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Cusack now grazing at his new Kansas home

June 9, 2011

by Neil Clarkson

Kiwi thoroughbred Cusack has a new home and a new best buddy.

New owner Deb Johnson says she only has to yell "Shaunie" and the big gelding comes thundering across his pasture.

Home at last: Deb Johnson unloads Cusack from the trailer at the rendezvous point after his long trip from Washington to Kansas.
Cusack is his racing name, but his paddock name from his New Zealand days was Shaun - and he certainly recognises it, says Deb.

The 11-year-old is now settling into the 40-acre property where the Johnson family lives, where he currently has access to about 10 acres he is sharing with Deb's mares Little Bit and Eclipse.

"Tell everyone what a lovely, calm, gentle soul he is. He is a cool guy," said a delighted Deb, who recounted the trip yesterday afternoon to pick up her boy.

It has been a wait of some weeks. Cusack, as he was known to Horsetalk readers, had ended up in the kill pens at a Washington state auction facility.

His plight was brought to Horsetalk's attention and, with Deb keen to give him a new life, the generosity of the website's readers raised enough cash to make it happen.

Shaunie, as Deb calls him, spent a month at the Back Forte Equestrian Center, in Enumclaw, Washington, awaiting his ride east to Kansas after being bought from the auction house.

He left last Friday with Paul Lynch's 4Rail Horse Transport and yesterday afternoon Deb and her 22-year-old daughter, Amanda, drove an hour north to Maryville to meet up with Paul, who was continuing east.

Deb had scoped out a suitable area for the transfer to safely occur and had her first face-to-face encounter with her new horse around 4pm.

She got to meet the five sheep and a border collie that had been his companions throughout the trip. Then it was time to load Cusack on her own trailer and return home.

She told of one adventure not long after setting off south.

She was crawling across a rough railway crossing just out of Maryville, taking care not to upset her precious cargo, when Amanda told her she really had to get moving.

She wasn't wrong. The barrier arms had come down and the rail-crossing lights were flashing.

Deb moved off the crossing beside the barrier arm and completed an otherwise uneventful journey home.

She brought Cusack into a one-acre pasture where he could meet Little Bit and Eclipse across a fence. Eclipse was curious about the new arrival but Bit squealed and was not happy about the Kiwi interloper.

Deb carefully managed the introductions of Shaunie and stayed with him until 11pm, by which time the pasture dynamic had settled down and she felt she could go to bed.

When his halter finally came off, Bit came at him, she recalls. "She's 13 hands with a lot of attitude," she says.

However, all that initial aggression had been expended by the time Deb headed for a well-earned sleep.

During the evening he even had his first encounter with a wild deer - a young doe that had managed to get into the pasture.

Deb said the two had a calm nose-to-nose encounter, Shaunie obviously curious about an animal he had probably never seen before.

"He is calm. Lovely. A thinking horse," she says.

"He has really bonded to me. He pretty much buddied up to me.

"At first, when he didn't know me, he wasn't really leading well. He now walks right next to me. He comes when I call him."

Shaunie still has some months to go before he is back in pristine order. That process of building up his condition began at the Back Forte Equestrian Center.

Deb says his backbone and wither are still prominent, but with the right grazing and supplements, it will only be a matter of time.

Shaunie appears unused to the open spaces in which he now lives, and she suspects he may be much more accustomed to box stalls.

However, he can be seen getting around at a trot and a gallop and is quickly coming to terms with life in his slice of Kansas.

"It's been a real long road," Deb says. "But he is a pretty happy horse."

That happiness is sure to be shared by the many supporters who made his new life possible.

Cusack tucks into a snack prepared by Deb as shipper Paul Lynch looks on.

Deb's daughter Amanda meets one of Cusack's travelling companions.

Several sheep also kept Cusack company on the trip.

Finally home at Deb's: Wiping away the travel grime.

Checking out his new surroundings.

Heading out to pasture.

Little Bit gets some more height to check out the new arrival.

Cusack meets his new mates.

Freedom is close ...

Little Bit gets territorial, but Cusack keeps out of trouble.

Cusack and Deb share a quiet moment, perhaps reflecting on the past month.

"Cusack running to me after I called for him, 'Shaunie!'," says Deb.



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