Brooke Schafer tells the fascinating story of her Thoroughbred “Ghost,” who was a very successful Grade II racehorse before converting to eventing.
Top photo courtesy of Jim Noetzel.
Mighty Military “Ghost” was bred by Walts-David Stable and raced under the expert eye of Robert E “Bob” Holthus. Ghost was a winner of $207,525 in 32 starts and raced in the Firecracker Breeder’s Cup Handicap Gr. 2 stakes at Churchill Downs in 2004. He was a mighty contender against the well known stallion Kitten’s Joy of Ramsey Farm. I was told that Ghost could be a handful at the track, running off and would sometimes open up in the first 10 lengths of a race before they could rate him. At 6 years old, Ghost was retired from his racing career in the fall of 2007.
He took up residence at Meadowlake Farm in Kentucky after retirement and was owned by the famed equine photographer Doug Prather. Ghost spent the next 2 years relaxing in a paddock until he was purchased by a young lady, Rachel Roberts. Rachel began riding and jumping Ghost and recognized his potential as a jumper. In 2009 Ghost was brought to my mother, Lindsay Hunter of Nicholasville, Kentucky. He was sold briefly as a jumper and spent 6 months in Ohio before returning to Lindsay Hunter’s Silverstone Farm. Ghost took up residence and began teaching riding lessons as well as competing at local hunter jumper shows. In 2012, I was looking for a new eventing prospect that I could bring down to Benton Louisiana and compete in the Area V (Louisiana, Texas, and Arkansas) Eventing competitions. My mom suggested I take Ghost with me and although I had ridden him several times in the years he had been at my mother’s, Ghost and I had never quite seen “eye to eye”. I decided to take a chance on him and in July of 2012 I brought him down to Holly Hill Farm in Louisiana.
Ghost had had some jumping training over the years after his racing retirement however it had been few and far between. He often left a stride out when approaching a jump and got anxious when being presented with an exercise. Upon coming to Louisiana, Ghost made it very clear that he wanted to learn and work in his very first lesson with my instructor Regis Webb.
On his first trip schooling cross country he jumped every fence like he had done it his entire life. He is a true athlete in every sense of the word. He approaches every jump with a hunger and confidence that has helped me jump well beyond my normal level of comfort. He has an excellent eye and always gets himself out of a tough spot. In our first hunter jumper show we won Reserve Champion in Level 1 Jumpers, only 6 weeks after arriving to Louisiana.
In October we competed in our first horse trials at Greenwood Farm in Weatherford TX in Beginner Novice and later that month we moved up to Novice level at the Holly Hill Farm Fall Horse Trials finishing 5th out of a large group of competitors. Later that month I rode with the great Sally O’ Connor (mother of Olympian David O’Connor) for a dressage lesson where she expressed that she really liked Ghost’s way of moving and free walk indicating to me that it was time for him to move up to Training level.
In October of 2012 I noticed that Ghost seemed to have a stubborn runny nose that wouldn’t go away. After several rounds of antibiotics it was still persisting in November. I work at Red River Equine Hospital in Benton LA which is an excellent veterinary facility owned by brothers Andrew Lewis DVM and Nelson Lewis DVM. There they identified that Ghost had an infection in his sinus cavity caused by two bad molars. In the end of November Ghost underwent surgery to have those teeth removed and hopefully clear the infection.
It has been three months since Ghost’s surgery and while we are still treating his runny nose and working to clear up the sinusitis Ghost has shown no worse for the wear. I am still able to ride him and we are slowly preparing for the 2013 show season. In February I will ride in a 3-day clinic with Buck Davidson at Holly Hill Farm and we will prepare for our first event in Tyler Texas in March. I am hoping to compete in our (mine and his) first Training level horse trials in April.
Ghost has had a very interesting life and throughout all of his ups and downs he has always remained an athlete. He has given me confidence out on the cross country course that I hold second to none. When I went home for a month to Kentucky for Christmas my friends reported to me that Ghost was extremely depressed while I was gone. After returning, Ghost wouldn’t let me out of his sight and often nickered loudly to me whenever I had to leave. I have a bond with him that is not like any other I’ve ever had with a horse. I trust him with my life every day and I hope we are able to go far together in the upcoming years.
Thank you to Brooke for writing this and sending it our way, and thanks for reading! Have a great story like this? Write it up and send it to [email protected]! -Kate Samuels