Woman’s Christmas surprise – her first horse in 40 years

An unsuspecting Chicago woman who hadn’t owned a horse in 40 years went to a holiday get-together at a local stable and got the Christmas surprise of her life.

Mary Castiello thought her husband, Lou, was taking her to a small outdoor “Covid Safe” holiday get-together at Equestrian Events Stable on December 24, 2020. They walked into the lobby and filled out the waivers and were admiring some of the dressage riders in the indoor arena when they were directed to the other arena. While walking through the barn they stopped at a festively decorated stall where Mary was asked to read a note that was in a gift bag.

“You bought me a horse?” was all Mary could say. A beautiful bay 10-year-old Lusitano mare, Frangelica, was waiting in her stall with a golden ribbon running through the French braid in her mane, red and gold glitter sparkling over her coat and a big red bow neatly tied around her neck.

Many friends watched the surprise unfold on Facebook. Mary, married to Lou and with three adult daughters, had once said that the only thing she has been missing in her life was a horse. She had given up her horse more than 40 years ago after college at William Woods University, where she rode in the equestrian program.

Mary Castiello with Frangelica.

Equus Film & Arts Fest director Lisa Diersen and Equestrian Events Stable owners Paulina and Brian Anderson helped put together the Christmas surprise at the Maple Park stable, and staff Julie Martin and Nikki Anderson worked to make Frangelica shine.

Sitting on her new mount for the first time on Christmas Eve brought tears to everyone’s eyes. “Watching her ride and actually seeing all of the muscle memory kick back into place was really amazing,” Diersen said.

Lou set up a lesson package with USDF Bronze Medalist, Bob Crane a dressage trainer at Equestrian Events, so she could start off with a refresher course.