Shaun makes a new friend in western journey

Steve Thompson cinching Shaun up for the first time in a western saddle.
Steve Thompson cinching Shaun up for the first time in a western saddle.

Kiwi thoroughbred Shaun has had another person enter his world to give him a new perspective on life.

That man, Steve Thompson, has started Shaun’s journey to become a western horse.

“I don’t know why I am so surprised when a miracle happens with this horse,” says Shaun’s Kansas owner, Deb Johnson. “He has an angel, I’m sure.”

Shaun, born in North Canterbury, New Zealand, headed to the US for a racing career in 2007.

In May last year he was rescued from kill pens in Washington state thanks to the generosity of Horsetalk readers.

Shaun was trucked halfway across the US to the home of Deb, where he has settled in well and is enjoying the trappings of rural Kansas life.

Deb has just returned home from a four-day Peter Campbell clinic in Archie, Missouri.

She took Shaun and two of her other horses.

Shaun is not so keen on his new saddle.
Shaun is not so keen on his new saddle ...

“Peter’s mentor was Tom Dorrance, so we all benefited from having a master horseman trained by the very best of all horsemen,” she said.

“I hadn’t realized that the foundation part of the clinic included quite a bit of actual riding,” Deb explains.

She said she was not ready to hop on Shaun, who, as far as she could ascertain, had not been ridden since 2007.

“I asked for a miracle and he showed up in the form of Steve Thompson.”

Steve, who is married with two young daughters, had originally joined the clinic only to watch, she explains.

“One of the clinic participants offered to let Steve ride her horse for two days because her mare was considered ‘troubled’.

“He wooed that horse with soft hands and a kind heart, so much so that he ended up taking her home with him. It was a beautiful thing.

“I decided he might be just the person to put that first ride on Shaun.

“Steve is one of those typical, mid-western cowboys. The kind of man you hope your daughter marries some day. I asked if he might be interested in taking my horse, Shaun for the morning foundation horsemanship clinic.

“He said, yes! Just had to ask Peter, and then we were good to go!

“There was a bit of drama, that first touch of the western saddle.

... but soon gets the hang of it.
... but soon gets the hang of it.

“He stood and let Steve cinch things up, but once he was asked to slowly move his feet? Much grunting, and crow hopping!

“Once he got that out of his system, worked up a good sweat and let everyone know exactly how he felt about things, he settled right down.

“Steve treated him just like a new colt start, and Shaun acted like a new colt getting started.”

She said it took Shaun a while to figure out the kinds of riding cues that are rarely given to racehorses.

“He liked it. He liked it a lot. He liked it so much and did so well, I invited Steve to take my afternoon spot as well. Much more advanced stuff, and I figured it was the least I could do to thank him for putting on that first ride. Shaun just got better and better.

“I’ll be working with Mr Shaun on the ground quite a bit more. His topline needs to get built up, and I don’t think I’ll be hopping on without a good horseman there to guide us.

“All in all, a good experience. Shaun couldn’t have had a better rider than Steve, or better guidance than Peter Campbell.”


» More on Shaun – aka Cusack

Images below by Karen Johnson.

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