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By Tara van der Minne March 18, 2024

Million-dollar Grand Circuit champion pacer Arden Rooney (NZ) has started a wonderful new chapter beyond the track, securing a loving forever home as ‘the ultimate family horse’.“Our farrier mentioned that a standardbred would be the perfect horse for our family, as my fifteen-year-old son, Angus, was looking for a reliable pony club mount and I wanted to enjoy some leisurely trail riding”, says Rooney’s new owner, Belinda.

“Standardbreds are taken out and given so much exposure in their busy racing lives. By the time they retire, especially after successful careers like Rooney’s, they’re relaxed about pretty much everything”.

Inspired through her research into standardbreds, Belinda visited the Hero stall at Equitana and started to look at retrainer profiles on the Hero website.

“We live about two-and-a-half hours away from Monivae Park, which is located in Hamilton, however really felt a connection with the type of training and the incredible effort Stacey and Jackie Barker put into preparing their standardbreds for new homes”, Belinda explains.

“The experience purchasing a horse via Monivae Park was very positive. The girls asked a lot of questions and were so transparent and honest throughout the process. You could tell they really wanted to suss us out and make sure we were not only offering Rooney a forever home, but that we were a genuinely good match for each other”.Cited to be a ‘big, cuddly teddy bear who is kind and affectionate to everyone around him’, Rooney took just three days to settle into his new digs and figure the daily routine out.“ Initially we were offered to take Rooney on a two-week trial, as a bit of a safety net around the rehoming process”, Belinda explains.“During this time, Rooney buddied up with our existing horses, including calming our reactive mare down and gently grooming our little Shetland pony, and even went out to pony club for a rally day.“ Testament to his great nature, Rooney took the whole pony club experience in stride. He was beautifully behaved during his dressage lesson and used as a demo horse during the theory lesson”.

Hearing that Rooney is winning hearts in his new home is no surprise to Kerryn Manning, who shared some incredible feats, including history-making New Zealand and A. G. Hunter Cup wins, during the pair’s partnership on the track.“It’s been lovely to see Rooney develop and learn so many new things in his life after racing”, says Kerryn.“I was rapt when he found his way to Stacey and Jackie Barker, as they’re good friends of mine and they do such a great job with their horses and take such great care of them.“I knew they’d help Rooney to find the perfect home and I’m so glad he’s found this”.The sense of comfort and pride from seeing Rooney settle into a loving family is shared by the Monivae Park team, who spent many weeks fielding enquiries to secure the racing icon a forever home.

“Having a horse like Rooney come through for retraining has been pretty special for us”, Stacey shares. “Rooney’s given so much to not only his connections, but to the harness racing industry on the whole. It was absolutely wonderful to be able to help Rooney transition into the most perfect home with Belinda, where we’re sure he’s going to have the best life after racing”.

With his new routine based around before-school hugs and hanging around after his dinner for a smooch and ‘to show everyone exactly where he wants to be scratched’, it seems Rooney has found his happy ending.“Rooney’s such an intelligent horse with a lot of love to give and a fantastic work ethic”, says Belinda.“At fourteen, we’re not aiming to set the world on fire. Rooney will continue to enjoy low-level pony club and exploring the trails. He can do as little or as much as he wants, as he’s a family member first and foremost.“ One day, when Rooney tells us he’s had enough of riding, he can spend his senior years relaxing on our farm. His paddock is set up on a hill with the most spectacular views of the Otways.“It’s easy to see why Rooney has such a fan club, being such a kind, affectionate horse. We’re so lucky and glad to have him in our family”.



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