For such a little pony, Chocolate makes a big difference to the racehorses around him.
Chocolate (or ‘Choccy’) is probably the most well-known ‘companion horse’ in South Australia and his owner, Morphettville trainer Paula Trenwith, says he plays an important role in keeping her horses calm and safe…
Q: How long have you had Chocolate and why did you get him?
PT: I’ve had Chocolate for seven or eight years and I got him off another trainer, Kym Healy.
He was born at another trainer’s property, Phillip Cole, and they said he was about the size of a cat when he was born – he was tiny.
I got him to be a companion for my horses after an incident on the way home from the Broken Hill races, when I had my old two-horse float. I took one horse and he got up there okay, but on the way home – just the other side of Burra – he tried to climb out over the breast bar and get out the front window. That was pretty frightening.
I put it down to the fact he was on his own, so I thought, ‘What can I do? I know, I’ll get a pony’.
Q: He’s so small!
PT: Yeah, he only weighs 100kg; he’s really little.
But that’s good, because you’re not spending extra fuel dragging a full-sized horse around.
And that horse I mentioned was never a problem after I put Chocolate with him.
So now, whenever I’ve got just one horse going somewhere, Chocolate goes with them, whether it’s to the paddock or the races or wherever.
- Why does he make a difference to your horses?
PT: Well, horses have got a herd instinct. When they’ve got some company of some description it really does calm them down.
In the past I’ve know some trainers have goats and all sorts, but there’s nothing like another equine for them.
My horses just love him. He roams around in the backyard and walks around the block pretty much every morning, then he comes and eats the grass on the back lawn. The other horses put their heads over the gate to talk to him.
Q: Does a companion horse need to have a certain demeanour?
PT: You drag them around, so they’ve got to be tolerant.
You’ve got to be able to lead them and they’ve got to be able to load and stand on a float. They need to have a pretty good nature.
He’s been down to Mount Gambier and I reckon he’s been to Port Augusta. He’s been everywhere.
Q: You were saying the other day that more trainers are starting to use companion horses?
PT: I’ve never seen so many companion horses at the races. I went to Gawler a few weeks ago and it was great to see so many people having companion ponies.
People have recognised that it’s beneficial when you’re taking a horse somewhere to have company for them. It really makes a difference to them.
I reckon years ago a horse came out from England to run in the Melbourne Cup and he had a little pony.
Kristy Evans has one she takes to the races, Harry or Hazza. Ryan Balfour’s got one, Trevor Dansie’s got one, Marilyn Smith, Leah Conlon, lots of people.
Q: For a pony, Chocolate’s pretty famous?
PT: Yep, he’s got his own Instagram page.
When I had (Anthony Freedman’s) Realm of Flowers here during the carnival, she fell in love with Chocolate, because he lives in the yard across from where she was staying. She’d stand there staring at him all day.
He’s actually done lots of things. When they premiered Ride Like a Girl down at Glenelg he was there, greeting everyone. Clare Lindop, who’s a councillor now for Holdfast Bay Council, organised it. So, Chocolate was on the red carpet and he got to meet all those people. He got his photo taken with the real Melbourne Cup too.
He’s met Doctor Harry when we went to a pet expo. He won a ‘face of the year’ competition for this charity.
When you take him to the races everyone talks to Chocolate. People will see him coming and they’ll say ‘Hello Chocolate’ before they even talk to us.
Q: Finally, Paula, how old is Chocolate?
PT: He’s 13 now. These little fellas, when they’re healthy, live to about 30 I reckon.
Q: Well, he’s got plenty of good years left in him. Thanks for talking to us today.
PT: You’re welcome.
Chocolate’s Instagram handle is: Choccy_chocolate