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Perfect Pete

As the noise and high energy of the Kentucky Derby racetrack faded into the past, the present gifted Pete with a way to help disabled people struggling in the everyday world.  


Pete has had an eventful life.  He lived his past on the Derby tracks escorting Derby racehorses out before and after each race.  However, now he lives a quieter lifestyle.


Pete, now a therapy horse, is trained to help people with special needs.  He helps calm clients down and learn new coping skills. His current owner Brenda Sheehan has made it her mission to combine his racetrack training with his new environment and use him to help others. 


Sheehan got Pete in 2017 after being gifted to her from his previous owner that used him on the racetrack. After a ride to see if Pete would be a good fit and some negotiating, the owner gave Sheehan the horse free of charge in exchange for giving him a good home.  


“I’m a retired teacher, special ed teacher and I don’t make a lot of money, said Sheehan thinking back to when she got Pete. “I know this horse is worth a lot so I’m probably going to have to pay monthly payments.  He said, ‘Brenda you just take the horse and give him a good home.”


When Pete originally trained to become a pony horse, as his title was called, he was on the shyer side. He trained before and after Derby races at the beginning of his career due to nerves until he got adjusted. Pete has escorted numerous Derby winners including American Pharaoh, Nyquist and all other Derby Race winners from the years 2011 to 2016.  


“He just flowed from the racetrack job to the equine therapy job,” said Sheehan. “I don’t know how he did it.  It was magical.”

Pete has been able to help many people throughout the years.  In Sheehan’s therapy program, she has multiple horses that are used to help special needs people, but Pete is a fan favorite.  According to Sheehan, one girl refused to have any other horse besides Pete when she showed up for her therapy session.  


"When the disabled people would come to the barn, Pete would get so excited to get to them and I think in some ways they changed him as well.,” Sheehan said. “But there was a change.  There was definitely a change from that stoic, focused, ‘got to do this job’ to a very soft, ‘how can I serve you type of horse."

Sheehan has also heard about the success stories from Pete.  According to Sheehan, a boy named Alex came for his first equine therapy session with Pete after his father passed away.  Alex was blind and autistic and according to Sheehan; he was a basket case from the incident. 


“Pete started turning towards Alex and he was doing this motion of going back and forth over his head,” said Sheehan. “There was a lot of stemming, waving and flapping going on with Alex but when Pete was over his head, it caused Alex to totally calm.”

When Alex came in, they did not know whether equine therapy would be a good fit for him.  After Alex got back, they called Sheehan and said that he could not be any calmer for the following 48 hours.  


“I felt really led to do this because he was a gift,” Sheehan said.  “I was given a gift.  I needed to give back and Pete gave back.  And he’s still giving back.”

Pete not only calmed her clients but also her as well.  In her words, he is ‘Perfect Pete.’

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