A bright chestnut gelding who raced 70 times without ever hitting a big payday proved to be the golden ticket for a family in search of a happier life.
In the most unexpected, even funny plot twist, the Thoroughbred purchased by Christine and Don Egidio in 2001 as a riding horse for their young sons wound up instead inspiring Don Egidio to give up his tedious career as an IT professional to pursue a life with animals, a life never before imagined.
“The funniest thing is that before we adopted Gold Deputy, my husband had never even been around horses,” says his astounded wife Christine. “But this horse chose my husband.”
Whether the Thoroughbred was having a lesson with a rider on his back, or just hanging around the barn, his ears were always tuned into her husband’s voice, she says, adding, “I could be riding him and as soon as he heard my husband, he would be looking for him” and ignoring her.
Barn name: Gambit
Sire: Mane Minister
Dam: Gold Line Miss
Foal date: Feb. 9, 1994Gold Deputy often nickered to Don Egidio and it wasn’t long before the unhappy computer professional found his calling, she says.
“My husband was miserable as an IT person, but as soon as we got Gold Deputy, everything changed. The next thing I knew, he was watching (natural horsemanship specials) on TV and saying, ‘I could do that.’ ”
With an uncanny and natural talent, her husband taught their intrepid ex-racehorse to face his fears and embrace new challenges, bravely moving over tarps and then over outdoor terrain with its myriad distractions. He even began the study of natural hoof-trimming techniques, which he eventually parlayed into a full-time career.
“He apprentices around the country with the American Hoof Association and went back to school on a military scholarship to study equine sciences,” she says. Along the way, he has also discovered a hidden talent for working with difficult equines.
“I remember one time a girl came to him and said she couldn’t get her horse to lunge to the right. She’d had the horse with trainers and coaches and nothing worked. My husband told her, ‘I can do it.’ And about 45 minutes later, that horse was lunging to the right,” Christine says. “He’s more patient with them than he was with our boys when they were little. And the horses just love him!”
And Gold Deputy has been a patient teacher as well. On one memorable afternoon early on, the pair decided to ride the obliging gelding bareback to improve their balance. Taking turns leading the OTTB while the other rode, they were amazed at the care their horse took to keep them in place.
“When we started, we were so wobbly on his back, and he walked like he was tiptoeing on glass,” she says. “He could feel we were going to fall off and he made sure we didn’t.”
Fast-forward a few years, and now it’s Don Egidio who has earned the show accolades in western pleasure classes with his trusty steed! Their beautiful OTTB, who they adopted from Bright Futures Farm in Pennsylvania, can lope as slowly and rhythmically as horses who were bred for it.
“He was our first horse, and he’s absolutely amazing,” Christine says. “This horse has changed our lives.”