saw a lot of parallel determination and willingness to attack the jumps in her bolt little chestnut.
Miller and Tsavo competed in multiple recognized and unrecognized Beginner Novice events in 2014, with a successful second-place finish at Plantation Horse Trials to end their season. They're shooting for the Novice Waredaca Three-Day Event in October, needing four qualifying Novice scores before then. Miller is hopeful that they will be able to progress to at least Preliminary eventing, all while "tearing up a ton of cross country courses, [his favorite phase] in the meantime."
Miller describe Tsavo as a hilarious, cocky, muddy firecracker and is the best partner she could ask for. He is an exhilarating, blast of a ride and she said he often dances around at the finish line of cross-country, eager for more. She's been working on slowing him down through the jumping phases, as he gets excited during the course, but is thankful that he is so willing to eat up anything that is put in front of him.
Tsavo also is quite the show off, too, and the two participate in what Miller calls "horse dancing," where she runs around the ring and he happily follows, flagging his tail and snorting in delight.
Tsavo, a model of an off the track Thoroughbred (OTTB) enjoying success in a second career and he and his owner have also become celebrities of sorts. The success - in a relatively short amount of time - got the attention of the riding apparel Kerrits, which award the duo an ambassadorship because of their dedication and for representing the brand.
Shayna Tiller, a native of Laurel, Md., is an active equestrian who competes in eventing, hunter/jumpers, dressage, fox hunting and polo. She is a freshman at the University of Maryland majoring in animal sciences-equine studies.