Every once and a while, Tara MacLeod’s father Billy would call to ask if she still wanted him to hang on to her tack-box filled with bridles and saddles from her youth.
Someone, he’d explain, had expressed an interest in buying it.
And when she replied that yes, she wanted to keep it stored at his home, where it’d been tucked away for 20 years, he’d simply chuckle with fatherly understanding.
Although he wasn’t a horse person, he was an “animal person” who freely indulged his daughter’s passion; he bought those saddles for her way back when, and stored them for her all these years.
But in March 2012, when her father died suddenly and unexpectedly, at age 69, of a ruptured ulcer, his support of her continued.
A small inheritance, like pennies from heaven, was a gift he gave MacLeod that opened up a door to an opportunity of which she’d previously only dreamed.
Race name: Afleet Trini
Barn name: Lex
Sire: Afleet Alex
Dam: Heaven’s Symphony
Foal date: April 27, 2009“One day in August I saw a gray horse listed for free on Facebook, and I wrote a comment saying how beautiful he was,” she says. “The next thing I know, a friend of mine said that if I wanted to board him, I could keep him her at her barn, which is 90 minutes away from my house.”
Still not quite believing what she was about to do, the 40-year-old mother of two emailed the site, asking about the dappled, gray gelding.
Eventually, she got through to Woodbine exercise rider April Leblanc, who re-homes Thoroughbreds, and was told that there was a lot of interest in the handsome “lamb” of a horse. The race was now on!
“She told me that it would come down to whoever go to the farm first with a trailer,” MacLeod says.
But the stars aligned for MacLeod and Afleet Trini, the son of famous racehorse Afleet Alex.
Not only was she able to arrange to get a trailer to Trini’s farm in time, but the saddles her father had kept for her fit her first horse perfectly!
“My brother had been to my father’s house cleaning it out over the summer. And before I even saw this horse, I told him to mail me my tack box,” she says. “My saddles arrived on Wednesday (Aug. 1) and my horse arrived that Friday (Aug. 3).”
Her first horse, purchased sight unseen from an Internet photo turned out to be a doll.
The unraced Kentucky bred has a slight bow in one tendon, which he injured in training, and has the dream-horse personality suitable for any beginner.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better beginner racehorse,” she says. “I got some coaching for six weeks and my trainer said to me, ‘Tara, you got a really good horse. He’s got a really good mind, he has a good personality, and he’s not hyper or hard to handle.’ ”
As much fun as he is to ride, one of MacLeod’s favorite things to do is walk him through her barn on a loose lead-line past onlookers who invariably comment on his natural beauty
“I’ll say to them, ‘That’s my crazy racehorse!’ and he’ll just be plodding along behind me, calmly blowing away the misconception that racehorses are all crazy.”
And as a hard year draws to a close, MacLeod feels that in losing her father so suddenly, and being reminded that life is short, she has regained something of her zest for life.
“Owning a horse is like a dream come true for me,” she says. “I just know my father would be happy that I’m finally doing something I’ve always wanted to do.”