When I was scrolling through Facebook one day, I saw something that made me pause. Healing Reins of Kentucky, an equine therapy program in Henderson, KY, posted this along with a video:

A beautiful posting trot from Susan on Pinocchio! Pinocchio is a retired racehorse that actually raced at Ellis Park!! He’s serving a dual purpose by being an Ambassador for his breed, showing that off-the-track horses can have fulfilling second careers after their track career has ended. Susan is a blind rider and relies on Pinocchio’s sensitivity and gentle ability to understand her needs while riding, they make a great team!

Act I: Born to Run

If you know even a little bit about horses, you know that Thoroughbreds aren't typically known for a laid-back attitude. They are fast and firey because they are mainly the horses you'll see on a racetrack like Ellis Park. Pinocchio was the exception though - carefully going through all of his gaits at the request of his rider Susan Nance.

I had to know the backstory about Pinocchio so I got in touch with his owner Stacy Denton, founder of Healing Reins. Stacy acquired him as a stallion from a friend when he was the ripe old age of four. Apparently, Tricky Pinocchio started in 12 races and only finished first in one. Unfortunately, his future as a racehorse didn't look too promising since he didn't really like running all that much. (I feel ya, Pinoc.) So, he retired without injury and started his new journey with Stacy.

Carolyn Jane Photography
Stacy and Pinocchio -- photo by Carolyn Jane Photography

Act II: What's a Racehorse That Doesn't Like to Run Going to Do with His Life?

She took him on as a project. After having him gelded, she started his training.

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"Out of the gate he was extremely gentle and his ground manners were excellent, but he had his challenges," she told me. "He had ulcers. One day he coliced and my friends and I walked him for 21 hours straight. He was a stall-walker, turning circles in his stall after he ate because he was just so nervous. Finally, one day I just decided just to put him outside with the other horses. And, I couldn't believe it - he thrived!"

Pinocchio's second career was showing hunter-jumper classes and dressage with Stacy's daughter. But then at age 12, Stacy knew he was ready for something even more challenging.

Carolyn Jane Photography
Susan and Pinocchio -- photo by Carolyn Jane Photography

Act III: Pinocchio Finds His Purpose

"When he turned 12, his attitude mellowed. I decided to start giving lessons on him."

Stacy is the lead instructor with Healing Reins. She's a Path Certified Equine Instructor who helps persons with disabilities through equine therapy. The mission of Healing Reins is to "assist individuals with special needs in meeting their full potential through interaction with horses."

The decision to put Susan and Pinocchio together wasn't one she took lightly.

"Putting him with Susan was a big deal for me. I consider her an honorary founder of Healing Reins. Susan is a wonderful rider who happens to be blind. Pinocchio is challenging for her but I trust him more than other horses I have. He's caring - he has a heart for her."

I could hear the passion Stacy had for not only this horse but the entire mission of Healing Reins. Now 14, Pinocchio has become an ambassador for off-the-track horses everywhere and proof that you never know where the journey might take you.

I love watching people realize that horses are creatures that feel and have emotions. They also realize that the horses can make decisions on their own. Sometimes that makes them nervous at first. They ask 'Why are they doing that?' And I say, 'Why not?' When they can start understanding and relating to the horses it helps them to understand and relate to people.- Stacy Denton

Want to Know More About Healing Reins?

To help Healing Reins continue their mission and vision of helping those with disabilities through equine therapy, consider donating today or attending its annual fundraising event.

Tickets and Diamond Table sponsors are on sale now for the 2021 "Diamonds and Denim" Gala on October 08, 2021. The third annual "Diamonds and Denim Gala" is an elegant evening that consists of a social cocktail hour, guest speaker, delicious dinner and dessert, live auction, and dancing at the Evansville Country Club.  Wear your blue jeans, boots, and bling! To learn more visit the  EVENT PAGE for more details!

Healing Reins "Run for the Roses event" 2018 with Susan Nance, centered is Pinocchio and friend Dorset pictured right --- photo by CAROLYN SCHOTTEL
Healing Reins "Run for the Roses event" 2018 with Susan Nance, centered is Pinocchio and friend Dorset pictured right --- photo by CAROLYN SCHOTTEL

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