Stable pony

Small companions

Seabiscuit famously had a horse, a dog, and a spider monkey to keep him company. The horses at Cerchi Racing have Betty and Coco. 

Horses are herd animals, preferring the company of other animals than being alone. It is common practice for horses to have a companion pony for friendship and support. Shetland ponies and retired racehorses mainly provide the role of mate, but companion animals have come in all shapes and sizes, including goats, sheep, dogs, cats, and even chickens and monkeys. 

Their role is to keep them company at their own stables, but mainly to travel alongside horses to race meets in their float, keeping them relaxed on the journey. At the races they take up residence in the stall beside their friend, ensuring that they stay calm and don’t expend too much nervous energy. 

Mick Cerchi adopted two miniature show ponies when their careers ended, to work with trainees who were learning how to handle horses. “People with no experience with horses couldn’t just walk up to a racehorse, so the ponies helped them to learn.” When the trainee program finished, Betty and Coco took on a bit of an ornamental role around the stables, before settling into their roles as companions. 

“They are looked after just like the racehorses, with their own stable. They have a pretty good life!” says Cerchi. “They travel to the races so the horses don’t fret. Some are ok on the floats, but others need the company.”

Companion animals are known for their calm temperaments and ability to adapt, but Cerchi says Betty is probably the gentler of the two. “Betty has a great temperament. If you let her, she would snuggle up on your bed like a puppy.” This was proven when she recently visited head office at the VRC, delighting everyone who met her. 

Betty stable pony

So keep an eye out for these mini superstars next time you are wandering the stalls of Flemington. Their presence may be more than just a cute photo opportunity, but could be the difference between a win and a loss!