A racehorse so skeletal that both the curious and concerned would drive out to see her, and marvel that an animal like that could still stand when others in her condition had died, has found both sanctuary and a young guardian angel who says the horse is “magic.”
Jo Jo’s Gypsy, a 16-hand mare weighing 758 pounds in August 2014 has blossomed into a 1,200-pound beauty who now shares her life and her fate with a 7-year-old girl who has walked along with her on every step of the mare’s tentative road to recovery.
Jo Jo’s Gypsy
Dam: Camptown Gypsy
Foal date: April 25, 2005Kaylee was only 6 years old when she accompanied her grandmother Jeanne Mirabito to have a look at the severely emaciated mare who’d been rescued from a herd of 42 horses abandoned in Kentucky, on the Bourbon County Line. Mirabito, founder of Our Mims Horse Retirement Haven for older broodmares, didn’t sugarcoat the situation. “I told her we had a very sick horse on the farm … and that the most important thing we could do for her is show her love so that if she died, she’d leave this earth knowing love,” Mirabito says.
But when they opened the door where the wretch stood nearly expressionless, something remarkable happened.
“I opened the stall door and Jo Jo was dozing and Kaylee went up to her and just touched her on the shoulder. And the mare turned her head and looked down at Kaylee and everything in her face just changed,” Mirabito recalls. “Kaylee walked around that mare and touched her as high as she could reach. She didn’t say anything for over an hour after that. And when I finally asked her what she thought she told me, ‘I think that horse needs more love than any horse I’ve seen in my whole life.’ ”
From that moment on, Kaylee and the girl were inseparable. At school, and while doing homework, all the youngster could do was worry, says the girl. “I could barely concentrate on my schoolwork I was so worried about her,” Kaylee says in a phone interview, adding that everything about Jo Jo’s Gypsy was, to her, simply “magic.”
“I never had a horse love me that much. And I love her back. She’s a great horse, she’s amazing,” Kaylee says.
And while Kaylee insists that Jo Jo’s recovery was simply magic, her grandmother does not disagree.
“Nobody expected that horse to live,” Mirabito says. “It wasn’t until we were about 65 days into it that the vets said she might possibly survive, if we could keep her from colicking.
“We had vets who drove out to see her because nobody had seen a horse in her condition still standing. And that horse stayed right by Kaylee’s side when strangers came to the farm. She treated her like a foal, and would gently move Kaylee off to one side, away from the strangers.”
In those early days, Jo Jo drank 20 gallons of water and consumed a bale or more of hay at one feeding. Her patchy skin where the hair had fallen out was treated, and Kaylee took her for short hand walks. The mare simply fell in with the child, with no halter or lead rope, as she attached herself to her little friend. And finally the mare arrived at the point where her organs were again functioning normally.
When, after many months, Jo Jo was declared out of the woods, Mirabito took the unprecedented step of placing the relatively young horse into the protection of her sanctuary for older broodmares.
Though at age 10, Jo Jo was not technically old enough to qualify for care under the terms of the rules of Our Mims Retirement Haven, Mirabito convinced her board of directors to make an exception. After exhausting other alternatives, which included shipping the horse elsewhere or taking an outside job to support her from her own funds, the board agreed in the spring that Jo Jo’s Gypsy’s days of wandering from home to home were finally at an end.
“We’re a sanctuary and we promised her a forever home,” Mirabito says. “She can be our spokeshorse, to show all the world that a horse can go through all of this and still be a loving, kind animal. Jo Jo’s story shows the heart of the Thoroughbred, and that though they’re called mean and crazy and so many things, it’s not true.”
Jo Jo’s Gypsy: a typical Thoroughbred who made an atypical recovery with the help of a redheaded angel.