July 23, 2014

More about baths. Yes, we like our baths at Dream Chase Farm. Not just the unexpected baths when Special Ring or Popcorn Deelites splatters an unsuspecting tour from their favorite rain puddle. And not just the accidental baths we get when we clean the horses’ waterers enthusiastically. Or even the green and orange baths that occasionally spray Danthebluegrassman’s visitors when Dan eats his carrots (and Flick’s too, if can get them) too fast and eagerly. Our favorite baths, horse and human alike, are when we help relieve the heat and itchies of a hot, humid day like today has been, by giving a horse a refreshing shower.

We now have a bathing station at the back of the small barn and another one in front of the big barn for conveniently and safely treating the minor injuries and localized infections common with horses, and of course, for easy, enjoyable baths. Even those who don’t like sloshing water—for instance, Ogygian who has refused sponge baths for years, welcome the gentle spray from a hose, shampoo, and then you may use a sponge, thank you—that was a routine part of the intensive care and attention they got when they were young race horses and breeding horses. Most of our residents let us know they’re happy with the freedom of retirement, but most still enjoy getting familiar, pleasurable attentions.

 

Ogygian liked his bath better than getting his picture taken. Photo by Tim Wilson.

Ogygian liked his bath better than getting his picture taken. Photo by Tim Wilson.

 

Wallenda gets a bath. Photo by John Bradley.

Wallenda gets a bath. Photo by John Bradley.

Wallenda’s thriving despite old ligament and hoof issues is a testament to the excellent care he’s received our podiatrist, vets, staff, and most of all his own toughness and intelligence. He gets turn-out time every day that weather permits, but he must spend more time in a stall than most. For him, especially, a little jaunt out of the barn for a bath can make a hot day pleasurable.

Beth

Oh, y-e-s-s-s-s!

Oh, y-e-s-s-s-s!

 

Shower water is fun to drink, too. Photo by John Bradley.

Shower water is fun to drink, too. Photo by John Bradley.

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July 17, 2014

Prized1Prized

Apologies for a month and a half of silence. More has been going on this summer than ever before. Volunteer responsibilities, and our need for volunteers, have grown. We’re all working hard. Fortunately, there’s the newsletter, Viv has steadfastly reported on Facebook, and we’re excited that some of our horses have taken to Twitter. You can follow the tweets of Afternoon Deelites, the pithy comments of Little Silver Charm, and blasts from our residents’ pasts from farm historian Rail Trip. OF’s communications have never been so plentiful and timely. Still, a blog’s leisurely reflections have their place too, and I regret that I’ve fallen behind. I’ll post some brief notes over the next weeks to catch up.

But first, and most important, some words about Prized, for whom no words are adequate.  When he passed last Sunday at 28 years old, he’d had mobility issues for some time. That is, his hindquarters slowly lost the ability and strength to respond to his will. On Sunday morning he couldn’t get up, and Michael and Dr. Bryan Waldridge made the only kind decision left to make.

You can read about Prized’s accomplishments in his obituary, or the articles in the Daily Racing Form and Blood-Horse, how he outran Sunday Silence in the 1989 Swaps Stakes, how he won that year’s Breeder’s Cup Turf in his first ever start on grass. Let’s see any horse equal that feat. How he sired the grand old gelding Brass Hat and was damsire of Paddy O’Prado, Romance Is Diane and this year’s Oaks winner Untapable, who just may be the best 3 year old in America.

To that I can’t add much, but I want to share a little about my last weeks with Prized. I’m not the main person, or the only one, who helped take care of him in his final months. The part I played was relatively small. Several people contributed much to Prized’s quality of life at the end, giving him baths that cheered him up, making sure he got the extra attention he wanted, lunches from a hand-held bucket that encouraged him to eat, and the excellent, excellent medical care that enabled him to hang in there and enjoy some of the horsey pleasures of life as long as he could.

Because that’s what stallions do. Most are hardy stoics. They don’t show weakness, and they don’t give up until the very end. From his arrival in summer 2011, I was struck by Prized’s sturdy, long-legged physique and his independent nobility. He wasn’t a cuddler. He was a bit aloof, a bit tough. When you fed him a carrot he’d often get in a second nip on your palm, just to show you he could. But horses, like humans, are complicated, and Prized threw toughness to the winds when a good scratch was in the offing. Few on the farm got into a back scratch like he did, or made such funny faces of pure scratch-ecstasy.

But even when he played along in the impromptu Easter evening “races” (blog entry April 20, 2013), and even though he often ran and trotted just because he wanted to, he ran sort of diagonally.

Prized was on our supplements program. The manufacturers of Succeed and LubriSyn, excellent digestive and joint supplements, generously donate enough for some dozen horses to be on daily regimens as recommended by our vets. Most of those horses (the oldest ones, a few with special needs) have put on muscle, gloss and happier spirits than ever. Less so, Prized. His appetite was failing. The hand-held bucket lunches, and extra attention involved, helped his interest in food, but as the old athlete’s physical abilities deserted him, he was sometimes depressed and didn’t always eat the supplements that would help his strength and joint mobility.

Staff and volunteers divide the daily supplement preparation and delivery, and I do supplements for designated horses 3 times a week. I mix the particular supplement combination for each horse with a little feed, warm water for some, and carrots (or fruit, for Creator) to make it a treat. Most of the horses on the program come running when I call out the arrival of their “groodle.” I put it in feed tubs that are usually empty, dinner having been served hours earlier. Too often, Prized’s tub was still fairly full of feed, and he’d look, but not come for his treat. Maybe he’d come eat it later, but sometimes not.

So I made it the main business of each supplements delivery to get him to eat the nutrients and joint help that would boost his energy and mobility. I’d coax him over, a carrot or two for a step or two. Since walking was sometimes difficult for him, I put it in a bucket and took it to where he was in the paddock. I’d stay talking to him and stroking his neck till he finished, since he seemed to like those little extra signs of companionship. As Prized’s body failed him, his pride never waned, but he let us know he wanted our company and caring. In return, he gave us trust and kindness.

His last weeks, Prized had an upswing. He trotted over to see people or get meals. He waited near his feed tub when he saw meals or supplements coming. It was his little game to keep eating his “groodle” for as long as I kept an arm around his neck, or rubbed his forehead and talked to him. It was a stallion thing. He had me where humans belong, at his beck and call. Sometimes he’d eat down past the supplement to finish his dinner, too.

My care for Prized wasn’t different from the care some of his other friends gave him. Others did more for him in his last months, and I expect he gave all of us gifts we will never forget. When a horse as proud and noble as Prized lets you in, you can’t help loving him. You can’t help entering his time, where past and future don’t matter. There’s only the moment. I’m grateful to Prized for the moments he let me share with him.

Last week the time came that we’d been dreading. His activity and spirits ebbed. It got harder to coax him to eat. The attention and loving seemed to matter, maybe more than ever, but you could see in his eyes that the will to keep fighting was gone.

On Sunday morning, Prized couldn’t get up. He tried, but he just couldn’t. He let us know his time had come. Prized went in peace. Before he did, he raised his head, had himself a last farewell nibble of good grass, then laid his head down again. He’d had a good and long life. He’d done more than anyone can expect or hope from a horse. And at the end, Prized know how much he was prized.

 

Here’s Prized winning the 1989 Breeders’ Cup Turf.

Beth

photos by Laura

Prized2

Prized3

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May 26, 2014

Memorial Day at Old Friends is always bittersweet. It’s hard to say goodbye to the horses who have passed during the year, but it’s comforting share memories with others who loved them. In some ways, every day caring for retired horses is about taking the bitter with the sweet. wishing nobody had the aches and pains of old age. Remembering them as young athletes or vigorous middle aged stallions and wishing he had good tendons again, or she could run carefree as the wind, or he could still see with both eyes, yet enjoying each of their pleasures in the secure retirement they so much deserve, and being thankful for whatever part you play—and so many people contribute in some many ways—to keep them secure and happy.

So, you wake up, steel yourself for what you know will be a hard yet comforting day, only to learn it will be harder than you dreamed. Early this morning Clever Allemont, our 32 year old hero and survivor, had to be euthanized. Had he been younger and less frail, surgery would have been an option, but because of Clever’s extreme age, along with the increased chance old age brings of fatal complications, attempting major surgery would not have been kind. All Michael and our team of vets could do was return some of the kindness to Clever Allemont that he gave us so generously for years.

Clever Allemont. Photo by Laura Battles.

Clever Allemont. Photo by Laura Battles.

Five and a half years, to be precise. Borrowed time, some would say. A triumph of love over greed, I call Clever’s journey from a kill buyer’s pen waiting for a slaughter auction, to a new life—half a decade, as it turned out—as one of Old Friends’ most loved residents, a gracious host, kind friend and inspiration to us all. Old and fit only to be thrown away at 26? Hardly!

If you follow this blog or OF’s Facebook page, you probably already know Clever’s extraordinary story. Here it is, with photos of him.

And a brief video of Clever by Wendy Wooley of Equisport Photos.

And a vid I uploaded of him because I was so impressed that though he was one of our oldest horses (at 32, he lived to be our oldest to date), when he got down to roll, he was one of the few on the farm who could roll all the way over.

We’ll miss you, brave, gentle Clever, and remembering you will continue to inspire us. As Dr. Val Nicholson so beautifully put it, “Clever couldn’t hear, but he could listen. He and the other horses remind us that it’s the minutes and moments that count. The minutes and moments determine eternity.”

Linda prepares

 

markers stallions markers mares

 So, sadder than anyone anticipated, a good showing gathered to pay respects and share memories. Racing writer Bill Mooney, OF’s official eulogist, recalled the achievements of those who’d passed during the last twelve months, then people who felt inspired to, recounted stories, or shared what a particular horse had meant to them.

Jason recounts a memory of Sunshine Forever.

Bucky plays

Though Bucky Sallee has retired as Keeneland’s bugler, we were lucky to hear his famous “Boots and Saddles” and the “Taps” Bucky played to honor the unforgettable Klassy Briefcase, Patton, Sunshine Forever, Dancin’ Renee, Miss Docutech, The Name’s Jimmy, Bull Inthe Heather, and Clever Allemont.

Beth

Klassy Briefcase. Photo by Beth Shannon.

Klassy Briefcase. Photo by Beth Shannon.

Patton. Photo by Rick Capone.

Patton. Photo by Rick Capone.

Sunshine Forever. Photo by Equisport.

Sunshine Forever. Photo by Equisport.

Dancin' Renee. Photo by Rick Capone.

Dancin’ Renee. Photo by Rick Capone.

The lovely-spirited Miss Docutech (the bay) leads a game of Simon Says with Hussonfirst (chestnut - "Hoosie" is alive and well). Photo by Beth Shannon.

The lovely-spirited Miss Docutech (bay with star) led a game of Simon Says with Hussonfirst (chestnut with blaze. Hussonfirst is alive and well). Photo by Beth Shannon.

The Name's Jimmy. Photo by Laura Battles.

The Name’s Jimmy. Photo by Laura Battles.

Bull Inthe Heather. Photo by Laura Battles.

Bull Inthe Heather. Photo by Laura Battles.

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May 15, 2014

Old Friends Day at Beulah Park

On Saturday, May 3rd, Bea Snyder and Viv Morrison returned to Beulah Park to host the final Old Friends Day honoring Appygolucky. It was the last day of operation for the historic Ohio racetrack . Although the day was bittersweet, it was heartening to see many of the familiar faces who have supported Old Friends and the legacy of Appygolucky. Over 5000 patrons turned out to wish the grande old dame a fond farewell as the lines stretched from window to apron. A constant stream of visitors to our booth included Sunshine Forever’s groom from his Darby Dan days and the kind woman who was The Name’s Jimmy’s biggest fan, as he shared the same name as her late husband. There was even a visit from Mikethespike’s former connections, who expressed gratitude to Old Friends for our efforts to secure a safe retirement for the grandson of Black Tie Affair. Thanks to a lively group of bidders at our silent auction, we raised just over $2000 to support our great retirees. The day also marked the 5th anniversary of Appygolucky’s retirement from racing and his presence was in evidence throughout the day. His former owner and jockey captured the training and riding titles and at the end of the day it was official. The scrappy bay gelding, dubbed the King of the Claimers by Michael Blowen, would remain the proud holder of the track record for a mile on the Beulah oval. Despite the hardscrabble reputation of the facility, I can’t help but think of the good people who gave the place a heart and the warhorses who ran their races there with every bit as much heart as a Grade 1 winner on the first Saturday in May. Special thanks to Holly Chandler, who kept our day at Beulah going until the end, Mary Oakley who has been faithful in her support each year, Laura Rackar who was responsible for the genesis of Appy’s retirement, Beulah Park GM Jim McKinney, and all those who donated and bid. From Beulah Park came several of our current retirees, including I’m Charismatic, Mikethespike and Ohio bred millionaire, Catlaunch. They are the lasting legacy of this now bygone era of racing in the Buckeye State.

Viv

 

Annual Homecoming at Dream Chase Farm

After several years of unseasonably cold, gray days with torrential downpours, Mother Nature finally decided to smile on our annual Homecoming. The skies above were a bright Kentucky blue and a steady breeze rustled the leaves above our heads. I’ve come to think of our Homecoming as a gathering of friends from near and far, a chance to meet and greet with those that support our wonderful Thoroughbred athletes. After an emotional closing day at Beulah Park, I was content to sit on a railroad tie under the shade tree, eating delicious barbecue provided by Furlong’s Catering, surrounded by a diverse collective of friends. Among the locals were returning visitors from Oregon, New York, Ohio and the Derby City itself  The one thing in common that brings us all together is a love and admiration for these magnificent horses. As strains of bluegrass music wafted over the crowd, patrons toured the grounds via John’s golf cart express and placed bids on silent auctions items. We were treated to a competitive live auction with the help of Old Friends volunteers and Seattle Slew’s jockey, Jean Cruguet.  Michael took to the microphone to receive a generous check from Dr. and Mrs. Allday, followed by a dedication of the Boubon Lane Stables paddock, home of Ogygian’s great-grandson, Johannesbourbon. As the guests departed, a few volunteers gathered to listen to Kirsten Norris, daughter of Ogygian’s pals Kim and Shane, detail plans for her future film projects, including a possible feature on her favorite Old Friends, as Beebee the cat rolled in the grass playfully for Kirsten’s little sister Hannah. As the sun begin to sink behind the hill paddocks, I was left with the hope that with the next generation of the Old Friends family, the welfare of our horses, and those to come, is in good hands and kind hearts. May it ever be so.

Viv

Feeding Time - photo by Rick Capone

Feeding Time – photo by Rick Capone

Bourbon Lane Paddock Dedication - photo by Rick Capone

Bourbon Lane Paddock Dedication – photo by Rick Capone

LSC and New Friend - Photo by Rick Capone

LSC and New Friend – Photo by Rick Capone

 

Rapid Redux and Bebe - photo by Laura Battles

Rapid Redux and Bebe – photo by Laura Battles

 

Finally, I couldn’t post without expressing our sadness at the passing of Crusader Sword at Old Friends at Cabin Creek. I count myself fortunate to have met him and feel much the poorer for not having known him better. An extraordinary horse with a big personality. For more about Cru from those who knew and loved him well, see the OF at Cabin Creek site (scroll to News), or visit  Old Friends at Cabin Creek on Facebook.

Beth

Crusader Sword - photo by Laura Battles

Crusader Sword – photo by Laura Battles

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April 20, 2014

The Spring Meet at Keeneland has been exciting, but the best race day of all in the Blue Grass this month was the Easter Evening Meet at Old Friends. Sunday evening’s race card featured Little Silver Charm’s challenge to all comers. The gutsy little contender strutted onto the green April turf, ready to try a match race with any who dared. No horse is too famous, no graded stakes winner too fleet, for the diminutive, but dauntless, LSC to take on.

Before post time, the spectators’ scene seethed with activity while the challenger carefully checked out the turf.

 

Michael calls in his final bets.

Michael calls in his final bets.

Beth gets a hot tip from Ogygian.

Beth gets a hot tip from Ogygian.

Bebe, occupying the best box, seems more interested in just being seen.

Bebe, occupying the best box, seems more interested in just being seen.

 

For the first race on the card, Little Silver Charm paraded to the top of the run, with Michael Blowen up. Or rather, beside (since, as Kent Desormeaux once discovered, LSC does not do “up”). There his opponent awaited him— None other than the always-game Swan’s Way. Swannie, a 25 year old bay with the formidable experience of 81 starts under his belt, was on his toes, ready for any challenge.

…And they’re off!

 

03 And theyre off

LSC broke sharply. Seizing the lead, he dashed down the track, mane and tail flying in the sunset.

04 Racing

Under hand urging from his jockey, he showed masterful turn of foot alongside Swan’s Way’s paddock until Swannie had no choice but to charge into a full trot. Swan’s Way’s longer strides swallowed the ground and he passed the mighty mini for a three length win.

05 And winner is Swannie

Johannesbourbon, Diane, John, Laura and Beth cheered them on from their spots right on the rail.

JB may actually be cheering for himself. Note that he sports his own Bourbon Lane Stable gear.

JB may actually be cheering for himself. Note that he sports his own Bourbon Lane Stable gear.

 

Yet, Little Silver Charm wasn’t ready to throw in the towel. Not yet. Maybe a jump up in class was what he really needed.

Negotiations followed.

Negotiations followed (while Kiri’s Clown watched in the background).

 

What about 1989 Breeders’ Cup Turf winner Prized? Would he dare to take on the Miniscule Monster at his own game?

LSC also decided a jockey change might help. So he fired Michael and welcomed John Bradley aboard. Now the star of the farm, the Chaser of Dreams was rarin’ to go again!

Not so, Prized. He turned and ran in the other direction. Oh, well.

Prized goes his own way.

Prized goes his own way.

Then, just as all seemed over, Prized revved up his famous closing style. Steadily the Breeders’ Cup Turf winner diminished the distance at a decidedly swift walk. At the very least, he was curious to see what the mini was up to.

06 Prized off to slow start

But it was too late. Silver Charm passed the last fence post well ahead. Prized decided he was more interested in nibbling some more grass, anyway.

LSC celebrates with his connections in the winner’s circle

Little Silver Charm celebrates with his connections in the winner’s circle

A Grade One Easter was had by all.

Beth

Photos by Laura

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April 7, 2014

BullintheHeather_Equisport_Photos

Bull Inthe Heather. Equisport Photos.

Bull Inthe Heather, Ferdinand’s greatest son, was an original in his own right. Readers who visited him recently know that Bully was fighting an infection, besides his tendency to abscesses, which worsened with old age. For years Bull benefitted from the best of long-term foot care from Dr. Bryan Fraley, In his final illness he also had everyday treatment from Dr. Bryan Waldridge and others of our new vet team, along with the knowledgeable, devoted care of the barn staff. During the bad weather he had the best stall in the barn, and plenty of attention and company from staff and volunteers alike. We hoped his strong spirit could prevail as it had in the past. But “old age” are the operative words in why that didn’t happen. Bull Inthe Heather was 24, equivalent to almost 80 years old for a human. Even the strongest will can’t prevail forever. Because wasn’t Bull’s first battle. He did prevail. He did live to fight other days—but what matters is that he lived to enjoy most of them.

That’s the other operative word. Bully enjoyed many good times at Old Friends, much love, many treats, back scratches, and the races he liked to stage against Commentator or whoever else happened to be in the nearest paddock. During his middle age, when he lived in the paddock behind the office where Sarava now holds court, more than once we’d look out a back window to see Bull leaping in mid-air, performing a beautifully executed capriole, the air above the ground when horse lifts up and at the apex of the leap kicks out with the hind legs and then lands gracefully on all fours. This is considered one of the most athletic moves a Lipizzaner makes, and Bull’s beautiful silver coat made him look like one of that amazing breed when he did this feat, but Bully wasn’t doing dressage, or performing for anyone at all, he was just enjoying himself. (Or, sometimes, making it clear that it was dinner time.)

Bull rolls and smiles.  March 2010. B. Shannon.

Bull rolls and smiles. March 2010. B. Shannon.

For his years of security and enjoyment, Bull had his dad to thank. Without the response of racing fans, and other animal lovers, to 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand’s tragic demise in an overseas slaughterhouse, Bull Inthe Heather would not have had Old Friends to retire to in 2006. Among the great things Ferdinand achieved, inspiring the support that provided his best son with eight years of security and love was not the least.

I know that many people who have the Breyer model of Bull, or gave the real Bull a back scratch, or admired his tall, silver-grey good looks, will feel something missing from the farm when you visit. Without Bull, something definitely is missing. But he had the best of care and everyone’s love. We did our best to help him fight for his life until the point came when the only loving thing to do was allow him to go.

If you’d like to join us in honoring Bull and live near Lexington, gather with us this Thursday, April 10, for the “Hops and Horses” fundraiser 6-9 pm at West Sixth Brewing on the corner of West Sixth and Jefferson. The event features a glass commemorating Bull with artwork by Anjelica Huston. We intended to celebrate Bull Inthe Heather, Florida Derby winner and Kentucky Derby contender. Now we will remember and miss him. But we will still celebrate Bull’s accomplishments, his strong spirit, and no doubt his quirks. He truly was one of a kind. If you can’t come to “Hops and Horses,” you’re warmly invited to join us in honoring the horses who have passed on this year on our annual Memorial Day commemoration at Dream Chase Farm.

 Beth

Bull on a breezy summer day.

Bull on a breezy summer day.

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April 2, 2014

Spring is here! Tender green grass is sprouting, the horses are grazing with zest, and everybody’s starting to shed their winter coats. With the warmer weather comes a relaxed mood. Sarava, who doesn’t care for a pat on the nose in the winter, has been graciously accepting them. Eyes are soft, body language spells a growing contentment all over the farm, and playful little paddock dances are happening all around.

The new horses are settling in nicely. The newest boy on the block, Highland Ack (grandson of the great Ack Ack), has joined Dinard’s herd in the paddock next to Arson Squad and I’m Charismatic’s. Nicknamed Landy by his former exercise rider, who retrained, showed, and cared for him when his racing days were done, Highland Ack is a real sweetie! Newbies Maybesomaybynot, Bobby Sands, and Geronimo have been joined by Shadow Caster, who had been living at our nearby satellite location. Shadow Caster, by the way, is by Futural’s sire, Future Storm, a son of Storm Cat. And Johannesbourbon is making friends with every human he sees.

Rail Trip plays

Rail Trip plays

So does Catlaunch

So does Catlaunch

 

With the warmer breezes and green grass, the visitors are starting to show up in more numbers, too. That’s always one of the best signs that winter is over. The horses are loving the more frequent carrots and admiration. The spring meet at Keeneland is about to begin. The Derby trail is heating up. The tour guides are eager to introduce you to the new horses and facilitate good times with your favorites from your earlier visits or your memories of their racing days. We hope to see you at Dream Chase Farm in Georgetown, Kentucky soon!

Beth

photos by Laura

Afternoon Deelites takes a spin around his paddock

Afternoon Deelites takes a spin around his paddock

 

And our helpful office staff (a.k.a. Buddy - also Lucy and Desi -) look forward to your next visit!

And our helpful office staff (a.k.a. Buddy – also Lucy and Desi -) look forward to your next visit!

 

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March 17, 2014

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The Name’s Jimmy getting–and giving–love in his final days

It’s been a week and a half since The Name’s Jimmy died. I just couldn’t face blogging about it till now. Over the years Jimmy had become one of my best friends. Helping out with the press release was easier, since it gave an opportunity to share some wonderful stories Brian Burns, his former owner, told us when he phoned us that day. My favorite was how Jimmy made it, against all expectations, when he was lost in Hurricane Katrina. “He stayed out in the bayou for two days before Pope McLean, Jr. found him,” Mr. Burns told us. “It’s a wonder he wasn’t eaten by an alligator or bitten by a snake. After that, Pope and I called him The Survivor.”

And a survivor Jimmy remained. His passing wasn’t unexpected. He’d increasingly had mobility issues and for nearly a year. The surprise, the cause for admiration, was that Jimmy kept his will to cope, and kept his enjoyment of the little pleasures of life, for longer than any of us expected. These pleasures included butterscotch candies, red delicious apples–he usually refused other kinds. A few months ago a visitor thoughtfully brought wonderful orchard apples, freshly picked. Jimmy would have none of those. Supermarket red delicious only, got it? And there’d better not be any juice from Creator’s watermelon slices on Jimmy’s apple slices–that was serious. And razzing Bull Inthe Heather, a definite pleasure. And joking around with people. Jimmy loved to act tough, to grab in a playful way, to engage with you. Right up to his last days he kept what I can only describe as a sense of humor.

But on the day when even Jimmy’s mighty willpower was no longer enough to keep his body going, he knew how to communicate that, too. The way Michael put it says it all. “It’s always difficult to euthanize one of our great retirees but Jimmy made it easy. The look in his eye spoke volumes and we were able to help him in his final hour. We’re very grateful for all he gave us.”

I was lucky to know Jimmy. I will never not miss him. But I know contending with a body that could no longer obey his strong will can’t have been easy for such a high spirited horse, and he decided when it was time to go. I’ll always admire his power to survive so long and to enjoy the good in life.

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Jimmy in full health, as I’ll always remember him

Yet even as we mourn the passing of one survivor, I think it’s appropriate to express thankfulness for two other survivors, our two oldest residents, each of whom has outlived threatened slaughter, and each of whom has recently had yet another happy birthday. Though all Thoroughbreds officially turn one year older every January 1, Clever Allemont had his real birthday on February 11. He turned 32 years old. That’s the same as a human being over 100. Though old, Clever is as perky and sweet natured as ever. He’s one of the kindest horses I know.

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Clever Allemont. The blanket keeps him warm and dry when he naps in his paddock. He’s kinda sleepy in this photo but he’s an alert guy and in great spirits.

…And, of course, today’s birthday boy. Ogygian was foaled on St. Patrick’s Day 1983. Today he had a happy 31st birthday enjoying the warmer weather and extra attention from Tom and the visitors he guided around the farm. Ogygian doesn’t like sweets, so he celebrated with lots of carrots, and my acknowledgements that he’s the most wonderful horse in the universe.* which is pretty much how he celebrates his ordinary days, too.

* If you tell me one of our other horses is the most wonderful horse in the universe I can’t argue. They all are.

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Ogygian mugs for the camera on his 31st birthday

Our two other oldest horses don’t have birthdays for some time. Gulch will be 30 on April 16, and Mixed Pleasure 29 on May 20.

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Gulch

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Mixed Pleasure dancing

Two final photos I can’t help sharing. Early Pioneer, his new best buddy Ferocious Won, and their paddock mate A P Slew aren’t that old. They’re just cute.

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Ferocious Won (front) and Early Pioneer

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A. P. Slew does his A. P. Slew look

Beth

All photos except Ogygian by Laura Battles

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February 21, 2014

It seems forever since I hailed the new year with promises to post updates about some of the good developments at Old Friends. Has it really been only a month? What a busy time it’s been, a month of the most productive teamwork ever. The challenges of a severe winter have been met by staff and volunteers alike, and the horses are thriving.

I admit this is one reason I’ve blogged so rarely lately, and why I’m still catching up on the biographies for our new arrivals’ share materials. I’ve been one of a small army that’s been slogging through the snow, busting and clearing ice from waterers, delivering supplements, and helping with horse care. New programs, initiated by Michael and the most progressive, knowledgeable barn leadership Old Friends has ever had, are improving the Kentucky farm’s use of volunteer resources. Those who want to work and learn are doing so as never before, and the horses are benefiting. Here are a few of the wonderful things going on.

Got Snow? Sarava

Got Snow? Sarava

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Star Plus

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Horses don’t feel the cold weather the same way we do. As long as they’re acclimatized and grow their furry winter coats, their thermoregulatory systems keep them comfortable. But as always, they need water, and plenty of it. Thanks to our barn staff and volunteers, water has been constantly available to all the horses during the frigid weather. Barn staff whacked the ice at morning and evening feedings, and on sub-freezing days, volunteers turned up, some of them day after day, with hammers and axes to bash the ice at midday. Ingenious tools slowed down re-freezing by scooping the ice chunks out of the water. Nick the fireman has fantastic temperature-proof gloves; some others found kitchen strainers with long handles useful; most all ended up with ice crusting their hair or glasses, but the horses had access to their water no matter how low the temps stayed. When for a few days the water pipes failed, excellent teamwork ensured that plenty of water was delivered to all the residents. The labor involved in all this was not minor, and all who pitched in (you know who you are) deserve praise.

...Er...thanks? Pops and Ringy

…Er…thanks? Pops and Ringy

The new horses are settling in beautifully. As a routine precaution, at first they were quarantined in the big barn, with separate turn-out. With the approval of our team of vets (they’re great—all either donate their expertise or charge us reduced rates), the newbies all passed quarantine with flying colors. Geronimo now shares a paddock with Bobby Sands and Maybesomaybenot. Areyoutalkintome completes a contented foursome with Commentator, Fabulous Strike and W. C. Jones. The others will soon settle in with paddock mates too. For Johannesbourbon and Star Plus (who’s not so new) that won’t happen until they’ve been gelded, though you can visit all of them and feed them carrots now.

Geronimo

Geronimo

About gelding: as many of you know, a young male horse who hasn’t had a breeding career and won’t have one is best off neutered. Horses are social animals that feel safest in herds, and geldings can share paddocks. Stallions who’ve had breeding careers are different. Dominant and proud, each wants to rule his own territory—his own paddock—yet stallions do have friendships and rivalries with stallions in neighboring paddocks, like the bond Kiri’s Clown had with his racing rival and neighbor Awad, or the companionable snortings and pawings Swan’s Way strikes up with whoever his neighbors happen to be. Mares don’t have guy-issues about territory. Whether or not they’ve been mamas, the girls enjoy living in herds. Finding the best combinations for our small herds of geldings and mares is an ongoing project. Who’s happiest sharing space with whom is getting lots of attentive focus.

The girls

The girls

Judge's Case & Sea Native

Judge’s Case & Sea Native

More good news involves supplements. Certain high quality horse care products are recommended by our vet specialists for particular horses, Since supplies have never been unlimited, our specialists, barn management and volunteers are collaborating to improve the availability of our supplements to the horses who can best benefit from each. And on the subject of teamwork, have I mentioned how much we love our generous supplement sponsors, Succeed and Lubrisyn? Check out our web site’s Sponsors page for links to these and other great horse care stuff.

Delay of Game

Delay of Game

Finally, special thanks go to our KEMI students. They’re University of Kentucky majors in equine health and business who are devoting some of their already overcommitted time to helping us out. We’ve partnered with the KEMI program for a few years now, and we’re proud to offer our student volunteers meaningful learning experiences. And we learn from our KEMI students, too.

Himself. (Little Silver Charm, of course)

Himself. (Little Silver Charm, who else?)

Winter isn’t over, but during this respite, with what feel like March winds blowing in, I look forward to spring and the visitors who’ll soon be back in numbers. Between the benefits the TAA grant is bringing and better-than-ever volunteer opportunities (yes, we can use more volunteers!) you’re going to love visiting Old Friends more than ever. To schedule a tour, donate toward our horses’ care, or talk about volunteering,  give us a call at 502-863-1775 or  contact us here. We hope you’ll come see us soon!

Beth

all photos by Laura Battles, January & February 2014

winter T and J get MPs new halter on

John and Tim put Mixed Pleasure’s new halter on

Alex and Bebe keep warm together

Alex and Bebe keep warm together

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January 20, 2014

I’m happy to report that this week at OF has been busy and good. We anticipate expanding our paddock space on the leased land beside the farm. Meanwhile, we’re already enjoying an improvement that should make tours even more fun. The path to the back of the farm has been newly graded. The smooth going not only makes chores easier, it opens better visitor access to Eclipse Award winner Hidden Lake, multiple G1 victor Affirmed Success, Secretariat’s son Tinners Way, hard-knocking veteran Mike the Spike, and all the other wonderful horses living on the back of the farm. As yet we haven’t replaced the golf cart, but we soon will. Keep your eyes open for that news.

Some of our residents have switched paddocks. The one I’ll probably always think of as Sunshine Forever’s is being much appreciated by everybody’s longtime buddy Swan’s Way. Swannie loves tours, attention, and his favorite volunteer Tom. Now he’s back where he’s got more of them all. Little Silver Charm has somehow managed to supersize his paddock, or actually, temporarily trade with The Name’s Jimmy whose arthritis makes a stall and turnout in a small paddock safer for him in this slick-ground weather. Bull Inthe Heather has moved into the paddock that was Swan’s Way’s, which we hope will suit his feet and legs just right, and with the way to the back smoothed he’s still well within reach of his admirers. Or is that the other way around? Bull’s old paddock is now home to…but that would be getting ahead of myself.

Because the big news, and what’s kept Michael, Tim and us volunteers scurrying, is the arrival of no less than 6 new residents in the last few weeks, 3 of them just yesterday.

Rail Trip. Photo by Laura Battles.

Rail Trip. Photo by Laura Battles.

Old Friends is proud to welcome two of the stakes winning-est geldings we’ve ever had, one at each end of the racing spectrum. 9 year old Rail Trip set a track record winning the 2009 Hollywood Gold Cup (G1). This star from California also won the Californian S (G2), Mervyn Leroy (G2) and San Diego H (G2) and finished 2nd in the 2012 BC Dirt Mile. He arrived yesterday thanks to his trainer Ron Ellis and his owner Samantha Siegel and is settling in nicely. Last week saw the arrival of another multiple stakes winner who deserves enormous respect. Ohio bred Catlaunch started 107 times and won over $1 million. Right through the age of 12 he stacked up a list of Ohio stakes wins as tall as he is (and Catlaunch is very tall). He won the Babst/Palacios Memorial H and Gendelman Memorial H 4 times each, the George Lewis Memorial S 3 times and the Rowland Memorial no less than 6 times! He’s all heart and he’s sweet, too. He likes to lick faces and ears.

Catlaunch. Photo by Laura Battles.

Catlaunch. Photo by Laura Battles.

Geronimo and Michael. Photo by Laura Battles.

Geronimo and Michael. Photo by Laura Battles.

Geronimo and Areyoutalkintome accompanied Rail Trip from California. Geronimo, a 15 year old gelding, was a Chilean stakes winner who became a graded stakes winner in the US (the 2005 Morvich (G3), Kent Desormeaux up). A sprinter with a late running style, he won nearly half a million. Areyoutalkintome, a 13 year old gelding, may be new on the farm, but he’s family. He’s a great-grandson of Gulch. He’s also a G3 winner (2005 el Conejo S). He preferred to be the speed in his races—where, by the way, he competed against Bluesthestandard and Bonfante.

Areyoutalkintome. Photo by Laura Battles.

Areyoutalkintome. Photo by Laura Battles.

Maybesomaybenot (front) and Bobby Sands. Photo by Laura Battles.

Maybesomaybenot (front) and Bobby Sands. Photo by Laura Battles.

Finally, my favorite two so far. Maybesomaybenot is so nice he’s a favorite with everyone already. He won the prestigious Sanford S for juveniles at Saratoga in 2010 racing as a homebred for the Scisney family. Maybe’s dad, Sunday Break, is in my opinion one of the best horses ever bred in Japan. Maybe is currently making friends with his new paddock buddy, Bobby Sands. They’re the ones now in what was formerly Bull Inthe Heather’s paddock. I hope I’ll be forgiven for saying the most about Johannesbourbon. Though he’s the only one of the 6 who never won a stakes race. And though at 5, he’s the baby on the farm. He even owes me $6. That’s what I bet on him in the 2012 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland where he dueled valiantly for the lead all the way around, prevailed, but tired in the last strides and was overtaken by the mob. Well, probably others who remember that race would describe the stretch run differently, but this horse was running in only his second lifetime start in a graded stakes against seasoned horses gunning for the Derby, and he came close to winning. I’d have admired that even if he hadn’t been the spit image of his sire Johannesburg. Even if his rich mahogany bay color hadn’t really been closer to his great-grandpa Ogygian’s. Johannesbourbon placed in his next stakes, but developed bad knees. His owners, Bourbon Lane Stables, did the right thing and retired him, but later he fell into less ethical hands and this horse who should no longer race at all was running every 10 days for $2,500. His story could have been a tragedy, unnoticed as are too many of its kind. I extend my heartfelt gratitude and admiration to Bourbon Lane partner Mike McMahon for buying back Johannesbourbon and donating him to OF. If I had my way it’s the owners who do something this right who’d get the Eclipse Awards.

Johannesbourbon. Photo by Laura Battles.

Johannesbourbon. Photo by Laura Battles.

I hope all who get a chance will come to the farm soon, meet the newcomers, and visit your old favorites. Young, middle aged and old, every one of them reminds us every day what it is to honor largeness of spirit, to open up to new relationships and experiences and to value each day with them.

- Beth

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