Out of all the horses you have met, who is your Heart Horse?
Shayne McKinsey: This guy ("Gotta Reason" or Rudy, OTB)
HH: When did you meet your Heart Horse?
SM: Nine years ago when I turned 40
HH: What is your chosen discipline?
SM: English, Hunters, mostly.
HH: How did your Heart Horse change your life?
SM: Rudy is an off the track thoroughbred, so he needed to be retrained when I got him. I had delusions of grandeur for us when I first wrote the check (laughter). We would go out on the trails, we were gonna jump around a 2'6" course no problem, but he had other ideas. I had to learn to be flexible and persevere and work in symbiosis with him to figure out where he was before jumping into the things I wanted to do.
HH: Can you tell me a little bit about how he was when he first came to you? What his life was at the track?
SM: He raced 12 races, and they started him kind of late. He began as a 5-year-old, and he ran until he was seven. During his third race, he smacked his face on the start gate and had an eye injury, and he raced nine more times after that. They did treat the eye injury, but eventually, he went blind in that eye. We will never know if he went blind in that eye before he finished racing or later or if it was a gradual progression.
HH: So, how has that affected him? Does the injury change your relationship to riding or even just being on the ground in the stall?
SM: Honestly, I think that he trusts me very much. We go out on the trails, and he is perfectly lovely and quiet. He will lead and follow, and that wasn't always the case (laughter), so we had to develop a mutually respectful relationship.
HH: Right, so you were able to build a relationship with him that turned into something very trusting, yes?
SM: Yeah, and the fact that he is blind in one eye made it much harder for him to trust when I first got him. He was in this new environment, a show barn with kids and lessons and training happening all the time. He only knew what it was like on the racetrack. So when I first got him, as I said, I thought I would be jumping around a 2'6" course like two days later. When we first started riding together, we had a lesson with some ground poles on the ground, and he was flying over them like a 3-foot fence, so my trainer said, "Let's take a step back and put the ground poles away for a bit." So we did some circles and flatwork, and he remembered where the ground poles were and jumped the empty space where they had been (all laugh), right then I knew I had to have someone help me train him.
HH: Can you tell me one of your best memories? Training him or working with him?
SM: This is a good and a bad memory – when I first had him, and I was out on the trails, I didn't really realize how green he was. We were with one other person, and she was in front of us, and we decided it would be nice to canter on the way home. So, to a racehorse, a horse that used to be on the track when he sees another horse's butt in front of him, he 100% wants to pass that horse. So he took off like a bat out of hell. And when I retell this story, I always say it was ½ exhilarating and ½ petrifying because he thought well I have to get in front of this horse! He finally stopped at the end of the road right before we got to the street, but I was like OMG this horse will be the end of me.
HH: What is one of your favorite ways to spend time with him?
SM: I like that he can go out on the trails, and I love that he can jump around a course, but even coming up to the barn and bathing him, I love that too.
HH: What made you want to be involved with horses?
SM: I started taking lessons when I was young, and I just fell in love with it. Growing up, we couldn't afford to purchase a pony so we would lease one, and I was allowed to show once a month. I remember sitting in math class, and I would read The Chronicle of the Horse magazine and look at really cheap horses for sale. Of course, I didn't realize how dangerous they might be because they were probably very green and I was very young but, I would sit in math class and write horse names in the back of my math book, all the names that I would name the horse that I would eventually get – I don't know it was just an automatic love, it was always in my blood.
HH: When you met Rudy, did you know that he was your Heart Horse?
HH: Can you describe the feeling?
SM: I wouldn't say it was right away, but first of all he is the first horse I've owned, and that's a big deal, and just the whole thing about finding out he was blind in one eye and that fact that he can still do what he does is amazing to me.
HH: And having that opportunity of building the trust – which is rather remarkable.
SM: Right (Rudy yawns) Sorry, Rudy, are we boring you? (Laughter)
HH: Can you tell me what “Heart Horses” means to you?
SM: Well, I guess just specifically with him, I will never know if it is our bond, but he does everything a fully sighted horse can do, and then some. I have to believe it is because of the trust we have built together. So, I suppose it is trust.
HH & SM: Laughter
HH: Well, thank you both!
SM: You are welcome