Kiwi thoroughbred Shaun has seen a lot of life, and Kansas owner Deb Johnson believes it’s time for him to add another chapter to his remarkable story.
Shaun is a well-travelled horse who has seen good times and bad.
Last year, he was saved from kill pens in Washington state thanks to the generosity of Horsetalk readers, and is now enjoying life on the farm of the Johnsons, who live two hours west of Kansas City, near a small town called Westmoreland.
Shaun was born in North Canterbury, New Zealand, in 1999 and trained for his racing career on a wide and sandy local beach. He was by the respected stallion Simon Snorkel out of a McGinty mare.
His breeders were Chris Rowe and Michael Stokes, whose wife, Tarsha, trained him.
Shaun took to the track as Cusack – named after the actor, John Cusack.
Rowe and Stokes raced him on their own account for a racing record that included four wins, two seconds and three fourth placings. He won his first start as a three-year-old and won three races in a row. He liked to race back in the field before swooping, his connections said.
Shaun was then was sold to interests in California in 2007, but his US career was brief. He raced from May to August 2007, for a first, two seconds, and a third. Shaun also raced in southern Canada for a time, before it appears a leg injury ended his career.
The few years after that remain a mystery, but in May last year he ended up in kill pens at a Washington sale yards, thin and down on his luck.
Horsetalk readers raised enough money to buy Shaun and ship him half way across the United States to the Kansas home of Deb, who was determined to give Shaun a future.
Shaun has since blossomed into a fine horse. “He is in amazing shape.”
Deb had hopes of a career in competitive trail-riding for Shaun, but her own health has proved the main impediment.
Ongoing problems with an old back injury have severely curtailed her riding.
“I ride my mare,” she says, “but in this last week I have been in too much pain to ride.
“We all feel we have forever, and by sheer will, we can overcome anything. After spending the day in the hospital Thursday, and in bed all week, reality is here.
“I’m hoping to ride for a while to come, but I am only able to ride the most gentle of horses.”
She now feels Shaun needs to go to someone who can ride him and give him a purpose.
“With heavy heart, I am looking for someone who will be all this horse deserves,” Deb says.
“Just hanging out with the girls is not enough for him, anymore.”
She says he is sound, filled out, healthy and barefoot.
“The shy, scared horse that came to me is gone, replaced by a very lovely soul, incredible mind, and energy that astounds me. He is pretty amazing.
“I love him, dearly. It was my intention to bring him along if he should blossom this way, but my back injury prevents me from doing much these days.
“I think he needed this time to heal, and has turned into a lovely horse. His body looks good, he is moving well, and I am so pleased that he is comfortable barefoot. That was a long road, in of itself. His feet were once so bad, I cannot believe he is doing so well.”
The vet and chiropractor have pronounced him sound, she says.
His diet consists of soaked hay and alfalfa pellets – “he gets choke because he’s a piggy” – Formula4feet supplement and MSM.
He also has permanent access to pasture and hay.
“He did have to be treated for ulcers when he got here and I think if he had to go back to those meager, twice-a-day hay feedings, he would probably get them again.
“I don’t want to undo all the good work that is happened here. He has never needed a blanket, but has worn one once, reluctantly, more for my benefit than his.
“He’s a sensitive guy, so you can direct his feet with just a thought. He responds with the smallest of asks, and is a very willing learner. If he doesn’t do what you ask, it’s because he just didn’t understand the question.
“I think he’s probably going to be best with someone that has a good sense of self and clear intent. Getting mean, strong or bigger will get you nowhere with this horse. A whisper will do, just fine. He’s been very responsive to liberty training. He adores clicker training!
“I’m very clear with my boundaries with him. I can see him taking advantage of someone who tends to treat horses like a golden retriever.
“He does not like doing mindless circles, and I do not lunge him. He loves moving his feet with purpose, but you need to be engaged with him as much as he is with you.
“He knows how it can be, so his human needs to step up and use good, natural horsemanship,” Deb says.
He seems to enjoy free jumping quite a bit, and goes out of his way in the pasture to hop over downed trees.
“I don’t see any limits to what he might do, but it would take getting to know him under saddle to see what he would be best suited for. I get the feeling he would really enjoy fox hunting. He’s a cat guy; not really into dogs.”
Deb is determined to find Shaun a home beyond the confines of a small corral, box stall and occasional turnout.
“He knows freedom now. I think it would break his heart and soul to go back to that life of confinement.”
“It is time for him to continue his journey with someone who can match his energy and exuberance.”
Anyone who believes they can give Shaun the future he deserves should email Deb on email@example.com. Horsetalk will be keen to follow his journey as Shaun spreads his wings from a career on the racetrack.