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.)
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.