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Jannie Guido and Murphy (Photo courtesy of East Coast Equestrian)
Jannie Guido and Murphy (Photo courtesy of East Coast Equestrian)

by Marcella Peyre-Ferry

You never know where you will find the horse that is perfect for you. For Janine Guido, the horse that fills all her needs came out of a kill pen in Alabama.

Janine has been riding since she was five years old, but injuries kept her out of the saddle for more than a decade. She remained vitally entwined with animals, running Speranza Animal Rescue at her family’s 17-acre farm near Mechanicsburg, PA. The rescue focuses primarily on bully breed dogs, but also includes a wide range of farm animals plus two zebras and a camel.

As far as horses go, Speranza was focused on a few older, neglected or unrideable animals that needed a healthy retirement home. Known for her willingness to take in the worst cases, Janine didn’t have a horse she could ride.

In 2021, a year after recovering from knee surgery, Janine let her friends know she was interested in returning to riding. Soon she got a call from one who had spotted a horse in an Alabama kill pen. What made this horse stand out was that he was a branded warmblood.

“I had gone through so many bad injuries and knee surgeries. I wanted to get back into riding but I needed something that wasn’t going to kill me,” Janine said.

The 16.2 hand, bay Holsteiner gelding that would become known as Murphy was in poor condition weight-wise, missing several front teeth from periodontal disease and had a healed bowed tendon with no apparent lameness.

“He looked broken. His eyes had no hope,” Janine said. “Little did I know he would turn out to be the perfect mister unicorn ever. I cannot say enough good things about this horse.”

All Janine had to go by was a photograph, but she was willing to take a chance. “I thought, ‘if I can ride him great, if I can’t, I can’t-- that’s OK,’ There was just something special about him,” she said.

It took time to get Murphy back into shape. As he gained weight and condition it became apparent that this was a horse with a history.

When it came time to get on his back, Janine was hesitant at first, but Murphy exceeded all expectations. The first ride was a five-minute walk - a small step to build confidence. The next included trot work and Janine began to see a hint of how well Murphey had been trained.

“He does incredible lead changes, he jumps anything - you just point him at it. He’s got the best brain. I can’t say enough good things about him,” Janine said. “He’s a once in a lifetime horse and I got him from a kill pen.”

In addition to being a willing jumper, it is possible he was trained for eventing at one time. “It’s apparent he has had dressage training,” Janine said.

Although he is believed to be in his mid-twenties, Murphey is still fit and ready to show. Janine has taken him to nearby shows under his new show name “Simple Man” In February 2023 they won all three of their over fences classes at Heritage Acres Winter IV and placed fourth in the flat class to earn the Baby Green Hunter Championship.

For the coming spring Janine hopes to try the beginning jumper divisions.

After finding Murphy, Janine’s eyes have been opened to other possibilities. She recently purchased a young thoroughbred mare at auction whose only problem was an abscess in her sinus cavity. She hopes this horse may take over for Murphy when it is time for him to retire.

In Murphy’s success story there are poignant moments. “What’s sad for me was when he first came here he knew how to beg for treats. That broke my heart. At one time this horse was so spoiled, he was treated well and loved and yet he turned into what we found him as,” Janine said. “Growing up in the hunter - jumper world my trainers have always been good with keeping in touch with the horses that were sold, This just opens your eyes. People are not aware.”

Finding a good riding horse in the ranks of the rescue is not common but it does happen. Speranza currently has a few that are being rehabilitated before being adopted out.

“It boggles my mind how well trained some of these horses are that people have just given up on. It’s just crazy,” Janine said. “I never thought you’d be able to find something that made and that high level that was going to ship to slaughter.”

Janine encourages people to be open to buying horses that are in challenging situations and to be careful when they sell an older horse. “I would just encourage people, whenever you sell your old or retired horse, keep tabs on it,” she said. “If you’re looking for a lesson horse, don’t be afraid to look in kill pens, some nice horses just need some meat on them.”

This article originally appeared on East Coast Equestrian and is published here with permission.

You can find more interesting articles in our section on Retire & Rehome.

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