Barn Buddies: Runhappy’s Support Team

by | 10.14.2016 | 2:00pm
Sancho and Runhappy confer before mealtime (Photo via Runhappy on Facebook)
Sancho and Runhappy confer before mealtime (Photo via Runhappy on Facebook)

Reigning sprint champion Runhappy has accumulated over 28,000 followers on Facebook, where the horse's fans congregate for photos of the colt eating, dustbathing, and sleeping. The ownership/training team behind the big horse has a remote camera trained on his stall 24/7, and uploads screenshots from the nighttime camera for fans to see Runhappy snooze. Followers with sharp eyes might also occasionally notice a small ball of gray fur creep into the corner of the screen.

That would be Sancho, barn cat in residence at Runhappy's shedrow at The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington, Ky.

Runhappy trainer Laura Wohlers picked up Sancho from a parking lot across from the training center last year in hopes he would become a good mouser.

“He was down there meowing, meowing, meowing. He was just a little kitten,” Wohlers said. “I kind of crawled underneath the car and got him out and brought him up here. He seemed to be a stray.”

Sancho has rewarded the kindness, having exterminated mice from Runhappy's barn and traveled to neighboring barns to capture mice and bring them to Wohlers and other barn staff. When he's not hunting or napping in Runhappy's stall, Sancho has a cat tree in the barn office for his lounging comfort.

Wohlers remembers Sancho and Runhappy bonding early on. The colt seemed to instinctively know to watch his feet and teeth around the cat, and Sancho welcomed nuzzles from Runhappy in the aisle or atop his hay net.

“From the beginning, he's always hung out with Happy, maybe partly because his stall is right by the office, that was the first horse he came to,” she said. “It's funny, I was watching the Nest cam last night and [Sancho] went in there for a while and hung out with [Runhappy].

“[Sancho] really watches him. It's really strange, he'll lay in front of [Runhappy] while he's grazing, and [Runhappy]'ll just step over him.”

A screenshot from Runhappy's stall cam shows Sancho in the lower left corner (Photo via Runhappy Facebook page)

A screenshot from Runhappy's stall cam shows Sancho in the lower left corner (Photo via Runhappy Facebook page)

The barn recently acquired a goat named Heidi, who socializes with horses in the aisle, but the bond between Runhappy and Heidi is nothing like the one between the sprinter and Sancho. Heidi, a 5-month-old former bottle baby, is more of a pet for the people in the barn than the horses but has been known to accompany Sancho on hunting expeditions (no word on whether he appreciates the rather large shadow).

“Now, her and Sancho go in the stall with Runhappy, and he doesn't seem to hurt her. Every now and then he'll nudge her and she'll run off,” said Wohlers. “She follows Sancho around. She used to stay in the barn until she started following him to other barns.”

Wohlers doesn't anticipate Sancho will make the trip with Runhappy to this year's Breeders' Cup. She worries he could wander away from the barn at Santa Anita and be left behind when the stable returns to Kentucky. (Although Runhappy will be out of the barn, Wohlers has other horses at the training center, so there will be staff present to attend to Sancho in late October.) The two have been separated before, however, and are used to the routine: Runhappy always comes home again, and then it's back to power naps.

  • Kellye Pikul

    Lots of Runhappy’s fans who stop by the barn bring treats and toys for Sancho. He’s a very popular cat. Heidi is hilarious, but I’m a goat mom myself so a bit partial. 😍

    • johnny ramone

      Why so much publicity for a horse that has been horribly managed?

      • Rachel

        Oh stop with the negative waves, this is for fun…😎

      • Selena Buell

        Getting him out of the clutches of the animal abuser Maria Borell is far from mismanaged. Stop drinking the hateraid and leave RunHappY alone.

        • johnny ramone

          Oh, so giving him to puppet Borell in the first place was brilliant? Not to mention new puppet Wohlers.

          • Wayne

            How many grade 1’s have you won Genius?

        • Jack

          Worst managed horse in years. How quickly we forget Wohlers almost ruined him in his maiden race. She has no clue period!!

          This story simple PR stunt. Horse deserves so much better.

      • Beetle

        It’s their horse to mismanage.

  • Audrey Gulla

    Reading these stories is always so much fun. Both pictures are adorable. It’s also endearing to see such a large animal enjoying the company of such a tiny one & vice versa.:)

  • IN TEARS wt

    Stop the sour apples dialogue this is a nice story about animal friendship and has nothing about people and training, of which Run Happy has no control.

  • Always Curious

    It’s about the Darned cat! Not any trainer. These are regular features which everyone except the cranks on here enjoy. God forbid anyone saying something positive about anything in this horse world! For those that love horses and other animals and their unique bonds, go sit on it.

  • whirlaway

    This is still such an enjoyable weekly read how many stray and unwanted animals have become barn pets. Sad the stray animals in the world.

  • Kelley

    Please don’t let the negative comments keep you from running the Barn Buddies articles. Many of us enjoy them very much.

  • McGov

    Kudos to PR for being fair, and balanced. This organisation has been ridiculed widely for silly decisions regarding their horse or trainer.
    I think it’s very appropriate that you have made this story available.

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