Friday, July 06, 2001

Breeder loses top mare, other horses to lightning

By Ray Schaefer
Enquirer Contributor

        CALIFORNIA, Ky. — Patti Baker is struggling to find the positive in what happened early Wednesday.

        Lightning killed three of her 11 prized Arabian horses, including one with foal. Ms. Baker, a horse breeder, lives on Four and Twelve Mile Pike in rural Campbell County.

        Ms. Baker's coping strategy? She concentrates on Spark of Hope, a colt born Wednesday in Union nearly three weeks premature, just a few hours after the horses were killed.

        “I'm just trying to mentally block it out and think about the future,” said Ms. Baker, 54, who owns River Valley Arabians with her son-in-law, Abe Messer.

        Spark of Joy suffered no complications from his early delivery. “He is active and healthy and full of life,” Ms. Baker said. “He's a fighter, too.”

        Still, the memory of Wednesday will be hard to erase.

        Her favorite horse, 10-year-old MSU Vogue, had been with foal. The mare came from Michigan State University's Equine Management program, one of only two (with Cal Poly-San Luis Obispo) in the nation.

        It will be hard because MSU Vogue was a daughter of the late Cognac, a stallion who sired many national champion Arabians but was impotent late in his life.

        Arlene Majid, a Louisville breeder and researcher of Arabian blood lines, said Cognac's impotency will make it harder to replace Vogue because anyone who owns another daughter is not likely to sell.

        It will be hard because the other two horses, Lily of the Valley and Thorr, were just 2 and 1, respectively.

        “(Vogue) was really the best,” said Dr. Barbara Schmidt, the Union equine veterinarian who delivered Spark of Hope. “She had the best pedigree. Financially, that was the hardest to lose; it was the most expensive mare she purchased.”

        Added Ms. Baker: “There's no way you can put a value on them.”

Arabians valued, versatile

        Arabians are considered a versatile, friendly breed.

        Ms. Majid said they came to America in the late 1700s from what is now the Middle East. She said people liked them because they were fast and were used to being around humans.

        “The English used them to develop the Thoroughbred breed,” Ms. Majid said. “They're used (today) for racing, for show jumping, for endurance riding. They're used on cattle ranches; they don't wear out as easily.”

        Vogue, Thorr and Lily were either grazing or resting under a tree about 100 yards from their barn, 20 feet from a water tank. The tree they chose was near three honey locusts, which Ms. Baker thought attracted lightning.

        The carcasses were found around the tree with noses pointed in a clockwise direction, with the bodies arranged equidistant around the trunk — with Vogue on one side and Thorr and Lily on the other.

        Ms. Baker found the horses sometime before noon Wednesday.

        “I couldn't have done anything,” she said. “The other horses were running or terrified ... I'm sure (death) was instantaneous; they didn't suffer.”

        Spark of Hope was born around 4 p.m. Wednesday.


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