A horse crush? A horse crush? It's something that only the horsiest of horse people can understand.
The last few days have brought two items of very sad news to the horse racing world: namely, the passing of Patton and Sunshine Forever, thoroughbred racehorse retirees and long-time residents of the Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement farm in Georgetown, Ky. Patton was humanely euthanized after several days of medical care for an unknown condition and Sunshine Forever died of an apparent heart attack. The racing and horse world lost two great ones in a matter of days.
As a racing fan and a fan of great horses in general, I have always loved visiting the Old Friends facility. They provide a wonderful retirement for racing's great and not-so-great alike and make them accessible to the public in a way that few other places do. And it was during a visit a few years ago that I got to hang out with one of my first “horse crushes,” Awad.
A horse crush? You know you have had one… it is those horses that can never be yours, but capture your heart anyway. You get a flutter when you watch them race, compete in a show ring or maybe just gallop around the neighbor's field. They can never be “yours,” but they still carve out a special place in your life.
Awad came into his own as a racehorse during my early teenage years, when, to use the teenage girl term of the era, I “crushed hard” (though never on boys, just the horses!). I fell in love instantly with his game, hard-running late kick and it was by recording his races on TV and making a montage set to music (yeah, I was a horse dork, OK?) that I first learned the video editing skills I use to this day in my professional career.
So when I got a chance to visit the old boy at Old Friends a few years ago, I was thrilled like any adult woman would be to finally meet her teenage crush. Though 21 at the time, he still had the presence of a horse who knew he was “it” and stalked about his paddock looking for some competition. While I was there, a new horse arrived and Awad made his presence known with quite a display of “greatness,” just so the newcomer knew how awesome he was. Sadly, he passed away later that year.
In the 20 years since I first fell for Awad and other great horses of his era (Cigar, Devil His Due, Lure), I may have grown up in other ways but I have never grown out of having “horse crushes.” Horses like Rock Hard Ten, Shackleford and most recently, Ken's Kitten, at the RRTP Thoroughbred Makeover all caught my eye, captured my heart and made me a die-hard fan from the first time I saw them. I may never own them, but they surely own a piece of me.
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Who do you have a “horse crush” on? Share it here!
Some of my all time favorites:
Shackleford winning the 2011 Preakness–his first foals are coming this year! Oh, how I want one!
Ken's Kitten doing the 3rd Level Dressage demo at the RRTP Thoroughbred Makeover and National Symposium in October of 2013.
Heather Benson is a former racetrack executive, professional handicapping analyst and owner of a Triple Crown winner (well, at least a horse that played one in a movie). But far more importantly, she is a is still that girl who gets giddy when the starting gate opens and cries every time she watches a replay of Secretariat’s Belmont Stakes. Join her each month as she takes you on a journey through the world of horse racing, from top to bottom, with a little bit of everything in between! Heather also operates Back Forty Media and Marketing, a full service marketing firm focusing on telling story of equine ventures around the country. Go to her website for more info and to follow her on Facebook at www.backfortymarketing.com.