Photo of the Week: Haunted by a spooky TB

Retired police officer Hugh Francis and his OTTB Piper put some spook in the Halloween festivities in Westchester, N.Y.

Retired police officer Hugh Francis and his OTTB Piper put some spook in the Halloween festivities in Westchester, N.Y. Photo by Holly Limoges

Hugh Francis and his dark bay OTTB Piper Heidsieck often haunt the Old Dutch Church Cemetery in Westchester, N.Y. this time of the year.

Francis, a retired mounted police officer, enjoys donning the Headless Horseman costume to help celebrate the holiday.

He tapped Piper for the very special role of ‘spooky black horse’ a few years back, after a friend gave up on him. He was just too hard to handle. But in Francis’s hands, the gelding proved to be no spook at all. In fact, says Francis, “There’s nothing wrong with the horse at all. He’s just a high-powered Thoroughbred.”

Piper’s racehorse identity is not known, his identifying lip tattoo has been blurred with time. So Francis named him for his favorite vintage of champagne. And now horse and rider are the toast of the Halloween season!

In this photo, photographer Holly Limoges captured the essence of the unflappable OTTB, who has grown at ease in a commotion.

Says Limoges, “This Thoroughbred stood like a saint for photos with the crowds for hours in this famous cemetery at Sleepy Hollow where Washington Irving is buried.”

The duo appears at the cemetery every Saturday and Sunday during the month of October, beginning in the late afternoon.

3 responses to “Photo of the Week: Haunted by a spooky TB”

  1. Kym Magnavita

    I was hired to do this one year in the 90’s, at the time I had been riding a black Quarter horse who would have been perfect but was on stall rest from an injury so I took the OTTB mare I had started riding for her owner who was a little green but was quiet for the most part, I had trail ridden her many times with no problem. I rode her to the cemetary from our barn, a good hour ride and she was fine alone and through the cemetary. The nice couple that hired me dressed me up and as the woman held the mare the man gave me a leg up she spooked! Reared up and I rolled off the back of her, She took off and I chased her through the cemetary as I shed the costume! She was caught by Rockwood hall by a mountie and hours later we made it back to the barn. The couple was so nice they came by to make sure we were ok and insisted on paying me because the woman let her go and I was helpless! The costume was very awkward, I could barely see. It was an adventure!

  2. Jennifer F.

    Piper is definitely the horse for this job! So calm and relaxed. Hugh has trained him well.

  3. colmel

    Just love seeing that cocked hind leg. That horse is definitely at ease. Don’t think I would be with a headless man on my back. ;->

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