Earlier today, equestrian enthusiast Kimberly Martin made one of the toughest decisions of her life: She had to put down her beloved Goldee, the first horse that she ever bred. Goldee was a thoroughbred cross, the product of a Canadian thoroughbred and an elite Hanoverian stallion. Goldee was born in New Jersey in 1999, which is the same state where she would become famous as Tony Soprano’s beloved horse Pie-O-My on The Sopranos.
I myself visited Goldee back in September. When I found out that she was living less than an hour from where I live in the Hudson Valley, New York, I reached out to Martin and requested a visit. After years of living on rented property in New Jersey, Martin purchased land in the Hudson Valley to “give Goldee a forever home,” as she told me at the time. I got to pet Goldee, brush her and take a few photos replicating my favorites moments from The Sopranos.
The character of Pie-O-My — who only appeared in a couple of episodes — was important to Sopranos fans like me because it showed us that rare, tender side of Tony. For all of his anger and violence, there was always something endearing about Tony, and it shined through best when he interacted with animals, like the ducks from the show’s first season and then again with Pie-O-My in Season Four. While I don’t think I realized it at the time, perhaps Sopranos fans clung to that side of Tony because they got to see a bit more of James Gandolfini peeking through. Gandolfini, by all accounts, was a kind, generous guy, and I heard much the same thing about him when I met Martin and Pie-O-My last fall. “James Gandolfini was really polite, and he wasn’t afraid of [Goldee] at all. He even played with her on set,” Martin told me back then.
My colleague and fellow Sopranos super-fan Miles Klee feels similarly: “Pie-O-My was one of the show’s most indelible images — from the stable to an unfortunate painting to Tony’s haunted dreams. At first, her beauty and grace seem to offer Tony a connection to the pastoral, and the chance to be gentle again. (The race winnings are just a bonus.) But his love and protectiveness turn violent in ‘Whoever Did This,’ my own pick for the single best Sopranos episode ever, when Pie-O-My’s suspicious death leads Tony to take revenge on the man who may — or may not! — be responsible, a man [Joe Pantoliano’s Ralph Cifaretto] he already wants to punish for previously beating a woman to death. For fans, this rich ambiguity, along with the characterization of Tony as both a tender soul and raging psycho is what the show is all about, which is one of the reasons you can watch it over and over again.”
In September, I couldn’t help but notice that Martin might have been preparing herself for Goldee’s eventual departure. When I asked about Goldee’s age, she explained that 23 was “getting up there in years” for a horse. She also educated me about the struggle of Cushing’s disease, a common ailment in older horses that can leave them in pain, underweight and fighting to regulate their body temperature. Indeed, when Martin made the decision to put Goldee down this morning, it was due to the progression of Cushing’s.
The only silver lining is that Goldee otherwise lived a good and peaceful life. While the fictional Pie-O-My came to a violent, fiery end at the hands of the aforementioned Ralph Cifaretto, Goldee retired peacefully from show business after The Sopranos, living the rest of her days under the loving care of Martin, who spoiled her with affection.
When Martin called me with the news, I could definitely hear the sadness in her voice, but she was also sure to tell me, “If you want to pay your respects in any way, I encourage you to donate to your local animal shelter. I’ll miss her, but I know that Pie-O-My and Tony will be galloping around in heaven together.”