We will miss Silver Ray. No question about that. We’ll miss the peaceful sight of him grazing in his paddock. We’ll miss how excited he used to get about meal times, trotting over snorting, sometimes even bucking. We’ll especially miss his sweetness, how he’d amble over for companionship as much as a treat, how he’d let children pet him, his calm, wise face, and how he’d sometimes lay his head on visitors’ shoulders, especially young women visitors. Ray was a bit of a ladies’ man.
For us, it’s hard that our good times with him have ended. But that’s our perspective. For Silver Ray, Old Friends was a long, happy ending. True to his name, he came through some dark times to a comfortable, dignified life. He let us know how much he enjoyed the security he’d found.
Foaled May 23, 1989 in Kentucky, Silver Ray was fortunate to race for Jerry and Ann Moss. His trainers were Brian Mayberry, then John Sadler, he was ridden by some of the best jockeys of his era, and he was a very good race horse. He won a graded stakes race, the 1991 Hoist the Flag Stakes (G3) at Hollywood Park and placed in other stakes.
At six he entered stud, but while a Grade 3 winner is an exceptional racehorse, success at stud is a challenge even for Grade 1 winners. Not a lot of clients bred mares to him. He sired 47 registered foals, of whom less than half raced and only half of those won. Inevitably, he’d need another niche if he was to earn. That niche was found when he proved a good sire of sport horses.
At what point did Ray’s journey darken? I don’t know, and I don’t know the circumstances of his arrival at a slaughter auction, but clearly he’d had hard times before that, since he arrived at the auction very thin and with his upper front teeth gone. But his luck brightened. Before he got off the truck he was purchased by April Smith, and the Polo Pony Rescue in Glendale, California gave him care that put him back on the road to health. Media coverage alerted the Mosses to his situation and they—generous supporters of Old Friends—contacted Michael about giving him a home.
Silver Ray came to us still thin, still recovering, in early fall 2013. At first he lived on a farm owned by our then-resident vet, the late Dr. Doug Byars, with a few other of our retirees. In Ray’s case, we were happy he was under the eye of a world-renowned vet and diagnostician. Gradually, Ray regained weight. When he moved to OF’s main farm he was getting rather round in the tummy, and who can blame him? He regained strength and spirit but never lost the exceptional kindness that characterized him from the first.
In fact, giving Ray a neck scratch or watching him lower his head so a child could pat his face, I never ceased to be amazed at how much trust and love this horse showed people even though he had experienced the worst side of human nature. Silver Ray treated people not according to some of the treatment he’d received but according to the honor and beauty within himself.
So yes, we’ll always love and miss Silver Ray. But his story ended happily. He achieved on the track, survived hardship, attained the official age of 30, and lived for secure and peaceful years as a favorite on the farm, receiving and giving much love.
Tour guide Ken Hawes said of Silver Ray’s last tour on the day before he let us know his time had come, “he did eat shredded carrots on our tour yesterday and also received much petting from the children on the tour. He was a sweety and a gentleman to the end.”
photos by Laura