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Standlee Barn Bulletin

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Do The Race Horses at The Kentucky Derby Need a Sidekick?

Do The Race Horses at The Kentucky Derby Need a Sidekick?

Since we are shaking up the traditions of the Kentucky Derby this year, due to COVID-19, we thought we would highlight a member of the team who doesn’t always get the spotlight. While most often during the races, our eyes are on those performing. Did you know that often they have a “partner in crime?”

How do those champions perform so well? How do they do it with all the stress and anxiety? One of our favorite unsung heroes, who stays out of the spotlight, but is a reliable support for those nervous thoroughbreds and provides calming energy and balance in the stalls are Calming Goats! A sidekick might be the best fitting name for calming goats because that is precisely what they do; they cheer on the positive behaviors of racehorses while waiting for events to begin. Calming goats may not make the cover of a comic book as a sidekick, but where would Batman be without Robbin? These calming goats are known to walk through the stalls and seek out signs of stress in horses and offer calming energies to bring down the anxiety of high-strung thoroughbreds.

Why Goats?

Feeding horses and goats

Why exactly are goats such great sidekicks? Maybe you thought goats were just troublemakers finding a not-so-normal snack to devour when no one is looking and definitely getting into mischief.

Experts say that calming goats work like a distraction, merely giving the racer something or someone else to think about. If you have an overly nervous horse, goats are a great add on to any travel and boarding situation, and also have similar forage needs. You can pick-up a Grab & Go® bale and hit the road.

Horses experiencing stress or anxiety can show signs like stall walking, tail tucking, yawning, or the grinding of teeth. As a herd animal, it makes sense that horses would find comfort in having a companion. So why add a calming goat instead of another horse or allow two horses to be stalled next to each other? In some cases, horses bond much more emotionally to other horses, and this can amplify the stress and anxiety when their horse companion is racing or is not there. The bond with a calming goat really feels more like an added comfort rather than a necessity, without the added anxiety of using another horse as a companion. Just like in our favorite Marvel or DC comics, those superheroes need the support of their trusted sidekick to stay balanced and perform their best!

Horse with baby goat

Sometimes calming goats have multiple horses they support and can move from horse to horse, and the thoroughbreds don’t seem to be bothered by the change in an allegiance if their buddy is still nearby. Just like in every situation, some horses have been known to develop a deeper bond to their specific calming goat. In claiming races, those sidekicks are sometimes sent with the racer so that no one breaks up the duo. Whatever works, right? Imagine Batman without Robbin!

So, while you create that Traditional Kentucky Derby environment at home this year, be sure to think about those unsung heroes behind the scenes supporting healthy horse habits before the races. Silly horse helpers are munching some yummy forage right alongside your top pick. Good luck to all the champions and their sidekicks!

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