While the achievements of the Outwoods Farm grand prix show jumpers should mostly be attributed to talent and top horses, recently a little luck has come Duncan McFarlane and Helen McNaught’s way.
Last year while traveling to the HITS-On-The-Hudson show in Saugerties, N.Y., from California, a group of kittens took up residence in McFarlane and McNaught’s trailer after an overnight stop. McFarlane moved them out and continued on to New York. But another stop in Ohio revealed that he’d been carrying a stowaway. McFarlane had planned to leave the kitten with food, but when the animal wouldn’t leave his truck, he knew he’d inherited a barn cat.
“He was tiny. He had no hair, just a little on his tummy and his head. His tail didn’t grow for about six or eight months. He looked like an opossum,” said McNaught, who eventually named the kitten Lucky.
After a streak of good finishes at Saugerties, including a second place for McFarlane and Mr. Whoopy in the Pfizer $1 Million Grand Prix, McNaught was convinced their newfound friend was a good luck charm, so the cat has become a traveling companion for their horses.
Lucky spent six weeks at HITS Thermal (Calif.) this winter where he patrolled the barn aisle, according to McNaught. “He just spent his time terrorizing everybody, to be honest,” she said with a laugh.
“We actually lost him for three days. He’s so independent. He only comes when he’s really hungry,” she said. “He was hiding under a trailer. Duncan thought he’d died, but I thought ‘No, no. We’re having a really good show. The horses are going really good, and we’re still winning classes. I don’t think he’s dead.’ I do believe in good and bad luck. I’m a little bit superstitious.”
Lucky didn’t want to go to Saugerties this year (he jumped out of the truck), so until Thermal next year, he’s keeping order at Outwoods Farm in San Ramon, Calif., and sleeping in Mr. Whoopy’s stall.
“He has his favorites. He guards the barn aisle. He chases all the dogs off, and if any horses are walking down the barn aisle that shouldn’t be there, he chases them too,” said McNaught. “Whoopy just eats around him; he just loves him. If [Whoopy] comes too close to the cat, [Lucky]’ll just bat him with his paw.”
Lucky seems to have no fear and has no problem telling off anyone, even horses, if he feels they’re in his way. “Lariccello [one of McNaught’s grand prix mounts] tends to grab his tail. He’s normally a mean horse to little animals. Lucky will go in his stable, and ‘Lari’ will turn to take him out with his head on the floor, ears pinned back, and Lucky just sits there and looks at him, and he’ll back off,” said McNaught.
“He’s an absolute little Antichrist to be honest,” she joked. “The wild cats who terrorized him as a kitten, he’ll walk straight down the middle of six or seven of them and just back them off. He rules the roost.”
If you enjoyed this article and would like to read more like it, consider subscribing. The original version of "A Little Luck In The Form Of Four Paws" ran in the Sept. 10, 2012, Olympics Analysis issue. Check out the table of contents to see what great stories are in the magazine this week.