CAPE MAY - Joey, the horse who helped raise thousands of dollars for hospitalized children, died May 17 at his stable. He was 30.
“He laid down in the field, which wasn’t uncommon, and I went out to him and said, ‘Come on, Joe. You have to get up,’” said his handler, Kevin Wernik. “I started rocking him to get him up and the lead line snapped in half, so I ran back to the barn. When I got back he was gone, just like that. So quickly, but when I look back, also very peacefully.”
Wernik had Joey’s remains cremated.
Joey was born in South Dakota in 1988 and was trained for riding trails. Later in his life, he moved to Delmont, Cumberland County.
Around 2009, Joey met Wernik, a correctional officer at nearby Southern State Correctional Facility. Wernik fed Joey apples before and after work.
A few years later, Wernik became Joey’s handler.
Wernik sold Joey’s manure as fertilizer and used the funds to buy teddy bears for children at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children in Philadelphia. Thousands of bags of fertilizer were sold in what became known as the “Follow the Apple” nonprofit.
Joey took frequent walks around Cape May, enjoyed many apples and starred in plenty of selfies with Wernik.
Wernik recalled Joey as more than “just a horse,” he was an “inspiration.”
“On his last day he got a burst of energy and I was hopeful that he would be OK,” Wernik said. “But he must have known he was destined for heaven."