Thursday morning started out like any other for Keeneland outrider Colby Lavergne. He had been out on the track during morning training and was hanging out at the pony barn, untacking and giving baths in the unseasonable heat. Suddenly, Lavergne said, he heard a commotion.
A group of paddock schoolers were on their way back to the barns when one horse, a Steve Asmussen trainee, reared and got his leg over his shank. His groom let the horse go, and the horse took off up the horse path, through the gap, onto the dirt track, and set off at a gallop.
Without a second thought, Lavergne said he ran to his tack room to get a bridle, threw it on his trusty Quarter Horse Mouse, and took off onto the track — with no saddle.
“When duty calls, you go,” Lavergne chuckled. “I didn't know if I was going to catch him or not, but it all worked out.”
Lavergne, who is a second-generation outrider (son to Ronald and nephew to Kenny Lavergne), said it was the first time he'd ever taken off after a racehorse bareback.
Video of Lavergne's wild ride surfaced on Twitter Thursday afternoon and quickly went viral, showing Lavergne and Mouse in hot pursuit of the loose Thoroughbred, easing the horse along the rail and making a gutsy catch. Luckily, although the horse had broken the shank, he was still wearing both a halter and a bridle, so Lavergne was able to pull him up by the headstall.
“It was a pretty easy catch,” Lavergne said. “The hardest part was just staying on, really.”
Something you don't see everyday – this morning after training, a racehorse got loose on the way to paddock schooling and ran onto the track. Outrider Colby Lavergne was doing barn chores, saw it happen, and jumped on his outriding horse Mouse bareback. (🎥: Tessa) pic.twitter.com/C7f9xgGATD
— Mary (@MaryEllet) October 3, 2019
After their dramatic rescue, Lavergne and Mouse went back to their barn as if nothing had happened, and treated Lavergne's young son to a pony ride around the shedrow.
“You've gotta have a horse that you can run real hard like that who can do their job, and then come back and just be mellow,' said Lavergne. “He's a great athlete, he's got everything you want. You can't push him around. He knows his job. He's not the fastest thing in the world, but I'll take a broke horse over a fast horse any day.”
Mouse has been Lavergne's partner for the eight years he has been an outrider. Now 13 years old, Mouse is Lavergne's top pony and his go-to in tight spots like this one.
Lavergne grew up on horseback, riding half-tamed ponies (often bareback) with his older siblings around the field, teaching them to stop, turn, back up–all the maneuvers he would later need as a professional outrider. When he grew older, he joined his father on the track, hopping on outriding ponies and galloping racehorses.
In the end though, Lavergne knows all the preparation in the world can't get the job done if you don't have the right horse under you — and Mouse is very much the right horse for him.
“Really all I had to do was hang on,” he said. “If it was a greener horse I was sitting on, maybe I would have had a little trouble, but I just had to give him his head. He knows his job. What I was worried about the most was there was a whole bunch of people on the rail and I come out there bareback like I was going to save somebody. I was just like, 'Please god, let me catch this horse.'”
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