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HRN Original Blog:
Past the Grandstand

Spanky of the Bluegrass: New Beginnings

Photo: Terri Cage Photography

A beautiful bay horse pranced about, the sun bringing out hints of gold within his coat. He pricked his ears forward, his bright eyes taking in the sights around him. This was a happy horse. A horse that was loved, cherished, and well taken care of.

But at one point in his life, this horse had faced one of the worst situations a horse could encounter. Starved and neglected, this young Thoroughbred had once been mistrusting of humans. After all, they’d left him to become weak with starvation as he developed a terrible case of rain rot, and their negligence had led to the death of his dam.

This is the story of a horse named Spanky.

Registered with Jockey Club as Make Me Laugh, Spanky was born in Louisiana in January of 2009. As a two-year-old, he sold for just $500 at the John Franks Memorial Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale. But he never raced.

Instead, he ended up at Charles Ford’s farm in Many, Louisiana, where his life would take a turn for the worse. Among nearly 80 other horses, the young horse was neglected, leaving him to starve while more than 25 horses died on the farm. Charles Ford has since pleaded guilty to ten counts of felony animal cruelty; sentencing and a restitution hearing are set for November.












Spanky at the Many, Louisiana farm

In early January of 2012, the Louisiana Horse Rescue Association and Remember Me Rescue stepped in to help the animals. Spanky was among a handful of horses that were brought to Remember Me Rescue in Burleson, Texas, where he was rehabilitated and prepared for adoption.

“He really touched my heart at the Many farm,” co-founder of Remember Me, Donna Keen, said. “He was so scared and timid, but as soon as I got close enough to scratch him, he was my best friend.”

Two months later, Spanky was adopted by Elizabeth Felgendreher of Holly Oak Farm near Midway, Kentucky. In far better condition than he had been when he first arrived at Remember Me, Spanky made the long journey to Kentucky, where he joined his new family at Dietrich and Elizabeth Felgrendreher’s farm.

It was never part of the plan for Elizabeth to adopt Spanky. But when she heard about the rescue of the horses from Many, Louisiana and saw the pictures of the needy horses, she couldn’t help but step in.









Spanky at Remember Me Rescue
Photo courtesy of Terri Cage

“It was clear to me that each of them should have someone to love and care for them well forever, given what they had already endured,” Elizabeth said. “I thought about our own horses here on the farm, knowing how lucky they are to have a life of bounty, and thinking they could ‘share’ a bit of their good fortune with a ‘needy soul.’”

And so it was Spanky that she chose to adopt.

“Spanky’s sweet face and his gentle, timid appearance left no question in my mind that he was the one I wanted,” Elizabeth said. “I imagined that Spanky was a frightened little boy who was just beginning to learn that somebody cared about him, and that he might actually be safe.”

Upon his arrival at Holly Oak, Elizabeth launched a Facebook fan page – titled Spanky of the Bluegrass – for the rescued Thoroughbred. Written in Spanky’s point of view, the page shares Spanky’s adventures, chronicling his life on the farm and his new life.

“I can’t really remember exactly why and how the idea of the Facebook page began,” Elizabeth said. “At the time, my cousin in Virginia was maintaining a Facebook journal about her various farm animals and organic gardens. . . That’s probably what motivated me to do the same for Spanky. I think I also wanted his little life to have a recognizable time on earth, so to speak. I wanted someone more than just me to care about the fact he had lived among us. I guess I figured he might not become ‘rich and famous’ as a competition horse, but maybe he could leave his mark by telling his tales of happiness.”

In the sixteen months that Spanky’s Facebook page has existed, it has accumulated more than 500 likes. A number of loyal fans and supporters tune in for his updates, leaving kind comments on his fun posts.

“The Facebook followers are great,” Elizabeth stated. “I feel like I know some of them personally now. . . and I do (know some personally)! Even some local horse people here in Kentucky who I have never met but know of are now following the escapades of Spanky. I’m sure, as time rolls on, I’ll probably meet these people at local events, because of Spanky! There’s even a jockey from Arlington Park who follows the page, and Egyptian and Saudi Thoroughbred people. Can you imagine that?!”

As Spanky’s Facebook page began, so did his life at Holly Oak, a life far different than the one he had endured in Many, Louisiana.











Spanky shortly after arriving at Holly Oak Farm
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Felgendreher 

“Spanky was exactly the way I had imagined when he arrived here on the farm,” Elizabeth said. “He came off the van cautiously, seeming as if he was gently stepping into a new world where he needed to be careful not to offend anyone. . . He seemed to appreciate any little thing we did for him. I spent a lot of time with him, grooming, snuggling. . . He showed no signs of being greedy or pushy. He was always grateful, in his timid way. He has always been the kind of horse who comes forward to you when you approach his stall, not because he wants out, but because he wants to greet you. He is still that way.”

Spanky settled in to his new home well and quickly became friends with the other horses on the farm, which he often included in his Facebook updates. It didn’t take long for him to transform into a beautiful, happy Thoroughbred with a sleek bay coat and bright eyes.

“What was so wonderful about his transformation. . . was how his body responded to the exercise and riding,” Elizabeth said. “He gained muscle mass and developed the shape of an athletic dressage horse. His neck filled out and his hindquarters grew to be delicious.”












The transformation in Spanky
Photos courtesy of Terri Cage 

Elizabeth began riding Spanky, teaching him dressage. Along the way, she found that his gentle demeanor was the same under saddle.

“From the beginning, Spanky was a pleasant and willing horse to ride,” Elizabeth stated. “It’s remarkable to think that the most training he probably ever had was to be quickly broken for his two-year-old in training sale.”

Fourteen months after Spanky arrived at Holly Oak, he participated in his first horse show, an all-Thoroughbred show at the Kentucky Horse Park. Although the show was intended to be an opportunity for Spanky to gain experience, he did not just emerge with experience, but also a blue ribbon in a dressage horse in-hand conformation class. His show career had officially begun.












Spanky at his first horse show
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Felgendreher 

“The last time I asked Spanky, he told me that he wanted to continue learning about dressage and go to more horse shows, particularly those special Thoroughbred shows,” Elizabeth said. “If he ever indicates that he would rather try something different, like jumping, I have a couple of friends here in Kentucky who do combined training and would love to be part of that process.”

Spanky has clearly made a transformation since arriving at his new home last spring. Although he may look like a different horse than he did early last year, he is still the same horse – just with greater assurance.

“Spanky’s personality of gentleness and sweet curiosity has not changed over the time he has been here,” Elizabeth stated. “He is more confident now, and likes to be a ‘trickster.’ [It] seems like he has a sense of humor, pulling pranks on me, primarily. He knows exactly how far he can go before someone gets angry with him. He seems to have a different set of rules for me versus my husband. Of course, I find this brilliant of him.”










Spanky romps in his paddock
Photo courtesy of Terri Cage

Adopting Spanky has served as the perfect reminder for Elizabeth – a reminder of why she does what she does. In Spanky, she has found a best friend.

“Spanky reminds me every day of my own childhood and the ‘why’ I ended up spending a lifetime with horses,” Elizabeth stated. “It’s not the horse shows or the prospect of finding fame or fortune. It’s the other stuff – the simple daily interaction and accomplishments between the two of us. I suppose some might find this as a self-indulgent waste of time, but I like to think of it as sharing our best with each other.”

Be sure to like Spanky’s Facebook page, Spanky of the Bluegrass.


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Older Comments about Spanky of the Bluegrass: New Beginnings...

Spanky Sweet!
Yeah spanky!
What a lovely, inspiring story ... thank you, Mary! #PassItOn
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About Mary Cage


Mary Cage, a 21-year-old avid fan of horse racing, has been around horses all her life, having owned, shown, and judged them for as long as she can remember. She began writing her own horse racing blog, Past the Grandstand, in August 2011 and has since been published in America's Horse, American Racehorse and the Appaloosa Journal, as well as with the websites of The Blood-Horse and The Equine Chronicle. She has also had photos published with Paulick Report and Thoroughbred Daily News. In addition, she works as one of the social media coordinators for the Texas Thoroughbred Association.

In her personal horse experience, Mary has been around horses all her life and has won several Appaloosa National Champion and Reserve World Champion titles in the show ring. 

Mary has always aspired to have a career with horses and since her love for horse racing began, she has dreamed of pursuing a career in the Thoroughbred racing industry, possibly as a writer/photographer and marketing/communications specialist. She is currently attending the University of North Texas, where she is a journalism major with a concentration in advertising and a minor in marketing. With this blog, she hopes to show readers horse racing through the eyes of a young fan as she writes about assorted horse racing topics.

University of Louisville College of Business Equine Program

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