Kentucky Life visits Megson Farms, breeders of rare white thoroughbreds, and meets equine movie star, Arctic Bright View.
The genetics of Thoroughbred horses have been carefully curated and documented for centuries. That’s why geneticists are still somewhat baffled by the appearance of white horses in the breed, an unusual phenomenon that The Jockey Club first documented in the 1960s.
Most thoroughbreds that appear white are actually gray, meaning they’re born black, bay, or chestnut and become lighter as they age. But Megson Farms of Calvert City, Ky., specializes in breeding true white Thoroughbreds.
“In the 120-year history of The Jockey Club, of the 2.1 million horses that have been registered, only 149 have been registered white,” says Andrew B. Chesser, manager of registration services for The Jockey Club.
“There are three families of horses that have been able to throw this dominant white gene,” says Paul Megson, owner of Megson Farms. “The line that we have came from a horse by the name of Airdrie Apache. The University of California at Davis has been studying our herd of horses and they’re just on the brink of really understanding where [the white gene] came from. They’ve been able to isolate the dominate white gene in the other two families, but of Airdrie Apache they’re still scratching their head.”
The Megsons acquired most of their horses from Dalene Knight, who owned Airdrie Apache for most of his breeding career. She was also the breeder of Megson Farms’ most famous resident, Arctic Bright View.
“We bought him [from Dalene] as a weanling,” says Megson. “When I saw this colt…we just fell in love with him. You look at this horse and realize there’s only maybe three or four pure white Thoroughbred stallions in the world. And he’s one of them.”
Megson says he always thought there should be another avenue for a horse like Arctic Bright View beyond being breeding stock, but he hadn’t thought about the film industry until he received a call from famed Hollywood horse trainer, Rex Peterson.
“[Peterson] was working with Disney and they wanted to buy [Arctic Bright View],” Megson recalls. “We were flattered, but I didn’t want to lose this horse. I just told them that we weren’t really interested in selling the horse. Disney called back and said, ‘We’d like to lease your horse,’ and I said ‘That’s exactly what I had in mind.’”
The Megsons received updates from Peterson on how the training was progressing, but film industry secrecy prevented them from learning all the details until the movie, “The Lone Ranger”, was released. Even then, Arctic Bright View was one of several horses that portrayed Silver in the movie. To this day, the Megsons haven’t been told specifically which scenes their stallion starred in.
“There were several times in the movie where I would have said, ‘there he is,’” says Megson. “I’ll just leave it to the imagination of the public when they see our horse and when they see the movie.
“They took good care of him,” Megson says of his horse’s time in the film industry. “He came back in beautiful shape. He thinks he’s hot stuff.”
This video is part of Kentucky Life episode #1919, which originally aired on May 10, 2014. View the full episode here.