Demonic Presence

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By Nancy Brannon

He’s tall, dark, and handsome. And he’s been a cover model. He was champion at the 40th annual International Pleasure & Colt Grand Championship in Murfreesboro, Tenn. this year; he was Reserve World Champion in Shelbyville at the 80th annual Celebration; and he just won the National Grand Championship at the Showplace Arena in Memphis, Tenn. in September – all in the Model division. Folks may also remember seeing him in the Model class at this year’s Germantown Charity Horse Show. One would think that this champion Tennessee Walking Horse Demonic Presence, aka “Ghost,” has led a charmed life so far, but he has had a more difficult time reaching this level than one might think.

Owners Ron and Karen Bochenek bought the foal when he was only seven days old. Born in Shelbyville, Tenn., he is sired by Walk Time Charlie out of A Jazz Man mare: Bejazzed Lady. The Bocheneks, from Linden, Michigan, are well known, not only throughout Michigan for their Tennessee Walking Horses at their Dragonfly Horse Farm, but also throughout the country with the National Walking Horse Association.

When Ghost was three months old, they went to Shelbyville to bring him home to Michigan, where he would spend his first two years.

Suddenly, at 18 months of age, he couldn’t walk! “He seemed to not know where his legs were,” explained Karen. They took him to the veterinary college at Michigan State University, where examinations revealed essentially that “his vertebrae were preventing his spinal cord from feeling,” Karen said. The veterinarians thought that it might be nutritionally-linked (lack of proper nutrition) and there were ten different diseases that they thought it might be. The Bocheneks then took him to Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Kentucky, where he was diagnosed with wobbles.

Wobbles takes its name from its primary sign–a wobbling or uncoordinated gait. In technical terms, the horse has a “proprioceptiveness deficit,” or a lack of physical awareness of his limbs and their placement. Seeing the lack of coordinated movement, one might first suspect equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), the leading diagnosed cause of neurologic problems in North American horses. “Many diseases and disorders display signs similar to EPM,” said Bill Bernard, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, of Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital. “There are probably more horses out there with wobbles than EPM.” In fact, according to some statistics, EPM is present in only 1% of the country's equine population.[1]
So the veterinarians at Rood and Riddle performed surgery on Ghost between the second and third vertebrae to correct the problem. As sometimes happens with horses after surgery, Ghost colicked and had to have a second surgery. The Bocheneks had to leave him in Kentucky for a month to recuperate.

When they were finally able to bring him home, he had to be confined in a fairly small enclosure. As his condition improved, Ron had to make the enclosure a little larger – about every three days. About six months after his surgery, he was able to be transported to Zack Parsons Stables in Somerville, Tenn., where he would get a lot of rehab and begin his training program.

Zack and wife Jessica worked a lot with him, finishing his rehabilitation and beginning his training program. “We took a lot of time with him,” Zack said, “and we waited until he was ready.” When he was ready, they began showing him as a three-year old in the Model classes.

“We still have veterinarians who call and ask about him,” said Karen. “They are so thrilled that he’s doing so well and that he won the International Grand Championship this year in Murfreesboro!”

This year Ghost came to the Showplace Arena for the National Walking Horse Association (NWHA) National Championship Show in September, where he won the Grand Championship in the Model division.

This champion horse will be going home to the Bocheneks’ farmfor the winter, but will be back at Zack Parsons Stables in the spring to resume his training and show career. “Next year we will continue the model classes and probably do some rail classes in the lite shod division,” Zach said. Ghost will also be standing at stud at Parsons Stables.
Find more information about Zack Parsons Stables at:

[1] “What is Wobbler Syndrome.” The (April 2004)

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