One-eyed Suffolk Downs T-bred lands softy in Vt

Rusty lost an eye in a race, but managed to find the perfect home anyway. Photo by Margo Palmer

Rusty lost an eye in a race, but managed to find the perfect home anyway. Photo by Margo Palmer

A racehorse who lost an eye in a freak accident on the track found an owner this month who was willing to look past his damaged face to the heart of a beautiful “old soul.”

“I’ve taken on horses that some people might not want my whole life,” says Tara Girard, owner of Safe Haven Farm of Vermont. “And when I first saw Rusty (Jockey Club: Four Fs and a D), I thought he’s going to be fine. He immediately had his nose in my hair, and was the sweetest thing going, and I thought, this is what I do: we take horses like this.”

The bright chestnut ex-racehorse left Suffolk Downs this month and traveled hundreds of miles with T-bred Mrsmargie, to settle into the picturesque countryside of northern Vermont.

Four Fs and a D
Barn name: Rusty
Sire: Full Mandate, by A.P. Indy
Dam: Black Hawk Beach
Foal date: Jan. 21, 2007
That one fine Thoroughbred was adopted from Suffolk Downs as it closed its doors forever was one thing, but for the chestnut beauty, missing an eye and less adoptable because of it, to find such a happy fate, well, this was the kind of ending that horse advocates like Ellen O’Brien dream about.

O’Brien, the founder of CANTER New England, had privately worried that Rusty would not find a home. “He’s a stunningly beautiful horse,” she says. “He’s a big, 16-hand, old-style Thoroughbred who seems to have an old soul. But when he turns his head, and you see his missing eye, it’s heartbreaking.”

Rusty lost his eye in a race when the shoe of another horse flew off, hit him in the head, and sliced his eye, she says. Half blind now, and with a rugged 47-start race record under his belt, she fretted that the agreeable gelding had slim chances of landing a new home. So when Girard arrived from Vermont to adopt Mrsmargie, O’Brien took a chance, and suggested she go take a peek at Rusty too.

Rusty (JC: Four Fs and a D) and Mrsmargie came off the track at Suffolk Downs and landed at a Vermont farm.

Rusty (JC: Four Fs and a D) and Mrsmargie came off the track at Suffolk Downs and landed at a Vermont farm.

“Tara told me they had another spot and asked if I could recommend another horse. I told her yes, there’s a gorgeous a horse, but he has an eye issue. I told them to go see him, and don’t look at his eye first, but look at the whole thing, and to call me,” O’Brien says. “She called me a few minutes later” from his barn “ and said she adored him, and was pretty blasé about the eye.”

To Girard, Rusty’s eye isn’t gross at all. It is a battle wound from an honorable career, and one that has no connection to his sharp mind and wonderful nature.

“He’s very level headed,” she says. “If something scares him, he does not bolt or take off, and instead he stays contained in his own space.”

Having known successful eventers who are blind in one eye, Girard has every confidence that Rusty has a bright future as a riding horse. She plans to start him under saddle soon, and prepare him to be a lesson horse at her farm. “I’m hoping that Rusty and Mrsmargie can be ambassadors for my farm, and for the breed,” she says. ♥

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7 responses to “One-eyed Suffolk Downs T-bred lands softy in Vt”

  1. Jill Jellison

    I am glad to see Rusty has a good home, I took care of him at a farm during the winter months 🙂

  2. Lori

    I have an OTTB who is blind in one eye. He has learned to adapt and is a fantastic horse! If there comes a time that he needs to have the eye removed, it will not impact my love for him. He’s the best! I’m so thrilled for Rusty!

  3. Ellen O'Brien

    Thank you Susan for writing this story–and sharing his appeal with the broader equine community! A special horse, a special home–nothing could be more inspiring!!!

  4. Louise Martin

    Another beautiful love story! Thank you Susan and best of luck and love to Tara and her horses!

  5. Sandy Carr

    I’ll tell you….some horses with one eye see better than those with two! Thanks to everyone for getting Rusty the home he deserved! Happy story!

  6. Michelle Y.

    He is such a beautiful looking horse! Thank you Tara for saving him and Mrsmargie!!

  7. Candi Cooper-Towler

    Thank you for more inspiration for me and my half-sighted OTTB!

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