A racehorse near Ottawa that lost his left eye in a freak accident three years ago is getting a second chance at competing for a top prize.
In three weeks, Rusty the horse will be heading to Lexington, Kentucky, where he'll be entering in the Thoroughbred Makeover competition for retired racehorses — one that requires him to focus more on jumping high than running fast.
"He's just such a willing and honest horse that I just love him," said trainer Hilary Popiel, who works with Rusty in Carleton Place, Ont., near Ottawa.
It's hard to say what Rusty — whose sire sold for $3.2 million and whose brother is a top racehorse in Japan — might have accomplished if tragedy hadn't struck three years ago on a racetrack in Boston.
Rusty was in the middle of a race when the horse in front of him lost a shoe. The shoe flew off and struck Rusty in the face.
"It caught his eye and he flipped over backwards with his jockey," said Popiel.
Rusty was very nervous when the horse arrived at her stables eight months ago.
'He'll just do anything'
"When he first got here, we couldn't catch him. We couldn't bring him into the barn," said Popiel.
"Now that he trusts us, he'll just do anything for anyone here."
In three weeks, Popiel and Rusty will head down to Kentucky for the retired racehorse competition, which has a $100,000 top prize. There are 10 different disciplines for horses to compete in and Rusty has been entered in the "fox hunter and jumper" discipline.
Even if Rusty doesn't claim the top prize, Popiel said all the hard work's he's done to learn his new skills has been worth it.
"We've already won. He's jumping and he's got a career," she said.