April 24, 2015

The Keeneland meet, into Kentucky Derby time! At Old Friends, it’s the season for reunions. When our residents’ old racing connections come to town, happy moments are shared when equine retirees are visited by their former jockeys, trainers, owners, grooms and others who played roles in their race careers and lives as working athletes.

So far this spring, several of the horses have had visits from people they once worked with, and for, people with whom they shared experiences, with whom they renew bonds. This is an important time and we look forward to more reunions as people arrive in Kentucky for Derby season. Among those so far, I want to mention two very special days when Hall of Fame jockeys were reunited with former mounts they love. Gary Stevens visited Hall of Fame horse, 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Silver Charm for the first time in many years, and Angel Cordero, Jr., was reunited with Eclipse Award Sprint Champion, Gulch.

Both of these jockeys have associations with Gulch, by the way, Mr. Stevens having won the 1995 Kentucky Derby on Gulch’s son, Thunder Gulch. Gary Stevens has won three Derbys (so far), by the way, including 1988 on the spectacular filly, Winning Colors. Mr. Cordero, “King of Saratoga,” has three Kentucky Derby victories to his credit, 1974 on Cannonade, 1976 on Bold Forbes, and 1985, Spend a Buck.

Mr. Cordero’s love for Gulch seemed to glow from him. I have no photos of that moment, but some new–and we hope continuing–friendships were also made that day…

Angel Cordero and Little Silver Charm. Photo by Tim Wilson.

Angel Cordero and Little Silver Charm. Photo by Tim Wilson.

Photo by Tim Wilson.

Photo by Tim Wilson.

Mr. Stevens’ time with Silver Charm was captured in these photos that say so very much that there’s little I could add.

Gary Stevens and Silver Charm. Equisport Photos.

Gary Stevens and Silver Charm. Equisport Photos.

Courtesy of Equisport Photos.

Courtesy of Equisport Photos.

Many thanks to all of those who played a part in the horses’ past and have–or will–come to the farms in Kentucky or New York to renew those bonds!

Beth

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March 31, 2015

Spring is here at last and some of Old Friends’ residents are enjoying a change of paddocks. Afternoon Deelites has moved across the drive to the paddock in front of the house–in the “front yard” paddock he’ll keep enjoying the busy social life he loves. No tour will escape him!

Eldaafer, Google and Yahoo now have a big paddock with goat-proof fences. Now they can play in plenty of space, the goats will be securely in that space, and they have a whole herd of neighbors to race. Here are the Breeders’ Cup Marathon winner and his goats as they challenged neighbors Mikethespike, Cherono, Johannesbourbon, Ball Four, Lion Hunter, Bonapaw, Boule d’Or, Northern Stone and W. C. Jones to some laps up and down the fence.

Eldaafer, Google and Yahoo race their new neighbors. Photo by Tim Wilson.

Eldaafer, Google and Yahoo race their new neighbors. Photo by Tim Wilson.

Silver Charm now has a permanent paddock. His new neighbors are “Seabiscuit” star Popcorn Deelites and Special Ring on one side, Danthebluegrassman, Flick and Unaccountable on the other. I’m not sure the Derby and Preakness winner is all that impressed with Pops’ and Rings’ encore number, the “Movie Star vs. Tattoo” show. That doesn’t matter. Pops and Ring are as impressed as ever with themselves.

And Game On Dude is having a fantastic time with his new paddock mate Yankee Fortune. These guys are two of the sweetest natured horses OF has ever been lucky enough to have. They’re already great buddies. They’re rarely more than a foot or two apart. They mirror each other. They play, they love petting and kisses on the nose. They gave the race track their all, both achieved feats to be proud of, and now they’re showing the same enthusiasm for their well-earned retirement.

Game On Dude, Yankee Fortune, Little Silver Charm, and Michael. Photo by Tim.

Game On Dude, Yankee Fortune, Little Silver Charm, and Michael. Photo by Tim.

I guess you could say they’re enjoying life’s smaller pleasures…

Beth

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March 17, 2015

Ogygian. March 17, 1983 - March 14, 2015

Ogygian. March 17, 1983 – March 14, 2015

I can’t do this. Can’t capture such a great spirit in mere words. Or describe the emptiness of his empty paddock. I just want to say that in his last hours he was with people he knew and trusted, on a mild night under a starry sky. He ended his life peacefully. We caught the colic symptoms early, Dr. Waldridge got there soon with pain relief and gave heroically of his efforts and expertise. Everything that could be humanely done to try and save Ogygian was done, and Ogygian was strong and loving through it all. My gratitude to Michael is beyond bounds. He made the right decision not to opt for radical hospital treatment that had little chance of working, to let Ogygian go peacefully in the paddock that had been his kingdom for so many years. To make all the caring decisions he made that night. Ogygian left life the way he lived it, with courage, wisdom and a loving heart. I will never know another like him.

Beth

  Ogygian’s halter. Sitting on my dining room table, it looks forlorn and more than a little lost, just like those of us who knew and loved O became on Saturday night. In a lot of ways, his halter symbolized O. It had longevity. O was famous for cleverly ditching every halter put on his head. Four or five years ago, as my bond with O was growing and after the latest ditching, I decided to try my luck. O’s constant companion, Beth, and I deliberated over the most comfortable size and the ideal font type to use on the nameplate. Everything had to be perfect. I can’t recall the details of either, but something about this halter worked for O. With Michael’s coaxing, on it went (of course, Michael was the only one who could actually accomplish this), and we waited to see how long it would last. As it turned out the halter had staying power, just like O.

O, Beth and the Halter January 2015. Photo by Laura.

O, Beth and the Halter January 2015. Photo by Laura.

O traveled over 14,000 miles during the course of his life, until he settled for good at Old Friends. His halter looks like it’s been around the world and back, too. The nose band is a little warped, the ends of the straps are curled up, and the nameplate is scratched and worn with age. It’s a halter with character, experience, toughness, fitting for a warrior, a survivor like O. O and his halter were never separated. Until Saturday night. And now, it sits on my dining room table. I think I’m going to give this halter to the person O loved best in all the world, Beth. I think that’s what O would want me to do. And I never turned down a request from Ogygian.

Barbara

For the past several years, Ogygian has been my “Saturday night horse”. After the visitors go home, Saturday evenings are spent wandering the farm and visiting with the wonderful horses at Old Friends. One horse that was always part of the nightly ritual was Ogygian. He always wandered over for a visit with Beth, Barbara, Alex, John, myself, and whoever else was out in the evening.

Ogygian was a very particular horse. Some things were only allowed if done in a special way. One of those things was the weekly application of a hoof-strengthening cream to his hooves. Beth couldn’t just go in and rub it in. Ogygian required a minimum of two other visitors, preferably female, to praise him and provide carrots while the cream was applied. It was usually Barbara and me cooing and praising as we passed carrot after carrot to him. When someone was not at the farm, we would press John in to be part of Ogygian’s “harem”.

In old age, O got an extra dinner to keep his aging body in good weight. Beth would call him and they would race around the paddock to his feed tub. I used to try to get over to the feed tub first to get the right light for photos. The sight of the old stallion with his mane and tail streaming behind him is forever etched in my mind.

Race to the feed tub. Photo by Laura.

Race to the feed tub. Photo by Laura.

O loved to stand in the back of his paddock under “his” tree. Sometimes, he would fade into the scenery. I remember bringing a tour over to see him one morning. I was looking everywhere for him and calling his name and just didn’t see him. I think he decided I must be blind as he started talking as he cantered across his paddock to the “oohs” and “aahs” of the admiring crowd.

Last Saturday night, I had to say good-bye to my old friend. Saturday nights won’t be the same for a long time to come…

Laura

Ogygian. Photo by Laura.

Ogygian. Photo by Laura.

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March 13, 2015

It’s a bittersweet time on the Kentucky farm. Feeling our losses keenly, we also feel the coming of spring. We’re only weeks away from the Keeneland meet, and then, Derby season. Preparations are underway, people are pitching in on all kinds of projects from Kentucky to New York to Florida to California and beyond, and on the farm, the maintenance needed after the harsh winter is underway…in the middle of mud, mud, mud.

The unstoppable Antonio and Yoel. Photo by Tim Wilson.

The unstoppable Antonio and Yoel. Photo by Tim Wilson.

Flick had oral surgery to remove teeth that had caused him pain. The surgery was performed by Old Friends veterinarian, Dr. Brad Tanner, of Rood and Riddle. The situation has been relieved, Flick is now recovered , and he’s back with buddies Danthebluegrassman and Unaccountable. Thank you, Dr. Tanner!

Flick joins his buddies. R to L, Flick, Unaccountable, Dan. Photo by Tim.

Flick rejoins his buddies. R to L, Flick, Unaccountable, Dan. Photo by Tim.

 

 

Do what?? Porfido. Photo by Laura.

Do what?? Porfido. Photo by Laura.

 

…Did somebody say, farm maintenance? It’s as inevitable after winter as taxes, but it can be a lot more fun, says Swan’s Way.

Volunteer Trampus M. changes out the valve on Swan's Way's waterer. Swannie shows his appreciation...

Volunteer Trampus M. changes out the valve on Swan’s Way’s waterer. Swannie shows his appreciation…

Swannie and Trampus 2

…by swiping Trampus’ bandana. Photos by Tim.

Quiz: Whose fuzzy ears are these? (Hint: his upcoming birthday is St. Patrick’s Day.)

O ears

Beth

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March 4, 2015

For three days I’ve waited for the words for a fitting tribute to Creator. They haven’t come. No words can begin to describe him, or the loss of him.

Creator, Feb. 2010, by Laura Battles.

Creator, Feb. 2010, by Laura Battles.

Few who saw Creator at Old Friends saw him race, but in the summer of 1990 he was the best horse running in Europe, a superlative athlete worthy of his great lineage: Nasrullah, Never Bend, Mill Reef. He was already a character. Later, one of his grooms in trainer André Fabre’s barn would tell Michael how they called Creator “Houdini” because no matter how meticulously they’d fasten on his blanket, the next time they checked on him they’d find the blanket on the stall floor. Creator’s easy victory over In the Wings in the Prix Ganay was especially celebrated. To this day, Creator is remembered in Great Britain. Here is his obituary in England’s Racing Post.

Creator, by EquiSport Photos.

Creator. EquiSport Photos.

Creator at Hurstland, 2005. Photo by Kate Dunn.

Creator at Old Friends, Hurstland Farm, 2005. Photo by Kate Dunn.

Pensioned from stud at Nitta Farm at age 18, Creator was purchased by Old Friends and arrived from Japan with Sunshine Forever on November 1, 2004. Though Old Friends acquired Sunshine Forever first, it was actually Creator who was the first stallion resident to set foot on Old Friends’ premises. He made sure of that by making enough ruckus on the trailer to get himself unloaded before Sunshine. It set an enduring pattern. Sunshine was our wisdom, Creator was our fire (a triumvirate completed when Jerry and Ann Moss donated Rulhmann, our toughness). For more than a decade, with more than a hundred horses, there was no fire brighter than Creator. Whether running with the wind flaming his red mane and tail, wowing all who met him with his inimitable charisma, or just taking it easy and allowing admiration of his beauty, Creator was always larger than life.

Creator, August 2009. Photo by Beth.

Creator, August 2009. Photo by Beth.

Creator. July 2014. Photo by Laura.

Creator. July 2014. Photo by Laura.

I could tell a million stories if I could see the screen though my tears. There’s no end to what Creator did, or the things about him. His effect on imaginations, admiration, and hearts was extraordinary. Clearly, Creator touched more lives than I have any idea of. So it feels right to step down and invite others who loved him to help with the words I can’t find. If you want to share a memory, an impression, about Creator, please sharea comment. Joining together can’t blunt the loss, but at least as we miss him, I hope it will help that we’re all in this together.

Beth

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February 27, 2015

Williamstown. Photo by Laura Battles.

Williamstown 1990-2015. Photo by Laura Battles.

One Friday around noon in December 2007, Michael got a phone call from Aubrey Insurance Agency in Lexington. Lisa, the staffer who called, was a racing fan. A 17 year old stallion had been pensioned due to infertility and, having not worked out at an equine program at the University of Minnesota, was scheduled for euthanasia. “We’ve got to do something!” she said. “It’s Williamstown we’re talking about!” Do something, Michael did. He spent the day on the phone, tenacious as a bulldog, until he got to the people who needed to be got to. By that afternoon it was all arranged. Williamstown, one of the best sons of Seattle Slew, was coming to live at Old Friends.

Williamstown. EquiSport Photos.

Williamstown. EquiSport Photos.

Williamstown arrived at the farm a few days later. He was—and stayed through the very end—one of the most magnificent looking horses Old Friends has ever had the privilege to care for, a big horse whose nearly black coat was complemented by four flashy white legs and a broad white blaze. His racing career had also been distinctive. When he set his mile record at Belmont in the 1993 Withers Stakes, he bettered the time set by Conquistador Cielo, who was carrying 111 pounds. Williamstown held that mile record for ten years. To break it, Najran had to equal Dr. Fager’s world record, and was carrying 113 pounds. Williamstown had been carrying an impressive 124 pounds.

Williamstown. EquiSport Photos.

Williamstown. EquiSport Photos.

At 17, perfectly healthy aside from infertility, Williamstown wowed us as he got to know his new paddock by putting down his head, stretching his muscular body out long (shades of his great dad!) and running faster than any wind. He was a gorgeous sight thundering around, or flashing out his white legs in play, neck arched. And he put himself on duty immediately, taking on the job of guarding the farm. A house was being built nearby, and William kept his vigilant eye on the construction workers, making good and sure they toed the line. There was no way they were going to come build a house in his paddock!

Williamstown. Photo by Laura.

Williamstown. Photo by Laura.

As he aged, time told on the splendid stallion. The arthritis in one of his back legs caused him increasing mobility problems, though William continued to have good spells where for weeks or months, when the mood took him, he’d tear around his paddock like a cyclone. He could be a bit independent, maybe even aloof. He was tough, too. But with his friends, Williamstown was open, willing to meet you more than half way, and kind. He was too dignified to be a cuddler, but in his way he showed affection. He made you earn it, but if you did, he was generous.

Williamstown. Photo by Laura.

Williamstown. Photo by Laura.

When it was time to go, William let us know in no uncertain terms that he felt it was the right time to go. He went peacefully, calmly, with the confident assurance that had characterized him all his life. Williamstown was a horse with absolute class.

Beth

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February 24, 2015

photo by Tim Wilson

photo by Tim Wilson

Oh, the snow and blow that just will not go! Actually, we’ve been pretty lucky in the Kentucky Blue Grass that there hasn’t been that much blow. But do we ever have snow!

Snowy dawn at OF. Photo by TIm

Snowy dawn at OF. Photo by TIm

Fortunately, horses enjoy colder temperatures than most humans do. We humans don’t have thermoregulatory systems suited to staying comfortable and healthy in cold weather. Horses do.

Swannie when the snowfall started. Photo by Laura Battles

Swan’s Way when the snowfall started. Photo by Laura Battles

Of course, their run-in sheds and plenty of hay are essential ingredients for their cold weather well-being. So are the vigilant eyes checking who’s more comfortable blanketed and who does better without a blanket, and whether the waterers need clearing of ice, and…and…

Antonio and Yoel - feeding time. Photo by Tim

Antonio and Yoel take care of the horses’ favorite time – feeding time. Photo by Tim

…all the thousand other things our expert barn management, Tim and Carole, and energetic staff, Antonio and Yoel, spend so much of their cold weather days doing, so that each horse is getting the care to meet his or her own particular needs.

Wallenda. Photo by his good buddy, Tim

Wallenda. Photo by his good buddy, Tim

OK, now imagine doing all that work, up and down the length of a T-shaped 92 acre farm, plus additional pasturage and hay storage on the leased land on the side…in snow sometimes up to the shins…now so old and crusty you can walk on it…except where it caves in every few steps and dumps you into the snow…and you get the picture.

Little Silver Charm: "Having me in the picture makes any snow scene gorgeous."

Little Silver Charm: “Having me in the picture makes any snow scene gorgeous.” Photo by Tim

The horses are doing fine. To us humans, it’s getting a little old. Will it really soon be March? Will spring ever come?

"OK, we're a little bored. Where are those carrot-carrying summer folk?" (A certain Derby winner wants to know). Photo by Laura

“OK, we’re a little bored. Where are those carrot-carrying summer folk?” (A certain Derby winner wants to know.) Photo by Laura

Until it does, the horses are hangin’ out, sometimes seeming mildly amused at us struggling humans, sometimes inspiring and encouraging us to be more like them, to live in the present, to really feel and enjoy the warmth of the winter sun, and to enjoy the companionship of every day as it comes.

Slamming and Michael enjoy some quiet companionship. Photo by Tim

Slamming and Michael enjoy some quiet companionship. Photo by Tim

I guess Slamming and Michael say it all in this photo.

Beth

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February 10, 2015

On Saturday, January 31st a special visitor stopped by the farm. Milton Toby, award-winning turf writer and author of Noor: A Champion Thoroughbred’s Unlikely Journey from California to Kentucky took time out from his busy schedule to visit Noor’s grave. His visit also had another purpose, to see a halter that was worn by the one of racing’s historic champions and the subject of his wonderful book.

Milton Toby visits Noor's grave at Old Friends

Author Milton Toby visits Noor’s grave at Old Friends

The halter was sent to us by Cindi Anderson of Grass Valley, California and is on permanent loan to Old Friends. Cindi was very fortunate to meet Noor when as a young girl she participated in school field trips on two separate occasions. As Loma Rica Ranch was closing, ranch manager Henry Freitas gave a box of tack to his close friend Ray Crow. When Mr. Crow died, his son Steve gave the halter to Cindi. She felt it was meant for her to acquire the halter so it could make the journey to Old Friends for others to enjoy. We are very grateful to Cindi for entrusting us with her treasured artifact of racing history. On a related note, Milton will be hosting a lecture and book signing about Noor on June 2, 2015 at the Keeneland Library. The time of the event will be announced at a later date.

John

Noor stone and halter

. . .

On Saturday and Sunday, February 7 and 8, the Bluegrass basked in mild weather, the kind that brings hopes that spring may eventually arrive. The horses loved it. Visitors! Carrots! Fun! Game On Dude and Silver Charm are now as savvy about all this as the longest-time residents on the farm.

Silver Charm

Silver Charm

Game On Dude

Game On Dude

They’re both extremely intelligent, and they both enjoy interacting with people. Each has his own style. Silver Charm knows his own greatness. He confers his attention on us all as a favor. He’s very gracious to us. Like many dominant stallions, he expects to receive definite signs of respect along with our love.

Silver Charm gallops over to say hello

Silver Charm gallops over to say hello

Game On Dude doesn’t stand on ceremony. Does he know how gorgeous he is? I don’t know, but he does thoroughly enjoy being Dude. Though he’s relatively young and loves to run and play, Dude’s gentleness is becoming proverbial on the farm. He greets people with his open, interested curiosity and usually welcomes a friendly pat on the nose or neck. These two superlative champions show their class in everything they do.

20150210GoD1Silver Charm and Game On Dude each has his own paddock next to each other. At the corner where many of the tours pause to visit them is the corner of a third paddock belonging to Delay of Game, Judge’s Case, and Kudos. You may remember Kudos’ People Magazine photo bomb several years ago—a picture meant to be of Michael and Invigorate, his former race horse who he retired—transformed by Kudos’ firm belief that whatever his buddy Viggie did was at least as much his business as Viggie’s. Well, don’t these new guys realize that the paddock corner experience can never be complete unless Kudos is its main focus? At least for part of the visit.

Kudos

Kudos

Don’t these two new guys know that Kudos is a millionaire? Raced by Jerry and Ann Moss long before Zenyatta was foaled, Kudos was trained by Richard Mandella. The beautifully bred gelding—he’s by Kris S. out of a daughter of Damascus—won the Oaklawn Handicap (G1), Californian Stakes (G2), San Marino and Jim Murray Memorial handicaps. He holds the record for 1 3/16 miles on the turf at Hollywood Park in 1:51.99, a record that will now never be broken. Kudos is now 18 and he loves attention, so when you visit Silver Charm and Game On Dude, be sure to turn and tell Kudos how wonderful he is, too. We do, all the time, but he loves to hear it again and again.

Kudos applies his decade of OF expertise to get maximum carrots per tour.

Kudos applies his decade of OF expertise to get maximum carrots per tour.

Beth

photos by Laura

Lusty Latin and Stormy Passage - just hangin' out.

Lusty Latin and Stormy Passage – just hangin’ out.

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January 22, 2015

Snake - a most informal photo - with A. P. Slew. By Laura Battles.

Snake – a most informal photo – with A. P. Slew. By Laura Battles.

He couldn’t race, couldn’t be ridden, wasn’t worth breeding to. Many people would say he had nothing to give.

His dam was by the good broodmare sire Fortunate Prospect, but his sire had no business in the breeding shed. At some point early in life, the colt had broken a front ankle. He was lucky that it fused and he survived, but he could never race. Neglected and malnourished, he was stunted and oddly shaped. Nobody ever provided him any training or experience. Why bother?

At four years old, the colt was one of the 177 neglected horses seized by the state of New York from Ernie Paragallo in 2009, resulting in Paragallo’s conviction on multiple counts of cruelty to animals. The Columbia-Greene County Humane Society needed homes for those who survived, including the nameless four year old colt, lopsided and unridable, who seemed to have nothing at all going for him. Who’d want such a horse?

Old Friends was among the many people and organizations who stepped up to provide homes for these horses. Given a list to choose from, we picked Prospect Street, a nine year old daughter of our much-loved Fortunate Prospect. Her damsire being Exceller, she was the obvious perfect choice for us.

Arrival at Old Friends, April 2009. Photo by Tim Ford.

Arrival at Old Friends, April 2009. Photo by Tim Ford.

When the van arrived, to our surprise it held, not a mature mare, but an undersized, peculiar-looking colt who seemed much younger than his four years. Where was Fortunate’s daughter? But it turned out Prospect Street had not been among the survivors on the list. This was her son who’d been identified under her name since he’d never been given a name of his own.

At least, the Columbia-Greene Humane Society, New York state officials and volunteers who pitched in to help these horses thought this was Prospect Street’s son. No one could be absolutely sure. So “no-name,” thin, stunted—he was about the size of a yearling, his body too small for his head—undeveloped on the side with the broken ankle, and covered with skin fungus, came to live in Kentucky with Old Friends. What a mess he was!

Treats? July 2009. Photo by Beth Shannon.

Hi!  July 2009. Photo by Beth Shannon.

But he was sweet-natured. Despite the hardships he’d experienced in his short life, he had no distrust of people, only a foal-like curiosity. His soft eyes, cute face and childlike openness to new experiences quickly gained our affection. Old Friends doesn’t breed and has no foals, and little “no-name” was the closest thing to a baby we had. From the beginning, we found he had a lot to give.

For one thing, the fun of learning about food. Starved horses will eat their bedding, and he didn’t know the difference between hay and straw, but with encouragement he quickly realized hay was yummier and straw was great to sleep on. He had no notion what a carrot was. Why should he put that hard orange thing in his mouth? But when he did, oh boy!! For weeks we had huge fun finding him new treats to try, horse cookies, peppermints, apples, and he delighted in the variety of wonderful new tastes he’d had no idea were in the world. For a little while he hoped everything in a hand was a treat, not to mention buttons and buckles, but he didn’t become a grabber. He figured it out for himself.

He couldn’t stay “no-name.” So a little creative thinking discovered something else he had to offer: a fund raiser contest to name him. The entry fee donations benefitted his fellow residents, and he also got an apt name, contest winner Fred Jones’ inspiration from the film Escape From New York. The Jockey Club even agreed to register Escapedfromnewyork, on the condition we geld him, since without absolute certainty of his pedigree he could never breed. Of course, we geld the male horses who haven’t bred or undergone the hormonal changes into stallionhood. It makes life easier for horse and handlers, and it allows them to live with companions. Since horses are herd animals, instinctively they feel more secure in groups.

Escapedfromnewyork, summer 2009. Photo by Beth Shannon.

Escapedfromnewyork, summer 2009. Photo by Beth Shannon.

Escapedfromnewyork recovered from the minor surgery quickly and soon was bouncing around, playful with the new energy that proper nourishment gave him. By then, he’d gained not just a name, but a nickname from former film critic Michael, who called him Snake after Kurt Russell’s character in the movie. Snake also put on an astounding growth spurt. He gained size, his coat became glossy, and with the right hoof trim to help his fused ankle carry his weight better, that side developed muscle tone, and his proportions grew more balanced. Snake never lost his limp, but he could run and play and he had to spend less and less time lying down. His first paddock mate was A. P. Slew. An EPM recoverer, the little red horse didn’t push Snakey too hard physically. Soon it was Snake who began pushing A. P. Slew, though the older, more experienced horse was obviously Snake’s role model, providing needed socialization. Though Snakey copied A. P. Slew, he had his own style with visitors to the farm, an in-your-face, trusting eagerness that won hearts—and, oh boy! treats! Oh, the joy of friends and goodies!

APS and Snakey on a May evening, 2013. Photo by Laura Battles.

APS and Snakey on a May evening, 2013. Photo by Laura Battles.

Snake had nothing to offer? What about the time A. P. Slew cribbed their paddock gate off its hinges and Jack Horner-like (“what a good boy am I!”) stayed inside, while Escapedfrommypaddock! ran up and down the runs between the neighboring paddocks partying with everybody so that a good time was had by all? We closed the back gate to keep him there, but he could still have been hard to catch. Instead, when told the party was over, he willingly allowed himself to be led back to his own paddock. To him, it was all good.

As he grew in strength, Snake needed more energetic paddock mates. This year he got them, and the last year of his life was his happiest. Not quite ten years old, he had tons of energy and could keep up with pretty much anybody. He was introduced to Commentator and Fabulous Strike, along with veteran claimer Marshall Rooster.

Commentator is one smart cookie. He can come on strong, and on the track he could be merciless to his competitors. Vosburgh winner Fabulous Strike is no pushover, either. Snakey was always just a bit of a foal. But what do you know, Commentator decided Mr. Snake was one cool dude. Fabulous Strike followed suit, and Marshall Rooster too. Escapedfromnewyork became the golden boy of the herd, liked by all, the one who’d start the play going, and then they’d all race up and down the long, sloping paddock, or wrestle, or join in all the games that youngish geldings, like teenage boys, love to play.

Escapedfromnewyork, Marshall Rooster and Fabulous Strike, dinner time play, November 2014. Photo by Laura Battles.

Snake, Marshall Rooster and Fabulous Strike, dinner time play, November 2014. Photo by Laura Battles.

A horse like Escapedfromnewyork has nothing to offer? Of course, his story made him an important part of our fundraising family. But on the farm, what stood out was that in the too-short-years between his arrival in April 2009 and his fatal, colic-related, heart attack on January 18, 2015, Escapedfromnewyork gave us the delights of his discoveries and recovery, affection, laughter, and the cheerful trust of a heart that—whether or not affected by his early deprivation, and that we’ll never know—was open to people and horses alike, a kind heart that always looked for the positive and found the good in life.

Beth

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January 18, 2015

At last night’s Eclipse Awards ceremony Michael accepted a special Eclipse Award on behalf of Old Friends. In receiving horse racing’s highest honor for 2014, we are proud to be in the company of legendary race caller Tom Durkin and Barbara Livingston whose photographs have done so much to connect the spectators with the horses, and who has taken so many magical and memorable photos of our horses. We love it that Rosie Napravnik presented Old Friends’ award.

As wonderful as so many people in racing are, and as many humans contribute in many ways to Old Friends’ existence and continuation, this Eclipse Award is – above all – an acknowledgment of the horses. Along with Horse of the Year California Chrome and the other champions of 2014, Gulch and Ogygian got rounds of applause. It’s not just because they’re 31 and 32. It’s for all they and their fellow retirees have done for racing, some of them on the track and in the breeding shed, all of them for the important work they are now doing.

Silver Charm

Silver Charm

Fergus Mac Roich and He Loves Me Not

Fergus Mac Roich and He Loves Me Not

Whether they are Silver Charm, Game On Dude, the hardworking claimer Marshall Rooster, or Escapedfromnewyork who was never capable of racing, these horses, individually and all together, embody the courage, athleticism, intelligence, and willingness to give their utmost, that distinguishes these beautiful animals.

Kudos

Kudos

Highland Ack

Highland Ack

The Eclipse Award conferred on Old Friends last night recognizes staff and volunteers’ dedication and hard work and supporters’ caring and generosity. But even more, it acknowledges the awareness of the voting press, racing fans and racing participants, that the horses matter. Successful or not. Young or old. That however greatly humans contribute to the sport, horse racing is the horses.

Hidden Lake

Hidden Lake

Mixed Pleasure

Mixed Pleasure

We congratulate the horses of Old Friends on their important contribution toward the well-being of all Thoroughbreds, every time they look a visitor in the eye, amble over to give a fan who loves them the gift of their presence, pose for a photo that gets retweeted, or just nibble their hay and enjoy the mild winter sun. They are history. They are today’s spirited or relaxed enjoyment of life. They are horse racing.

Beth

photos by Laura

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