BRAINERD, Minn. -- After three years of searching for an old friend, Minnesota native Ashley Antar keeps hitting a dead end.
Numerous phone calls, texts, Facebook posts, emails and newspaper ads have put Antar somewhat close to locating her longtime companion, but she hasn’t had quite enough luck to solve the mystery.
Tracking down a person might sound easy enough in today’s world with the internet’s seemingly unlimited resources, but the friend Antar seeks isn’t a person.
It’s a horse, of course.
Self-described as a lifelong animal lover who has always had a particular affinity for horses, Antar is looking for help to figure out what happened to the beloved horse she had to give up several years ago.
Her special relationship with horses began when she was about 8 years old and first learned to ride. The horse pictures covering her bedroom walls and the stories of those in “The Saddle Club” books came to life for Antar, who began riding a paint pony named Trinket. After realizing she wanted a horse for herself, Antar’s parents struck up a deal with their daughter. If she could save $100 when she was 13, her parents would pitch in the rest and get Antar her horse.
Enter Dazey, a 2-year-old chestnut-colored quarter horse who trotted into Antar’s life in 1995 and stole her young heart.
“I trained her myself,” Antar said during a phone interview Friday. “So I was the first one to ride her.”
The teenager started working when she was 15 to pay for Dazey’s vet and farrier bills.
“It taught me a lot of responsibility,” she said. “It was the thing I loved to do most, going to the barn.”
As a 4-Her, Antar’s hard work paid off in the form of a blue ribbon at her and Dazey’s first horse show together in Pipestone. The young equine proved to be the best-looking and most well-groomed out of about 20 other horses.
“She was a great horse,” Antar said. “I never dreamed when I started riding when I was 8 that I would get to have such an awesome, awesome horse. And I’m sure she’s still beautiful today.”
But the former owner would like to see Dazey’s present-day beauty for herself, if at all possible.
The two companions were separated in 2001 when Antar went off to college and didn’t have the funds nor the time to care for her horse, so she had to make one of the hardest decisions of her life.
“We sold her to this wonderful family. … I knew that they would take good care of her,” Antar said of Dazey. “She was like a child, basically, to me, so it was too hard for me to stay in touch with them. It was just easier for me to assume she was all right.”
But in early 2016, Antar’s curiosity got the best of her, and she reached out to the family who bought Dazey for their farm in Jordan.
“I just sort of felt this sense of responsibility,” she said. “I need to make sure she’s OK.”
But Dazey was no longer with the new family.
“Their life situation changed after a few years, and they had to sell their farm, and so they gave her to a farrier, who is an expert in horse’s hooves,” Antar said.
After buying Dazey, the new family learned her front hooves were flat, meaning she needed special shoes, so in the care of a farrier, they decided, was a good place for her.
Antar tracked down the farrier, who lived near Wadena, and learned he donated her to Camp Shamineau in Motley around 2007 or 2008. But from there, Antar hit a dead end.
“It sounds like the camp didn’t have her for very long,” she said. “One person remembers picking her up along with another horse from the farrier, but they don’t have any records. It sounds like maybe some records were lost or something.”
After giving up her search a couple years ago while pregnant with her son, Anter picked it back up in 2018, going to great lengths looking for Dazey. She posted in various Facebook groups, contacted high school friends who reached out to different camps they attended as kids, and even placed ads in the Brainerd Dispatch earlier this year with a photo and description of Dazey, asking if anyone in the area knew anything.
Sadly though, no sign of Dazey has surfaced.
Given the horse’s age -- 24 years old -- and her tender hooves, Antar knows there’s a possibility Dazey may not be alive anymore, but regardless, she would like to solve the mystery of what happened to her dear friend.
“My biggest fear is that she would be sold at an auction or something. … And horses that get sold at an auction often end up at slaughterhouses,” she said. “So as much as I’d like to be reunited with her, I’d like to know -- did she end up with a family? Has she passed away? If anyone has that info, that’s really all I’m trying to do.”
And if by some stroke of luck Dazey ended up with someone who might be looking to sell her, Antar is more than willing to take back her companion and give her a loving home to live out her golden years.
Though no longer residing in the Midwest, Antar and her family ended up in Fairfield, Conn., which just so happens to be the perfect place for Dazey.
“We’re basically in horse country,” she said, noting she and her husband didn’t know much about Connecticut when they moved there from New York City. “I pass horses every day when I drive, and it always makes me wonder and remember Dazey.”
Antar hasn’t had a horse since Dazey but is still an animal lover, with two rescue dogs at home, and hopes to get back into horses someday.
“It really is one of the greatest loves of my life,” she said. “For people who love horses and for people that don’t or that don’t ride, I think it’s kind of hard to understand, but I think there’s something about it for people that love horses and ride them. There’s this connection.”
And she would like to make that connection again, preferably with Dazey.
“If I can’t find her, it is what it is, and I’ll be OK with that, but I have to feel like I did everything that I could,” Antar said. “Hopefully somehow something will turn out.”
If anyone happens to know anything about Dazey, Antar would be grateful to hear from them via phone at 917-566-3383 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I think it resonates with people because people have childhood pets, and the thought of not being able to find them is tough. And honestly, I feel guilty. If only I had kept in touch with that family, I might know where she is now,” Antar said. “Even if I don’t end up with answers, I owe it to (Dazey) to keep trying.”