By Alison Galeotafiore
Sometimes I wonder if I’m living in a dream, one that so many other horse lovers around the world have had at some point in their lives. Even if it’s common, it’s magical to me.
When I was around three or four years old, I fell in love with The Lone Ranger’s horse, Silver. I thought he was absolutely beautiful—the epitome of what the most perfect horse should look like. I even had a replica of Silver to show for it! For me, this marked the beginning of a long love affair with white horses.
Growing up I had very little experience or exposure to horses -a handful of lessons in fourth grade, some trail rides in college, but unfortunately horses are an expensive hobby. So in addition to my toy “Silver” I collected about 50 Breyer horses to help satiate my horse addiction on a much cheaper level.
Fast forward to after college, marriage and kids, I found myself at a barn watching my youngest daughter Maddie (the only one of my three children who expressed an interest in horses) learning to ride. My gosh, how incredible it was to be around horses after so many years! I couldn’t help but soak up everything possible—the smells (truly one of my favorites), sights, the softest muzzle sniffing for a special treat. It all lit up something deep inside me that had been in hibernation for nearly 25+ years.
One afternoon in late February 2018, Maddie and I arrived early for her weekly lesson so we took some time to visit the privately-owned horses at the barn. That was the very first day I laid eyes on Artic. I can still see him in my mind’s eye, and if there really is something called love at first sight I can tell you this was it!
There was something about Artic, not only his unique beauty but his energy that touched me on a deep level. I remember inquiring about him and was told he was a former racehorse who even had his own Facebook page. Well, you better believe as soon as I had a moment I googled Artic Storm Cat (purposefully misspelled by his previous/original owners Augie and Patricia Renzinie). I couldn’t believe the amount of information and pictures that I found by doing such a simple search.
I learned that when Artic was born on January 20, 2014, at a beautiful barn (Rockridge Stud) in Hudson, New York, he surprised everyone because he came into this world white despite his sire and dam both being bay. Word spread like wildfire about the beautiful rare white colt. Photographers made their way to see him. This excitement followed Artic as he progressed into his racing career and there are hundreds, if not thousands of pictures of him out there by both professional and amateur photographers.
Looking deeper into Artic’s lineage, it really shouldn’t have been so shocking that the possibility of him being born white was there. His grandsire, Airdrie Apache, was well known for carrying a special gene. Genetically speaking, Artic has what is called the White spotting 22 (W22) mutation gene and because it is combined with W20 (which many Thoroughbreds carry) it makes him near white. At the time Artic was registered for racing, only 170 white American Thoroughbreds had been registered with the Jockey Club since its founding in 1894 and to boot he was only the third ever New York bred white horse registered.
Upon even further exploration I uncovered that Artic is related to two of the white horses that starred in Disney’s 2013 film The Lone Ranger featuring Johnny Depp. Arctic Bright View and Arctic Bright who are also descendants of Airdrie Apache were owned by Berva Megson the owner of what is currently the largest white Thoroughbred farm in the United States. Can you imagine my shock when I learned that Artic really is my very own “Silver”?! Call it a coincidence or maybe even fate, but it was one of many signs that confirmed Artic was meant to be with me.
Life has a funny and unpredictable way of unfolding sometimes. Within a few months of meeting my dream horse Artic, his owner needed to sell him. I was so incredibly scared that he would be sold to someone who wouldn’t love him as much as I could, or he’d be sent away and I’d never see him again. The thought of it happening crushed me to the core. After lots of researching, soul searching (and begging on my part to my loving husband Angelo lol) we bought Artic and he officially became part of my family. I had no idea how much time and work goes into rehabbing a young, former racehorse who came off of extended stall rest after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery, but I could tell you all about it in a whole other story -most definitely takes a village I’ll at least say that much.
Now a little over three years later Artic is loving his new career and has learned how to take things slowly. He will jump a course without racing and rushing around the ring—for the most part. After all, he is a natural-born athlete who loves to run. Although he was always friendly and sweet-natured, Artic’s personality has really blossomed. He’s more confident and comical. He loves to do silly things like a toddler would. He also loves almost everyone he meets (two legged and four legged alike), a trait I think that was brought out during his time at the track when so many people visited him. He especially enjoys taking daily naps and eating peppermints and carrot tops. Most of all I believe Artic is genuinely happy. He’s consistently loved on not only by me but by Maddie who is becoming his main teammate in the ring.
Artic Storm Cat is a living reminder that dreams really do come true. You just have to remember to be patient and have faith.
Alison Galeotafiore lives on Long Island with her husband and three awesome kids. She is a retired speech therapist who helps care for homeless cats when she’s not playing at the barn. You can follow her adventures with Artic on Instagram @articstormcat
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