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Stories about your favorite retired racehorses. For archived stories, click here.

After her first trip to Aiken, S.C., in 2008, Christy Heffner put relocating to the area at the top of her bucket list. Eleven years later, she achieved the goal. 

In 2019, “I brought three kids, two dogs, three horses and three chickens from Huntingtown, Maryland,” she said. “Once Aiken gets in your blood, it stays there.”

One of those horses was Tahir, now 19. Bred in Kentucky by Adena Springs, he is by 1997 Belmont Stakes-G1 winner Touch Gold out of the Holy Bull mare Holy Golightly. Adena Springs offered him at its 2-year-old sale in 2006, where he was a $45,000 RNA. 

Tahir began his racing career for Stronach Stables and trainer Roberto Calvo at Gulfstream Park as a 3-year-old in February 2007. He chased the pace, got tired and finished sixth in a maiden special going 6 furlongs on the dirt.

He didn’t face the starter again until December 2008 at Laurel Park, still for Stronach but from the barn of trainer Justin Nixon. Tahir’s two wins – an $8,000 maiden claimer and a $5,000 conditioned claimer – came for those connections at the same track in January and February 2009.

Five months later, Tahir resurfaced at Colonial Downs for new connections – owners Charles Hall and Jann Anderson, with Anderson doubling as the trainer. In all, Tahir made six starts for Hall and Anderson, never better than a fourth in July 2009. His final start came at Laurel for a $5,000 tag, and he finished last. His not-so-impressive race record included 10 starts, two wins and $10,406 earned.

None of that mattered to Hall and Anderson, who kept the horse with plans to make him the stable pony. Several months later, Heffner saw him listed as available for rehoming. Anderson had been injured on another horse and was looking to place him.

“At the time I volunteered for and was on the board of directors for a Thoroughbred rescue, and he was listed through them,” Heffner said. “It went from there.” 

Accompanied by her longtime friend and riding instructor, Karen Jones, Heffner ventured to Anderson’s Laurel Park barn. 

“He hadn’t been ridden in about six months,” Jones said. “All they did was walk the shed with him while they did his stall. So we went up on probably the coldest day the earth has ever seen. Howling wind. Jann and Charlie were there, they brought him out and our eyes kinda popped wide open. I said, ‘He’s coming home with one of us. You get first dibs.’ And she took him.’ ”

On March 17, 2011, Tahir arrived at Heffner’s Hunting­town home in Calvert County. 

“He was a bit round when he got here,” she remembered. “And covered with dapples. Mr. Charlie had taken very good care of him.”

In keeping with the St. Patrick’s Day theme, her 7-year-old twin daughters Carly and Cassidy thought the dapples looked like doubloons found in the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Hence, they rechristened him “Golden.”

“He didn’t really need downtime, as he’d had it at Laurel,” Heffner said. “Two or three weeks after I got him, I trailered him over to Karen’s and I think we had five lessons that first week. He was so good, but he wasn’t so fit, which was fine. We took it very slowly with him, and he was a doll.”

Heffner’s daughters – the same age as Tahir – grew up riding him and still ride today. The original hope was that he would become Cassidy Heffner’s event horse.

“For whatever reason, they didn’t click, so I ended up riding him most of the time,” said Heffner. “Then we used him in lessons sometimes. My daughter Carly wasn’t as interested in riding, but that summer, the switch really flipped for her.”

“That summer” was 2018, when Heffner, a special education teacher, packed up her three kids and horses and vanned to Aiken from June through August. Jones had moved the year before, re-establishing her lesson business just minutes from the center of town.

That summer led to more visits, and in April 2019, everything changed. Heffner and her kids were in Aiken for Easter when a listing came up on a property literally across the street from Jones. Paradise found.

“So I texted my agent, we looked at it Saturday and made an offer that night,” Heffner said. “They accepted it on Monday. Turned out the gentleman who owned it was also from Southern Maryland. It was turnkey, everything was all there. He had done all the maintenance, everything was perfect. The barn has eight stalls. It’s just us, but I do have a guest house and sometimes those people bring horses.”

The cottage attached to the barn is offered as an Airbnb, and guests have remained constant since Heffner moved in. Proximity to Augusta National Golf Course is also a big draw. Heffner and Jones stay booked during The Masters tournament. 

“It’s fantastic, because between the two of us we’ve got everything we need,” Jones said. “Christy’s got the stalls, I’ve got the arena. It’s just a great symbiosis. We’ve been friends almost 25 years.”

Tahir has logged quite a few miles in the 12 years he’s been with Heffner. He shares his life with a 6-year-old retired Thoroughbred and a 30-something pony. One of Heffner’s greatest joys is hacking with guests to Aiken’s famed Hitchcock Woods, which the bay gelding loves.

He’s also used frequently in Jones’ lesson program, where his riders have ranged from ages 7 to 75.

“Christy is very generous with her horses, and he’s always been a saint,” said Jones. “He’s so quiet. But if a very experienced rider gets on him and says, ‘Let’s go,’ he goes.” 

Tahir wasn’t much of a racehorse, never made it as an eventer, but found a purpose – and then some.

“There was never really an agenda with him,” Heffner said. “His value is not defined by a ribbon.” 

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