It started with a few Facebook posts—actually more than just a few. Karen Read Shedd had been thinking about her former horse Island Hero a lot and hoped the far-reach of the internet could help her relocate him.
Shedd started riding the Irish-bred Thoroughbred (Polar Falcon—Mnaafa, Darshaan) back in 2000, right after he came off the track as a 4-year-old. Shedd had taken a few years away from the horse world after losing one to navicular when a friend called suggesting she come take a look at “Hero.”
“It was love at first sight,” said Shedd.
She leased him for two years and plunged back into ownership in 2003. The pre-purchase exam showed Hero had underlying issues that would prevent him from jumping, so Shedd turned to dressage and trail riding.
“I’ve always had generalized anxiety and also depression,” said Shedd. “He was my therapy. All the time I spent with him was healing, and he just always kept me calm. We had a love story for many years.”
But in 2009 Shedd’s situation changed. She started having problems with alcohol, and her young son was diagnosed with severe autism. Coupled with her depression, it became too much for Shedd to handle, and she gave Hero back to the barn owner from whom she’d purchased him. Hero was rehomed again, and Shedd lost track of him.
“I got my life together,” Shedd said. “I’ve been sober for seven years. I have two boys with autism. It’s been crazy, but I thought about him every day of my life since he’s left.”
That’s when Shedd started posting in every Facebook group she could find, hoping that someone knew what had happened to her beloved horse. Someone connected him to a Virginia rescue, and people there directed Shedd to Bright Futures Farm in Cochranton, Pennsylvania. Shedd learned that Bright Futures founder Bev Dee had outbid a kill buyer in an auction for Hero about nine months after she’d given him up. He’d since been adopted, but Shedd couldn’t get any information about where he’d landed, so she returned to Facebook.
Her new posts caught the attention of Amanda Kustelega, who told Shedd her friend Kari Crawford owned Hero. Kustelega connected them, and for two years, Shedd and Crawford kept up a correspondence. Shedd wanted to visit, but circumstances prevented her from making the trip from her home in Holliston, Massachusetts, to Warren, Ohio, where Crawford lived.
In December 2019 Crawford died of cancer, and Shedd reached out to her mother, Peggy Draa, to offer Hero a permanent home. Though Draa said she wanted to keep her daughter’s two horses, she invited Shedd to visit any time. In March, Shedd finally reunited with the 24-year-old Thoroughbred.
“It was amazing, going to see him,” said Shedd, 44. “I couldn’t put it into words. I cried a little. It was like a dream for two days. At first I didn’t know if he recognized me because he’s very friendly, but he was doing the little nibbling things on me—the things that he does.”