Penny, aka Penny-Cakes
She has a remarkable story.
Although her story doesn’t really start until 2016 in terms of what we know about her, she has a life before then that is unknown. We can only begin to speculate what that life was like. She was purchased through a horse auction so right off the bat we can assume her previous life may not have been ideal yet again, this would all be speculation. Here is what we do know about her.
In 2016 it took a gracious team to not only discover her, locate her, purchase her but also to rehabilitate her. Between a local horse rescue group, Equine Rescue Network and its founder Janine Jacques, and Penny’s first real chance of rescue and ownership with a professional singer/artist April Renzella, Penny was given a second chance at life. She narrowly escaped the “slaughter pipeline” where untamed, un-halter broke, and unhandled horses inevitably go when they have been cast aside by their owners, breeders, or trainers.
The Day Penny was “Saved”
“Janine Jacques, May 26, 2016
I am officially on vacation this week and now I feel I need a vacation to recover from my vacation....I saw this filly auctioned at New Holland on Monday - then she disappeared. I tried to find her - I was told she was shipping to another auction in NJ. I changed all my fun/relaxing cycling plans in Virginia and drove to NJ where I found her tied against the concrete wall. The auction started at 8:45 PM (past my bedtime) fortunately I won the bid. Back on the road to MA with three lucky horses to my new QT barn.”
Penny was on her way to recover in a quarantine facility in Massachusetts and await her fate at a new life. She was one of the lucky ones that day at the auction. “Kill Buyers” or livestock dealers/buyers often attend these sales to purchase horses for the meat trade. It's a very real industry that deals with the meat trade business in both bordering countries Mexico and Canada as well as Japan and China.
Penny was to make a full recovery and was on the road to New Hampshire to a lovely barn in Chester. April took amazing care of her and started her basic groundwork training and putting the much-needed weight on her. It was about this time I had to the chance to meet Penny for the first time. Though our farm was not ready to have a horse on it, April made it so Penny could remain in Chester to give us the time we needed to get everything prepared. Jared, my husband, built the run-in shed and installed hardwood fencing to secure her. I worked on getting her supplies and arranging a professional horse transporter, Cheryl Kelley.
In the meantime, I had the opportunity to visit Penny as often as I wanted to get to know her and make sure we would work ok with each other. My first impression of her was that she was understandably shy at first interaction but would warm up quickly. She would blow wind through her nose to make a “purring” sound, a sound she still does today when she is adjusting to her new surroundings or greeting. She seemed smart but reluctant and I didn’t fault her for that. I was also so new to being around such a young horse I didn’t really know what to expect.
September 24, 2016, was the day we moved Penny from Chester to my farm in Barnstead. It was a day I will never forget. The barn manager wasn’t available to meet me, April wasn’t able to meet me, my husband wasn’t able to come with me, so I had to go and get Penny alone at this barn and wait for Cheryl, my transporter, to show up and help the rest of the way. We had no real way of knowing how Penny would act being taken out of the paddock with her mates and how she would load or travel. I was terribly nervous!
When I arrived at the barn Penny was in a paddock with what seemed like 15 or more horses. I saw her in the far corner with a little colt, so I grabbed her halter and a lead rope and made my way into the paddock. When I made it about halfway into the paddock, I was starting to get approached by several curious horses who walked up to me to check me out. Just then this enormous lead mare came charging, bucking, and rearing and pushing the curious horses away from me. I just about stopped breathing now and thought I was going to get killed. The excitement was just a little too much for me and I started to make my way back to the barn. I sat at the gate trying to figure out another way to get Penny out without having to walk through this crowd of horses.
Just then, Penny and I caught each other’s attention. She started to walk towards me, alone, and as she got closer, I opened the gate and she walked right through into the empty paddock area. Well, that was easy, I thought! She didn’t even turn to look back at them. There wasn’t any hollering or whinnying out to her paddock mates. Just her and I, alone, together. Cheryl arrived with the horse trailer and took over from there. I was so thankful when she got there. Penny stepped right up into the trailer and off we went.
My First Horse
Though I had been around horses pretty much my entire life I had never owned my own. I grew up moving around the globe and around the country since my dad’s work required us to relocate a lot. It would have been almost impossible to offer the long-term commitment horses need with that kind of lifestyle. I was so thankful for my supportive parents though for helping me to get in the saddle as often as I could. I took riding lesson, guided trail rides, mucked stalls for rides, borrowed friend’s horses, rode my neighbors’ horses, and even helped with guided rides and programs for kids. All for the chance to be around horses and to be in the saddle. Since my husband and I purchased our 100-acre farm, it would be the first time in my entire life where I would be rooted for a length of time. We had zero plans to move. The time was right.
Despite being ready for Penny, I had to first get Jared ready too. He was not thrilled about this idea of getting Penny and initially said “NO!” Being like any charming wife I asked Jared to reconsider under the grounds that he must meet Penny in person. So, we skipped across the state to the barn Penny was staying at and Jared had his chance to meet Penny for the first time. There is one thing I know about Jared and that is that he loves animals. How could he resist her? Penny was still quite small, gentle and very curious about Jared. It sealed the deal and we officially announced that Penny would be making her new life with us on our new farm.
As I mentioned earlier, we weren’t ready to take her home just yet. The days turned into weeks and almost months and I lost so much sleep every single night. I felt like a kid the night before Christmas. I looked at photos of Penny every single night before I fell asleep and looked at her pretty face every morning I woke up. The dream of finally sharing my life with a real horse was about the come true!
One Horse is not Enough
When Penny came to live with us, she had everything a horse could ever need. She had a barn, pine shavings, good hay, grain, a salt block, water buckets, brushes, and combs. She had it all. What she didn’t have was a buddy. Just me and Jared and every single night she would cry when we would leave her alone. It broke our hearts to think that she was all alone out there, scared. The search for a paddock mate started almost immediately.
Looking for a paddock mate “back then” was easy. There were so many horses, ponies and minis on the market, and they were cheap. We didn’t want to have another “horse” since we had a small paddock and barn for them to share. So, we were looking for something small and exciting to help keep Penny entertained and moving around. That’s when I found Sancho, this proportionally sound solid black pony.
Sancho also came from “rescue” and was quite feral. He certainly did keep us and Penny on our toes since he would bite or kick you when you weren’t looking. Penny didn’t seem to like him all that much and frankly neither did we. He caused us to have to pay for a handful of vet bills from biting and kicking Penny. We couldn’t grow Penny’s mane or tail out since he was biting her hair right from her. Sancho’s story ends here, and we were lucky enough to be bringing Tango home about this time.
From a Filly to a Mare
The day Penny arrived on the farm was day one for training. We wanted to ensure she was safe for us to handle and safe for our farrier. She had typical bad habits of a young horse in terms of being a little mouthy or offering a fuss when you would pick up her feet. She also had a bad habit of throwing these crazy side ninja kicks. I was kicked so hard this one time I thought for sure she broke my arm. It was then I realized how close she was to kicking me in the head and I thought, this would be a good time to get some professional training under her belt.
I’m so thankful for my neighbors at Deer Run Farm for coming over to meet her. Between them, my farrier and vet we were able to confirm that Penny was not yet even a year old. The auction had listed her as 3 years old! We worked on some basic groundwork and started to teach her about respect with space. It was just the foundation I needed to get back to feeling safe around her again. Knowing just how young she was at the time was so important to figuring out where she was mentally and physically. This little filly had a lot to learn and a lot to grow too.
No one knows where she came from. That’s the auction life. We don’t know why she was cast out to the horse auction world either. As Penny started to develop more, I noticed a few things about her that may have suggested why she was tossed out. Perhaps it's her front left knee that sort of “scoops” up when she moves. It could be the “ringing in her hocks” that was unfavorable. Either way, we did discover something quite interesting about her when she went off for her official off-site training. She’s a fox-trotter through and through.
Penny Goes to School
August 5, 2019, Penny left the farm for the first time since coming to live us. She was off to Mountain Lane Farm in Temple, NH for 2 months of training under saddle. At this point I had paid for a DNA Test at Texas A&M University that confirmed that Penny was a cross of Missouri Fox Trotter, Tennessee Walker and Mountain Pleasure Horse. We saw several times on the ground that she was gaited so it was important to me that she go to a training barn that understood gaited horses and would help her work with her natural gait. There are not a lot of gaited horses up here in the Northeast and even less trainers or riders that understand them.
Penny was paired with her trainer, Kristy, at the training barn. Kristy spared no time and got right on Penny the second day Penny arrived. Penny was doing so well that I was able to attend her training sessions and eventually get on the saddle with Penny as well. Now in my mind Penny and I would spend hours in the saddle loping through open fields but the reality for us both was far from that. I had already experienced 2 semi-major horse falls and was nervous about getting hurt. Penny was nervous just because she was a baby and nervous. It made for a challenging first few rides, that’s for sure.
At the time I was riding my other horse Tango. Tango was large, rigid, stiff in the neck and shoulders and quite dull to traditional riding aids. Riding Tango is like driving a large standard transmission pickup truck that sticks between 1st and 2nd gear. Getting on the back of Penny was like riding a fully automatic with air ride suspension Mercedes. No need for riding aids with her. You just needed to think it and she would go in that direction. The only issue we had to work out is being “spooked” at the littlest things and then recovering from it. I’ve been back in the saddle with her here and there with our last real ride resulting in another dangerous fall. We’ve decided to move a little slower and when we’re both ready.
It was while Penny was at the training barn, I was able to meet a great world known gaited horse trainer, Nya Bates. Nya has since passed away but when she was hosting a clinic at the barn she was able to watch Kristy riding Penny in their large outdoor arena and confirmed that Penny has a fabulous and natural Foxtrot. What a delight it was to see in person.
Who is Penny?
Penny has been on this farm since 2016. We’ve seen a lot of changes in her. She’s outgrown 3 halters, 4 jackets, 2 saddles and a barn. We’ve watched her grow from a baby to a mare. Her mane is now long and pure white. She’s lost all her baby teeth and it now filling out around her chest and shoulders. I can see the changes, even when they are so gradual, but the one thing that’s remained the same is her personality. Watching my little filly grow to a mare has got to be one the most rewarding experiences I have ever been blessed with. Though we had a slow start under saddle, we are always learning. We are in no rush to push ourselves into places that aren’t safe or don’t feel right. We’re just thankful to be here today, at this moment.
It is a blessing that she did not sell to anyone other than Janine Jacques at the horse auction. It was a true gift that April Renzella scooped her up and brought her to New Hampshire. Im eternally grateful for Cheryl and Joanne from helping me with Penny to bring her home and start her on the ground. The patience and commitment from our farrier Scott has been challenged with unwavering support. The training from Kristy and the crew at Mountain Lane Farm is the foundation of her future and the opportunity to meet Nya Bates will be forever cherished. The most heartfelt appreciation goes out to my husband Jared. I can’t thank him enough for offering Penny our home and farm and giving her the love, she deserves.
Penny will always be here with us on this farm. We hope you have enjoyed her story. Now you are a part of her life, just like everyone else who has touched her in some way.