Life After Racing: Leading the Way

Art History’s post-racing career has taken a different track

by Megan Rider

Art History has a story as varied as the strokes on a canvas. After a racing career spanning 11 seasons, the Pennsylvania-bred son of Western Ideal has found his true calling as a steadfast companion and track pony for his owner, Natalie Cowan. And though his racing days may have been marked by unpredictability, Art History now paints a picture of stability and loyalty in his life after racing.

Cowan first encountered Art History when he was under the care of trainer Jenn Bongiorno in 2021, and her determination to bring him into her own barn led her on a journey through the pacer’s various trainers and eventually landing with Peter Fusco at Gaitway Farm, in Manalapan, N.J. Under Fusco’s guidance, Cowan was given the opportunity to jog and pamper Art, who relished the attention. After pleading with her trainer to either purchase or claim him, Cowan finally acquired him for herself.

Cowan has had a lifelong passion for horses. Growing up in the heart of southern New Jersey, she did not live far from the now-defunct Atlantic City Race Course, a Thoroughbred track in Mays Landing, N.J. She began her journey with horses in 4-H, as her parents surprised her with her first horse when she was just 7 years old.

As she honed her skills, Cowan’s reputation as a reliable hand in the barn grew, leading to opportunities to assist with training. And her passion for horses remained unwavering even while balancing a full-time job in health care with her studies. When the pandemic disrupted her university coursework in 2020, she seized the chance to dedicate herself fully to training. It was during this period that she discovered her deep affinity for Standardbreds.

Cowan’s journey into Standardbred training began alongside mentors like Julius Czermann and Victoria D’Alessandro, who provided her with invaluable learning experiences. One memorable opportunity arose when Czermann entrusted her with pacing gelding Maajaackkobe, marking a significant milestone in her training career. Eager to absorb as much knowledge as possible, Cowan became a sponge in the barn, eagerly assisting wherever she could. Her dedication paid off as she expanded her network and found herself immersed in both the Thoroughbred and Standardbred worlds.


Currently, Cowan lives in Ocala, Fla., and works alongside her fiancé, Greg Martin, head trainer of Britton Peak, a full-service Thoroughbred bloodstock company headquartered at Oak Ridge Training Center in nearby Morristown, Fla., and Art History is their pony horse for the barn.

“I promised Art History—or Arthur, as we love to call him—one last season to race up north, as I really wanted to get him to $500,000 in earnings,” said Cowan. “We spent our final summer in the company of the most generous and amazing family, the Temmings. I qualified Art History myself and tried to see if he could compete down in Maryland.

“I had a full plate, flying back and forth constantly to New Jersey and Florida, still. I worked at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia, usually at night so I could train during the day. We still tried to race every week, but Art History just did not have the same desire as the year before. We both were exhausted, and it was time for us to start a new chapter.”

Cowan made the decision to retire Art History last season.

“He just was not grabbing on or really trying,” she said. “He was always a grumpy character, but this time he just seemed so sour. I hated sending him out there like that, so I retired him in July after 251 career starts.

“We relocated to Florida to focus on the Thoroughbreds with my fiancé at Britton Peak. Greg has been starting babies, pinhooking, and rehabbing in Ocala for four years now. The barn doubled in size this season, and we brought in about 50 yearlings. Art History has taken to ponying full-time and started all of the babies on the track with him as their pony.”


Cowan knew from the get-go that Art History would be the ideal track pony.

“Track ponies, sometimes called lead ponies, are there to lead racehorses to and from the track,” she explained. “I like to think of them as babysitters, especially for our young horses when they are first starting to go to the track. A solid pony horse is essential for a training barn. A great pony can keep a level head in situations where a racehorse may become excitable or nervous. Ponies provide a source of comfort so racehorses can settle instead of getting worked up from all the sights and sounds on the racetrack. They offer confidence in new situations where young horses may be unsure, and this keeps the riders safe, too.

“Many pony horses are former racehorses who have been exposed to everything on the track and know the routine already. They have to have a great temperament with other horses. Arthur always got along with everyone in the barn, from studs to young fillies. It’s absolutely forbidden for ponies to kick or strike out at the horses they are leading. So, having a great temperament is key. I never saw Art kick another horse; he would pin his ears and make a mean face, but that was it.”

Ironically, Cowan refers to Art History as a “total crabapple.”

“When he’s standing in the barn, he will pin his ears and fake like he is going to bite, usually only at men,” she said. “He never actually does, but it’s hysterical because he has all the guys in the barn terrified of him. Despite his attitude, his manners are impeccable, in harness or under saddle. He was an easy drive and rides like an old classy pro. He has been dubbed ‘El Champion Pony’ by the riders on the track, and everyone seems to love him.”

Art History also loves attention, and when Cowan walks up to his paddock, he runs up to her every time. If you brush or bathe him, he leans into the pressure. He lived a pretty spoiled life with Cowan as a racehorse, and she is forever grateful to be able to give him the retirement he deserves. HB


Megan Rider is a freelance writer living in New York. To comment on this story, email us at


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