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    This year's Cover Pet Contest resulted in a tie. To read about the other winner, American pit bull terrier Presley Jane, click here.

    Photo by Chris Witzke​

    It’s not clear how “mini” Winston the miniature horse really is until you see him at home, in a little two-stall stable at Churchill Downs, just outside the Kentucky Derby Museum, where he’s spent nearly his whole life. Donated to Churchill Downs by a Shelbyville miniature horse farm as a foal, Winston serves as a companion animal to one of the biggest beasts I’ve seen, Twinspired, a big gray stallion who came in 17th in the 2011 Derby. Horses are herd animals, not built for solitude. “The horse will get upset if (Winston’s) removed,” says equine manager Alison Knight. Twinspired dwarfs me, and I’m 6’2”. At 34 inches tall, Winston barely makes it to my waist. The gangs of tourists and schoolkids that conclude guided tours at Winston’s stable often mistake him for a foal. “He knows he’s on the bottom end of the totem pole,” Knight says. That might be true in the horse world, but in the world of humans, Winston is a star. He has thrown out the first pitch at a Bats game (they rigged up a bucket so he could carry the baseball); kept the company of horses like 2009 Derby longshot winner Mine That Bird and fellow Derby runners Phantom on Tour and Perfect Drift; and, with the help of a saddle blanket that says “Will you marry me?” performed 10 marriage proposals. At age 24, Winston’s not exactly spry, but he’s not ready to retire just yet. “He can be a bully,” Knight says. “One time he chased (jockey) Calvin Borel. He had his ears pinned back and he was after Calvin.”

    Photo: Cover Pet Contest winner Winston the miniature horse.

    This originally appeared in the September 2017 issue of Louisville Magazine in the series "Will Work for Food." To subscribe to Louisville Magazine, click here. To find your very own copy of Louisville Magazine, click here. 

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    About Dylon Jones

    Dylon Jones is a poet, essayist and journalist based in Louisville, Kentucky, where he serves as web editor of Louisville Magazine. His narrative journalism has earned him first-place awards in feature writing and profile reporting from the Society of Professional Journalists. In 2015, Sarabande Books awarded him the Flo Gault Poetry Prize. His poems will appear in Tinderbox Poetry Journal and The Collagist this summer.

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