By: Brittany Bevis
Our sincerest condolences go out to several of our friends in the horse industry, Carolyn McGaughey, Holly Saigo, and Matt Woodson, following the loss of a promising young sire, AQHA stallion, Epic. By The Top Secret and out RPL My Te Touching, 5-year-old Epic was an impressive physical presence in the show pen at 17 hands tall with striking black coloring.
He had been campaigned for the past two years by Holly Saigo and was recently purchased at the 2018 AQHA World Show by Carolyn McGaughey. Holly first purchased Epic at the World Show, as well, back in 2016.
“It’s kind of an interesting story,” Holly says. “I’ve been friends with the Woodsons for years now, showing horses at the Ohio shows. I’d heard this story about a horse that was very sick as a baby. Jerry Woodson sat in his stall with him, when he was as a weanling, and Epic would lay on his lap and Jerry would try to get him to eat. After he’d gotten better, I’d seen him show as a yearling. I’d always wanted something I could go to the World Show with and have that whole experience.”
Holly and Epic showed as a team in 2017 and 2018. In 2017, they won at the Congress in Amateur 3-Year-Old Stallions in Limited and Open. Then, Epic was the Reserve Champion in Open 3-Year-Old Stallions. From there, they went to the World Show and won 3-Year-Old Stallions in Level 2 and Level 3.
“We came back from the World Show, and were going to stand him, so we turned him out for the winter to let him play and continue growing,” Holly says. “When it got to be springtime, he looked really good, and we decided to see if we could win the aged division. It was a spur of the moment decision. I’m more of a planner and Matt is more spontaneous!”
“We got him qualified late and took him to the Congress. We were Reserve in Amateur Aged and Open Stallions and headed to the World Show. I won the Amateur Aged Stallions, and he won the Open Aged Stallions with Tim Finkenbinder.”
One of Epic’s fans watching in the stands that day was Carolyn. “She’d watched me show him in the amateur division and fell in love with him. She was thinking about buying him, but wasn’t in a place in her life where she wanted to own another stallion. But, she decided she needed the horse. She watched him show in the Open and bought him at the World Show.”
“She was really looking forward to showing him and breeding him. He was her lifelong, dream horse- her black stallion. She’s very disappointed that she didn’t get much time with him.”
Carolyn remembers the moment she first set eyes on Epic. “I almost walked right into him. All it took was two or three split seconds to look at that horse, and I knew I wanted him about as bad as I’ve ever wanted anything in my life.”
“I looked over his withers and saw my horse trainer standing there, Chris Arentsen. I ran around the horse and asked him if he knew if Epic was for sale or not. He said he was, and I told him to get me a meeting with the owner and trainer, much soon rather than later, please.”
In a unique set of circumstances, Matt Woodson had actually just delivered another horse to Carolyn’s place shortly before and had tried to tell her about a beautiful, black stallion that he had in the barn. “He said, ‘I tried to tell you that I had a black stallion, when I was there with you that night, but you said the last thing you needed was a stallion.’ I asked him how much the horse was, and literally the next day I bought that horse.”
Sadly, Epic suddenly passed this week due to an aortic aneurysm. “He was just standing in his stall when he went down and died,” Holly says. “They did a necropsy, but there was no way to predict or know that this was going to happen. Apparently, this could’ve happened any time or never. As it turns out, when this happened, there was a vet at the barn, and the vet was able to harvest his testicles. There is some process by which they can try to flush out some semen to get one or two breeding doses. That would be wonderful for Carolyn, because I know she had a couple of mares that she really wanted to breed to him.”
If the process works, and if given the opportunity, Holly would love to be able to show one of Epic’s offspring some day. It was in her plan all along; she just thought she’d have more time.
“I always thought that he was so young. I’d have more time to find the right mare to cross with him. I’d love to have one of his babies to show as a yearling and take to the big show.”
“Obviously, he had such a striking physical presence; but, on the family side of things, he was just a big pet. Everybody loved him, but they didn’t get to see what we did, in the barn alleyway, when you could go in his stall and play with his forelock. I think that’s one of the things that drew Carolyn to him. He was this giant, on the muscle, 17 hand stallion that was prepped for the World Show, but she could lead him down the barn aisle. That’s what we will miss the most. It’s really hard to find a stallion with that combination of style, physical presence, and disposition. We will really miss him.”
For Carolyn, the loss is felt even more profoundly because she only had a few months with Epic before he died. “I’m 73 years old, and I’ve raised and judged horses throughout my life. He was the best looking, black, Quarter Horse stallion I have ever laid my eyes on. That horse transcended anything and everything I’ve ever seen. He was meant to be in my life.”
“This has hit me hard. I’ve had a lot of losses recently. I’m a widow and lost the love of my life. Now, I’ve lost the stallion love of my life. But, I will never forget that thrill when I saw him. I was very depressed and, when I saw that beautiful animal, I spent every minute I could with him. He literally gave me back a chunk of my life that was missing. I didn’t know if I would ever be passionate about anything again.”
Our sincerest condolences go out to Holly, the Woodson family, and Carolyn following this sudden and unexpected loss.