Louisa Penn’s lifelong love of thoroughbreds drives her passion for re-homing ex-racehorses
Louisa Penn’s maternal fondness is something that eminates deeply within every thoroughbred to come through her care.
Penn is a devoted horseperson and former jockey, who currently works as assistant-trainer to Western District based-horseman Denis Duffy.
A fierce advocate for the versatility of thoroughbreds, Penn plays an active role in re-homing all of the Duffy Stable’s horses following their racetrack careers, a job she completes with pride and care.
“You do it because you just want what’s best for them,” she said. “We’re real softies Denis and I, we can’t help but get far too attached to them.
“When you work in a small stable with pretty much the same horses day-in and day-out, you fall in love with them. They’re all individuals, they all have their own personalities; you can’t help but fall in love and want what’s best for them.
“People often say, ‘Oh, they’re just horses’ – but they’re not. They’ve all got their own little traits and random things they do. You get attached to them all, they’re like family in the end.”
Penn and Daffy ensure that a horse is set up for life from the minute they walk in their Camperdown-based training facility, including elements of dressage and showjumping within their early race education.
“When we break our young ones in, they always do at least a fortnight’s dressage work,” she said.
“Not only does it help with their future as a racehorse, but it teaches them that they can go on both legs, and how to balance themselves up if they get a knock. I find that it gives them that better grounding before they go on to become racehorses, that they can do something after racing, because they’ve already got the basics there.
“They all do things like jumping too. I’ve got a couple of the blue dairy drums in our round yard and any that want to learn to jump can burl around and hop over them. I really think it helps if they’ve got that good basic education, if they have that they’ll go on to be better horses in the long term.”
Penn has actively re-homed a number of horses following their racing careers, and takes great pride in their achievements off the track.
“I get a huge thrill out of seeing our ex- racehorses out here competing,” she said.
“There’s a little grey horse running around Colac Pony Club right now called Greyt Batch, who we won at Moonee Valley with. He sat in our paddock for two years before I introduced him to the track rider’s school. From that, two young girls took him and another horse home and are now having a ball doing pony club with him.”
Re-homing a thoroughbred is not an easy, nor a cheap exercise. Yet it’s something that Penn would never even consider giving up.
“It can get very hard and very expensive,” she said, “but that just makes you try harder and harder to re-home them because you just want to do what’s right for them.
“Like most horse people, we’ll feed the horses before we feed ourselves. It’s just ingrained in to us that love.
“Denis plays a big part in re-homing our racehorses; I couldn’t do any of it without him. They’ve got to have somewhere to stay until they find their new home, and Denis always supplies them with that. It’s not easy, I remember one year we spent something like $28,000 on hay for those horses awaiting new owners.
“When you first think of that you think, ‘Oh my god — that’s a huge amount of money!’ But when you care for them like we do, it’s all worth it.”
Penn herself rides an Off the Track thoroughbred she broke and raced named Miles Ahead, a Flemington winner over 2000m who finished fourth behind Harris Tweed in the Listed Bart Cummings Stakes (2500m) in 2010.
“He is the absolute love of my life,” she said.
“I helped Dennis pick him from the yearling sales. We saw this great big yearling just caught our eye like nothing else. We bought him, broke him in and raced him. He was a really great horse for us, but more than that, he was always just my special horse, I absolutely adored him.
“When he did a tendon for the second time, we asked the owners what they wanted to do with him. One of the owners turned around and said to me, ‘You said there was always a paddock for him at your place, do you want him?’ and I just jumped at it and said yes.”
The pair have been inseparable ever since, with Miles Above now spoilt by more than just Penn.
“The really sweet thing though is that the owner that gave him to me now comes down and visits him quite regularly, and brings his granddaughter down to feed him carrots,” she said.
“It’s just been fantastic for the owners to see him. He will be starting a career as a Show hack soon, but at the moment he’s just sitting out in the paddock being spoilt absolutely rotten.”
Click here for more information on owning an Off The Track Thoroughbred
By Daniel Miles – @DanielMiles90