It is never easy to lose a great horse, but when her death comes unexpectedly and long before anyone predicted, it is nothing short of devastating. The reined cow horse industry felt the shock of that blow today when Nancy Crawford-Hall’s Holy Cow Performance Horses announced that Starlight Kisses passed away April 30.
“We sent her to the breeding farm and she had a rectal tear. When that happens, there’s just not a lot they can do,” said Equi-Stat Elite $1 Million Rider Jake Telford about the 4-year-old mare he trained and showed. “We had her in the vet clinic and they explored every option they could to try to save her, but the rectum is so deep inside those pelvic bones and muscles that they couldn’t get to it to repair it.”
It is likely that Starlight Kisses had many great runs left in her future before tragedy struck. She made a name for herself when she topped the 2015 National Reined Cow Horse Association (NRCHA) Snaffle Bit Futurity Open with an impressive 656 composite score (216 herd/218.5 rein/221.5 cow), and before winning that prestigious title with Telford, she finished eighth at the National Stock Horse Association Futurity. All told, the mare left behind a lifetime record of $103,347.
A flashy red roan mare Telford described as “good-minded” and “full of style” the night they won the Futurity Championship, Starlight Kisses is the leading offspring by Holy Cow Performance Horses’ stallion Shady Lil Starlight (Grays Starlight x Shady Little Cat x High Brow Cat), who Telford trained and showed. She is also the No. 1 money-earner out of Kiss My Shiny Lips (Shining Spark x Lipschic x Smart Chic Olena), a mare Telford piloted to $40,512 in lifetime earnings for Holy Cow Performance Horses.
“There were so many qualities I could see in her [Starlight Kisses] that I felt in Shady Lil Starlight,” Telford said. “There were a lot of characteristics she had and a lot of things she did that reminded me of when I trained her mother, too. You’re always grateful and appreciative for the one that carries you to a big win, but she’s one that it wouldn’t have mattered if I won or not. She was good, and I really, truly enjoyed that horse.”
While Telford’s favorite moment with Starlight Kisses will always be when he completed his cow work in the Open finals at the Snaffle Bit Futurity and heard his score announced, he is comforted by the many memories he and his family accumulated with the mare. For Crawford-Hall, whose Holy Cow Performance Horses program produced such a talented athlete, this is a tragic loss.
“It was really meaningful for her to finally have a Snaffle Bit Futurity champion, and her being homegrown made it that much sweeter,” Telford said. “To lose one like that, it’s heartbreaking.
“I’m kind of at a loss for words. You have such big hopes and dreams and plans, and I truly felt like she had a bright future ahead of her still. I’d planned on showing her for a long time,” he added. “It’s fun to ride one like her, that you get along with and enjoy. For whatever reason, you have some connection and you feel like you’re real, true friends.”