(ANIMAL FRIENDS/HORSES) After winning the 2015 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, American Pharoah is now the most famous horse in America. However, few know about his 6-year-old pony friend named Smokey, who serves as the thoroughbred’s companion, calming the horse’s nerves as he attempts to become the first Triple Crown winner in over three decades.
In fact, companion ponies, or barn ponies, like Smokey are not uncommon in the horse racing world. But sometimes other species are just as effective at soothing nervy thoroughbreds. Take, for instance, Charlie the pig, who comforts a Belmont thoroughbred named Strong Impact, or Fudgie, a goat who comforts a number of horses in a nearby barn.
Continue reading below for more on how these unlikely pairs became best buds. — Global Animal
New York Times, Sarah Lyall
People watching American Pharoah take his exercise at Belmont Park on Thursday morning could not help noticing that he had a friend with him. It happened to be a 6-year-old gelding named Smokey, who has been serving as general companion and calmer of nerves for American Pharoah during the horse’s potentially stress-filled attempt to become the first Triple Crown winner since 1978.
“He’s a sweetheart,” said Bob Baffert, American Pharoah’s trainer, who took time out from a prerace news conference Thursday to field some Smokey-related questions. “We call him bombproof.”
Smokey first caught Baffert’s eye in a horse catalog as Baffert searched for a laid-back, friendly horse to soothe the possible jitters not just of American Pharoah, but also of the other horses he trains. “Bob studies horse catalogs like you or I would study a shoe catalog,” said Baffert’s wife, Jill.
Speaking of Smokey, she added: “He’s never gotten upset or agitated.”
A lot of barns use companion ponies, or barn ponies, to provide steadying presences for nervy thoroughbreds that, like most high-maintenance creatures, do better with buddies who are less demanding then they are themselves (there is room for only one diva in a stall).
But sometimes other species will do just fine. “Some horses don’t necessarily want other horses,” Jill Baffert said.
A thoroughbred at Belmont named Strong Impact, for instance, keeps company with a pig named Charlie. On Thursday, the two could be found together in Strong Impact’s stall: one tall, shiny and alert, the other obese, muddy and asleep, a massive heap of porcine flesh spread out in the straw. Despite his resemblance to an overinflated pink zeppelin, Charlie seemed like a soothing presence, a giant snoring security blanket for a high-strung horse. Cheered up by the prospect of food, Charlie woke up at one point and ate some snacks alongside Strong Impact, their heads side by side.
Read the full New York Times article here: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/05/sports/barnyard-buddies-curl-up-at-belmont.html