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Favorite Treat Is a Chore, but Company Is Good

March 02, 1993|BILL CHRISTINE

Like all horses, John Henry's official birthday falls on Jan. 1. His actual foaling date was March 9, 1975. In another week, he will be 18.

"He's in good shape," said Cathy Roby, one of the gelding's grooms at the Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky. Other famous retirees at the public park are Forego, the gelding who was horse of the year three times; Rambling Willie, a harness horse; the quarter horse Sgt. Pepper Feature, and Imperator, a champion saddlebred. Forego, 23, is the oldest.

John Henry's most serious health problem is his top row of teeth. "He's really worked them down," Roby said.

Throughout his career, John Henry was what is known as a "cribber," a horse who chews on the sides of his stall. "We've tied cribber straps to his mouth, but even that doesn't work," Roby said. "He always managed to work them off, so we gave up."

John Henry has always loved apples. The last time his trainer, Ron McAnally, visited him, he brought some apples. "He still eats them," Roby said, "but because of his teeth, it takes him a long time to bite through."

When John Henry was still in training, his owner, Sam Rubin, once stuck his head in the stall and the horse tried to bite it off. "He's still kind of sneaky," Roby said. "You're better off not turning your back on him, just in case he's having a bad day."

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