Two years after first laying her hands on the skeletal frame of a mare with slim odds, a young girl who stood by the abandoned Thoroughbred when so many hadn’t, squared her shoulders this past weekend and marched into the Kentucky Horse Park leading the thrown-away Thoroughbred; winners before they even entered.
Jo Jo’s Gypsy, an 11-year-old Thoroughbred broodmare abandoned with 44 horses on the Bourbon County line in Kentucky, strode happily at the side of eight-year-old caretaker and friend, Kaylee. (Please see earlier story:http://offtrackthoroughbreds.com/2014/08/26/if-i-left-her-it-would-be-her-death-warrant/).
In an inspiring demonstration of the heart of the Thoroughbred, the pair performed at the walk and the trot in their first official horse show away from the property of Our Mims Retirement Haven, where Jo Jo now resides.
Jo Jo’s Gypsy
Dam: Camptown Gypsy
Foal date: April 25, 2005“The relationship my granddaughter has with that horse is so heartwarming,” says Jeanne Mirabito, founder of Our Mims. “Kaylee was six when she first met Jo Jo. She met her three days after the mare arrived at Our Mims, on Aug. 22, 2014. I explained at the time that we had a very sick horse in the barn and that all we could do was love her.
“So, Kaylee went into her stall, gasped a little bit, and then she touched Jo Jo’s right shoulder. She walked slowly and silently all around, touching her as high up as she could reach. When she came around to her front, she reached up to the mare’s face and Jo Jo woke up. At that moment, when that horse looked at my granddaughter, it was like everything changed. I felt there was a ton of determination in that horse after that.”
For many months, Kaylee kept up her devotion to the dangerously emaciated horse. After school and on weekends, she spent many hours gently brushing her, and taking her on short walks.
The mare followed the child with such trust that Mirabito marveled how any animal that had suffered like Jo Jo had could trust another human again. “If I were that horse, and had been treated like that, I don’t think I could do it,” says Mirabito, who rescued Jo Jo after a herd of 44 ex-racehorse Thoroughbreds were confiscated from a Paris, Ky. property. “After all she has been through, she comes out of it just as kind and willing to work with humans, it’s as though she’d been treated with kid gloves.”
So proud of the mare and her admirable disposition, Mirabito entered her and her granddaughter in the small lead-line class to help prove the point about Thoroughbreds: “I wanted to show what big hearts the Thoroughbreds have,” she says. “I still hear from people who think Thoroughbreds are crazy, and they can’t believe I’m letting a child near one.”
Though she understands their skepticism, seeing is believing, says Mirabito, who notes that her granddaughter and Jo Jo will make an appearance at the Secretariat Festival Sept. 17 in Paris, Ky. “Watching these two makes me burst with pride,” she says.