After a year facing the kind of tragedy that would test a much older person, a smile spread across the face of 15-year-old Emma Savaglio last week when she walked into the barn and realized the ex-racehorse in the red bow was hers.
After a tragic year that began when the family horse lost his battle with colic, only to be followed and compounded later by the inexorably sad death of a young girl’s 16-year-old boyfriend to cancer, Amy Savaglio and her teenage daughter Emma cried often and smiled rarely.
As the months marched toward her daughter’s 16th birthday, Amy Savaglio thought long and hard about how to bring a smile, once again, back to her daughter Emma’s face.
“When Emma’s boyfriend passed away from Lymphoma in July, the only things that kept her strong were her faith and horses,” Savaglio says. “It was such a horrible year that I thought there’s got to be something to make the year end happy.”
Enter Goffin, a redheaded ex-racehorse who flashed brightly in Facebook photos, but had never received much attention in a lackluster career.
Race name: Goffin Around
Dam: As It Were
Foal date: April 22,1999
Appearing in photos on the Facebook page of well-known OTTB trainer Lisa Molloy, the 13-year-old gelding looked kind and placid, and caught the eye of Savaglios.
“I made a comment on Facebook about how beautiful Goffin looked,” she says, noting that he bore a striking resemblance to their horse Czar, who had just died. “And after I made that comment, his photo kept popping up on my Facebook page.”
Unbeknownst to Savaglio, her daughter had spotted the same horse!
So while Emma was commenting on Facebook about Goffin’s good looks, her mother called Molloy on the sly and arranged to buy him via horse adoption agency Re-Run, and provide her daughter with a very special birthday present.
But keeping the secret required everyone to play his part.
Although Molloy sold Goffin to Savaglio and had shipped him to the Illinois barn where both mother and daughter ride, she deliberately kept mum on the sale of the horse. “Her daughter kept commenting on pictures of Goffin and I just ignored them,” says Molloy, explaining that she had to bite her tongue to keep from announcing that the fine-looking gent had been sold.
Once Goffin was secured the barn, everyone from the barn owner to the grooms made every effort to keep the horse hidden!
“They stuck him in the dressage side of the barn so her daughter wouldn’t notice him,” Molloy says.
But even that maneuver did not completely outfox Emma.
The young lady had become so enamored with the statuesque animal, that she’d uploaded his image onto her various screensavers. And when she spotted Goffin by accident one day, the jig was nearly up.
“She came flying into my office one day and asked, ‘Did you buy me Goffin?’ I denied it and said it was possible that the horse she’d spotted in the barn had a similar heritage. I pretty much convinced her he was there for dressage training.”
Even a groom, when cross-examined by Emma on the identity of the horse, got into the act by corroborating the fiction, she adds. “I think when she asked the groom who the horse was, and he said he thought it was a dressage horse, that’s what really convinced her,” Savaglio says.
On Sunday, Nov. 4, when Emma arrived at the barn, Goffin was wearing a big, red bow around his neck.
Emma, now even more suspicious than ever as to the horse’s identity, took out her cell phone to look at her screensaver picture and compare it with the horse standing right in front of her.
She looked at the horse, back at her phone, again at the horse, and now tears of joy flowed as she broke into a grateful and knowing smile.
For her mother, it was the best gift ever.
“The nicest thing was seeing a smile back on her face,” she says. “She now has something positive to focus on, and love, and this horse is everything Lisa Molloy said he was—he’s perfect for us.”
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