I hoped to post a blog following Johannesbourbon’s journey from race horse to well-adjusted member of one of our gelding herds, a happy story typical of many of Old Friends’ gelding residents. That post will follow soon. First, I must share some more sad news. One of our sweetest mares, Ava Lotta Hope, died on Monday. She went unexpectedly, but peacefully, of apparent heart failure. She was 27 years old.
Ava Lotta Hope was a daughter of Graustark’s Belmont winner son, Avatar. Her dam, Hope Is Special, was by Broadway Forli. Hope raced 18 times and won a maiden claiming race at Charles Town and a claiming race at Delaware Park. She also got 3 seconds and a third and lifetime earnings of $8,712 for owner Stoney Run Farm and trainer Donald Saville. In Virginia, Hope was dam to 4 winners, two with earnings of over $100K, but she was not a highly successful broodmare and by 2005 she was at an adoption facility looking for a home. With two other mares, Magic Dot and Hidden Dark, Hope found temporary residences until the three mares came to Old Friends in 2009.
For much of her retirement at Old Friends, Ava Lotta Hope was fortunate to receive the loving care of Luann Burton, as did Hidden Dark and Magic Dot. Magic Dot passed in 2011. Hidden Dark is living at Dream Chase, the main Kentucky farm. In spring 2014, Hope was the lucky girl chosen as 1997 Older Female Champion Hidden Lake’s special companion. The two shared a tree-sheltered paddock of their own and Hope enjoyed that quiet lifestyle. She formed two other important bonds, with assistant barn manager Carole Oates, who manages the nutrition so beneficial to the oldest residents, and with volunteer John Bradley, who groomed and gave her plenty of praise and petting. Since John was closest to Hope, I’ll end with the words he wants to share about her.
Hope wasn’t big or flashy, she never left her mark on the racing world. However, she was sweet, kind, with the soul of an angel. If you spend much time around horses you quickly realize you don’t choose them, they choose you. I was honored she chose me as her friend. I think our friendship made her paddock mate, Hidden Lake, a little jealous even though she has her own special person, Old Friends board member and volunteer Barbara Fossum. A memory that will stay with me always is how Hope would rest her head on my shoulder while I was brushing her mane. I felt that was her way of saying “thank you for being here for me.” Hope was loved by all farm staff and volunteers, especially assistant farm manager Carole Oates, but she was also special to me. Time will heal the hurt and sadness I’m feeling now, but it can’t erase the love and admiration I will always have for her. Goodbye Hope, I will always miss you, but will never forget you.