Golden Ghost


May 22, 1979 ~ January 2, 2005

Where do I begin? He came to me in my 30th year. A birthday gift to myself. One I had been waiting for my entire life. He was green and so was I. Not a good match everyone said. But I went ahead with it anyway...too anxious to finally have a horse of my own. Little did I know that through all of the coming trials and tribulations we would form a bond between us that I never knew possible. This is his story.

I first saw Spook when my then-riding instructor brought him and another horse in to try and sell. He had come from a local horse dealer who had kept him on only hay the entire winter. In Michigan, that was asking a lot of a horse. He was thin, just skin and bones, and just starting to shed out his winter coat. He was a mess. I remember my instructor telling me that he will be so fancy...just needs a little weight on him. I paid $1100 dollars for him. In hindsite about $600 too much...but he ended up being worth his weight in gold.

I named him Spook. He was registered (Appaloosa) but I hadn't as yet received his papers so I had no idea what his real name was.  I remember I had an apple in my hand and he jumped to the back of the stall. ARE spooky. And it stuck. Ironically, when I did get his papers, his registered name was Golden it even sort of made sense that way!

He was 6 and had no idea how to carry a rider. I was a first-time horse owner and had only taken about 8 lessons at the time. But we persevered through the saddle-slippings and his extremely fast gaits. After he started eating and gaining weight I started calling him GRF (Goes Real Fast) Golden Ghost. He had one speed in all gears...FAST! He was unbalanced and scared...which made me unbalanced and scared!

I got myself a new trainer and when she rode him for the first time she said it will take a year to get a canter out of this horse. We worked together diligently...and we got the canter in 6 months!

From there, there was no stopping us! I became interested in competitive trail riding and he excelled at it.  He loved the competition and was a peach to camp with. He was the quintessential trail horse...nothing bothered him. Water, bridges, deer, dogs, traffic, bikes, snowmobiles....nothing!

When he started having problems with his front feet we backed off. He was slightly navicular and the vet diagnosed him with low ringbone. In fact, he told me that in a year's time he wouldn't be able to hold his own weight. That was about 10 years ago. Looking at that, I backed way off. His shoeing became catamount. He was done EVERY five weeks religiously. We put him on wedge pad and barshoes and it made a difference. He was, well not 100% sound...he had good days and not-so-good days...but he was still rideable.

Fast forward 10 years...

We were the enviable team up to one year ago. That fateful day in October 2003 when I got the dreaded call from the barn. "Spook's lame...three-legged lame. We have the vet out here and we have blocked him, thinking it was another abscess. We can rule that out. He is still lame." As it turned out he had suffered a fracture of his elbow on his right front leg. It was broken clean through. We can try stall rest but that would be our only option. Can't cast it or splint it and it is not operable. Okay...we'll try that. He was comfortable in his stall. To look at him you'd never know he was even injured. No swelling in the leg at evidence on how it had even happened. He could stand on it, just not walk on it.

I was worried...but he came through it like a champ. He spent his time and dealt with it like I never thought he could. He was happy, surprisingly enough. Just found other things to look forward to, I guess.

This past summer he was doing so well we let him out 4 hours a day in his little turnout paddock that was accessible from his stall. He would stand and soak up the sun. He watched the other horses in the field and work in the outdoor ring. I even would lead him out to hand-graze. How he loved the grass. I took him out as often as I could so he could graze. I knew how much he missed that.

Two months ago I had an offer to move him to a backyard. He would be a babysitter for an even older 33 year old Tennessee Walker. His turnout would be like it to his stall and could be as big or small as it needed to be. At the time it sounded like a perfect solution! He would have a buddy and 24 hour in/out access.

I really thought he could handle it. That is where I made my fatal mistake. It took two months before he had damaged the break beyond repair. When the vet x-rayed him, she said the broken piece was now 3 inches apart from where it began. When I went out to see him on the 2nd of this month, he was standing with his head on the stall door. I opened his door and I couldn't believe what I saw. He was holding the right leg up and close to his body. The elbow was swollen like I had never seen before and he just looked so tired. I told him...I will take care of it. And I went to make the call. I couldn't let him struggle like that...not after all we had been through.

He went out of this life the way he lived. He had a strong will to live. I think he would have wanted to still stick around if he had his druthers. He laid down in the field after the first vial. I sat with him and talked to him, through my tears, and told him it would be okay and to wait for me at the bridge. He seemed to relax then and way too soon...he was gone.

I used to sing to him when we rode through the fields. He was my sunshine, my only sunshine. He made me happy when skies were gray. I only hope he knew how much I loved him...and love him still. He was my one and only, my sunshine.

Patty Ferrick

Spook's Support Group Honoree page.

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