“Thin, rank and dangerous” was how a Thoroughbred named after a famous military sniper came shooting back into their lives.
Mawhinney, the son of famous sire Scat Daddy, and named for Vietnam soldier Chuck Mawhinney, had the long- haired appearance of a disaffected war veteran when Kathryn and Christian Currey claimed back their horse from Mountaineer Race Track two years ago.
Hiding in the back of his stall with an attitude that said ‘go away,’ the plain bay was thin and a bit gun shy when he was plucked from his 9-race career and turned loose on the couple’s Tennessee property, River Circle Farm.
“He was like the wild horses in the Man from Snowy River. I would just watch him from my home-office window, but I couldn’t go out in his field because he would try to attack,” Kathryn Currey says. “He’d literally run up and try to hurt someone. He wasn’t malicious, but he’d run you over.”
Sire: Scat Daddy
Dam: Woodthrush, by Woodman
Foal date: April 28, 2009From her home-office window, where Currey worked on Farm Vet, a family business, founded by her World Cup equestrian husband, she studied the horse as he grazed. Up to this point, Mawhinney had left a wake of mild destruction. Under saddle, he often reared, bolted, or scooted dangerously.
“Everybody was scared of him,” she says.
So, about six weeks after giving birth to her second child Currey decided that if anybody were going to ride Mawhinney, it would be her.
“My husband came to me and said, ‘You know Mawhinney is waiting for you.’ And, I said I wasn’t ecstatic to work with the resident bully, but I knew he was too young to retire, and he needed a purpose in his life,” she says.
Soon after that, Currey and Mawhinney teamed up. She had some wild rides: “He’d buck, he’d run, he’d scoot,” she says. “Every time he did it though I’d ride him longer. So he’d go for a 30-minute ride to 45 minutes. If he wanted to run, I’d say, OK, you can run for 10 minutes. But you’re still going to do the work.”
Throughout bucking bronco routines and rearing episodes, Currey knew she had to stay on. If she quit, he would not respect her, she says.
Though he learned quickly, he still had a few tricks up his sleeve. When they debuted at a horse show in Traverse City in July, he careened wildly in the schooling ring, nearly “wiping out’ half the hunter/jumper ring, she says. “I was so embarrassed! I did an emergency dismount, lunged him, and got back on.”
And then, in November, all of the grit and determination paid off.
The pair won a little jumper class at a Brownland Farm horse show in Tennessee. “He’s quirky. You can’t school him the schooling ring. But put him in the show ring and he’s Super Horse!”
Going forward, Currey will approach the New Year like she would a military mission. She’ll aim to get her little sharp shooter to Thoroughbred shows and work on his scope. And she will appreciate every two steps forward she takes on her cantankerous Thoroughbred.
“You read these fairy tale stories of people rescuing a horse and how the horse turns out to be the best horse in the world,” she says. “Not my horse. He was raunchy. Someone could get on him and he would rear straight up. Or you could canter him, and he’d take off like a bronco. But I knew he was too young to retire, and that he needed a purpose in his life. And so I started training him.”
And after all the chasing after racing dreams that didn’t come true, Mawhinney found that in the end, he belonged with the woman who helped bring him into this world. And who believed that underneath the bad-boy exterior was the heart of a great horse.