Monthly Archives: May 2008

Tuesday May 27, 2008

I apologize for being so late with my entry this week.   I took Sunday off from giving tours because we had family in town.   My brother, sister-in-law and two nieces came to Kentucky from western New York State.  So I was a Kentucky tour guide this weekend!

Things are good at Old Friends, though.  The horses are settling in nicely for the summer months.  Everyone has shed their winter coat–even Pops, who took his sweet time getting rid of the fur this year.  Ruhlman is just stunning.  He is sleek, shiny, and black as midnight since the sun hasn’t faded his coat yet.   Of course, he knows he looks good.  He might be the only horse who uses his run-in shed to escape the sun.  I don’t think it’s because he is too warm though.   I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure he is trying to avoid those coat-fading UV rays! 

My nieces specifically asked to see a horse than ran in the Kentucky Derby, and I tried to deliver.  We started our Saturday morning with a tour of Darley Stud.  The Darley people were great hosts, and we saw Holy Bull, Hard Spun, and Any Given Saturday.  We capped the Darley tour by being allowed to pat the 2007 Derby winner, Street Sense.  After Darley of course we went to Old Friends, where we saw Wallenda and Bull inthe Heather.  That is a pretty fine list of Derby runners!  

On Sunday we traveled to Churchill Downs and the Derby Museum, where we saw the wall that lists the Derby starters for each year’s race, back to the very beginning.  Wallenda and Bull inthe Heather are on that wall, under the 1993 Kentucky Derby.    I visit Wallenda and Bull every week and I feel like I know them both.   But seeing their names on that wall at the Derby Museum is an amazing thing.

After everyone left for home on Monday, Greg and I went to the farm for our own tour.  It’s really great sometimes just to walk the farm.  It’s so peaceful and beautiful.  We didn’t have any treats with us, but the horses came to say hello nonetheless.  Well, all but one.  Williamstown was more interested in hanging out with Monday.  Big surprise there!   Pops, Ring, Awad, Kiri, and Sunshine were happy to wander over for a pat on the nose.  The bad boy was Will’s Way.  He took one look, saw no treats, and tried to bite me.   Horses may not speak, but they sure know how to let you know what they want!

I’ll be back on tour duty next weekend with a full report.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this short update.  Come and see us when you can!

-Val

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Memorial Day Weekend

The heat has finally kicked in. Before Sunday it was cool, honest-to-goodness Spring weather. Thanks to all the rain we’ve had everything is green and burgeoning. I don’t think I’ve ever seen flowering trees – the dogwoods and redbuds in particular – as beautiful as they have been this year. And of course our horses couldn’t be more delighted with all the tasty new grass.

Creator and Bullintheheather have traded paddocks, so now Creator is the first horse you see when you arrive at Old Friends. He seems to feel it’s his due. Now that he’s in the prime spot he’s taken to the role of official greeter, allowing himself to be admired and plied with carrots and pears, his favorite fruit, al dente, of course, not to ripe, not too firm. He gazes out from behind that long forelock of his and sends visitors on their way with a look that says, “You’ve seen the best, now see the rest.”

Bullintheheather is enjoying his new custom-made corrective shoes. Michael calls them Bull’s Nikes, but price-wise they’re more like Manolo Blahniks. Bull has problem feet, something many of us can sympathize with. If his feet aren’t comfortable, he’s not happy. These particular shoes are an innovative design formulated for Barbaro. Ruhlman, another martyr to his feet, has been fitted with them too. It’s great to see him prancing around his paddock like a three-year old.

This weekend was extremely busy, with people visiting from New Zealand and Holland, and closer to home, Minnesota, Michigan, Florida and Ohio, among other places. Some of our volunteers were traveling –  Beth Shannon to Egypt, Rachel Binegar to Machu Pichu in Peru and Val Mulgrave, your usual Sunday blogger, to somewhat less exotic Pennsylvania. Volunteers Tim Ford, Barbara Fossum, Charlie Brown, Nancy Bragg, Tom Beatty and Mercer Vandenberg were, as always, willing and wonderful. Sylvia Stiller, our  Director of Everything (Michael is Director of Everything Else) even came in on Saturday, her day off, to help out.

Michael spent several days last week leading a Smithsonian Tour of the Bluegrass. It was a lively group, 19 people from all over the country, directed by Smithsonian Tour leader Cheryl Lytle. Michael was particularly impressed by Edna, a sprightly 100-year old from San Francisco. It was Edna’s 36th Smithsonian Tour. They visited Churchill Downs, toured the backside and the Kentucky Derby Museum and spent an afternoon at the races. They had breakfast at the Keeneland track kitchen, visited the Kentucky Horse Park, the Thoroughbred Training Center, Stonewall Farm and, of course, Old Friends. The tour was so successful that they are planning to do another next year.

We had a special visitor on Sunday, Lucy Duane, 11, from Louisville. Lucy sent Michael a letter saying that she had bet on Eight Belles at a Derby party and didn’t feel right about keeping her winning in light of what happened to the filly.  She wrote thatshe would send the money to Old friends and that she would ask her friends at school and the pople at her church to make contributions. Lucy collected more than $200.

Our newest retirees, Cappucino Kid and Danthebluegrassman are settling in. Dan will be a guest of honor at the Bluegrass Festival at the Kentucky Horse Park in June.  The Gallatin County Youth Bluegrass Band, an impressively talented group of young musicians, have written a song in his honor, “The Ballad of Danthebluegrassman.” They played it at our annual Homecoming earlier this month.

  Two mother geese chose Sunday to introduce their broods of fluffy goslings to the pond. One mother led her little ones into Will’s Way’s paddock. Will was interested. He approached the babies and sniffed. Mother goose squalked and flapped her wings. Will fled.  

Buddy the barn cat is recovering. Buddy had a serious blood infection and nearly died, but thanks to the ministrations of the Midway Small Animal Clinic, Buddy is now feeling fine and warming to his new role as office cat. – Diane

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Sunday May 18, 2008

Today was a beautiful day, especially when compared to last Sunday.  No rain, about 73 degrees and bright sunshine.  The seemingly ever-present Kentucky wind was blowing, as it has been doing a great deal.   All the horses are feeling great, though.   Kiri blew out a quick sprint across his paddock this afternoon.  He still can move when he wants to.  Of course anything Kiri does, Awad must do as well. He had to prove he can still bust a move, too.  They both did it for the joy of running, because they feel good, and because they are happy.   It was a glimpse of what they must have been like when they raced against one another, back in the day.

We had a full schedule of tours today—people from Pennsylvania, Washington State, Oklahoma and Ohio, as well as right here in Kentucky.   We had families with kids, including two or three girls who were pretty excited to see the horses and a three year old guy who was clearly a horseman in training.   He had no fear, feeding carrots and stroking noses like an old pro.   I believe he fed just about every horse on the farm.  We went through an extra large bucket of carrots on that tour!   On the second tour of the day, the two kids had already been to Old Friends with their sitter but mom and dad were first timers.  Being a return visitor, big sister (who was maybe six) could have done the tour herself.  She had three very important things to tell me and her parents:  the white horse (Bull) might bite, the little horse (Silver Charm) plays soccer, and there is brown horse (Ogygian) with only one eye.   She had it covered!

But it is spring after all, and we have a little love triangle going on at the farm.  Janet’s show horse, Monday, is staying at the farm while she recuperates from an injury.  Since the day she arrived, Silver Charm has been smitten!   Her stall is right next to his little paddock, and he spent the first week of her residence standing as close to her stall window as he could.  I don’t know what they talked about, but make no mistake, they talked.   Opposites attract and all that; it was obviously a case of forbidden love.

Now I must say Monday is a terrific mare—beautiful, kind, and sweet.   But she is a redhead, and alas, I fear she is a bit of a flirt.  Because as Monday heals, she spends her days in a paddock set smack in between Silver Charm and….Williamstown.   Monday splits her attentions between them, back and forth.  Ahh, Monday, what will you do?   Williamstown– the big, handsome black stallion?  Or Silver Charm–cute, funny, charming and devoted?  You can see where I am going with this, right?  It’s a John Hughes/Molly Ringwald teen movie all over again!

I think I’ll end with kudos to Big Brown.  Who knows, in three weeks we could see the first Triple Crown winner in 30 years!  Of course, that 1978 Triple Crown winner was Affirmed, who beat Alydar in all three races.  Which leads me to this:  at Old Friends, you can meet Affirmed’s son Affirmed Success, and Alydar’s grandson Will’s Way.   Far less than 6 degrees of separation!

Thanks for spending another Sunday at Old Friends.  We hope you can visit us soon!

-Val

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Sunday May 11, 2008

Happy Mother’s Day to all, including the moms whose children are of the equine, canine, feline or other variety!

Today was an extremely windy, rather chilly and wet day at Old Friends.  It was nothing at all like last weekend’s beautiful Homecoming weather, but we still had a couple groups of hardy souls willing to try and brave the weather.   Our first tour started in a wet drizzle.  We saw Silver Charm, Williamstown and got as far as Pops and Ring before the rain just became too much.  Actually, we should have known we were in trouble when a gust of wind popped the lone umbrella on the tour inside out.   We finished that tour inside the big barn!

I can honestly say that I wasn’t too unhappy to have a slow tour day, not wanting all that much to be outdoors among the hardy souls.  Even my associate tour guides- dogs Jake and Marley- preferred to be out of the rain and wind.   Janet’s dogs, with their thick outdoor coats, handle the weather much better.  Duncan intelligently finds a comfortable spot out of the wind, while Shane lifts his face directly into the wind and grins! 

The horses were wet, tails dripping and forelocks hanging down their faces.   Bull inthe Heather seemed quite happy today, though.  He has traded paddocks with Creator and he likes his new space—he was trotting around having a good time.  Creator probably had the better idea—turn tail to the wind, ignore the rain and get as much good, wet, green, grass as possible.  (There is a lot of wisdom in that:  ignore the uncomfortable and just focus on what’s important!)

I find that each horse has a different take on weather.  For example, Williamstown cantered over for some carrots, slipping and sliding the whole time.  I strongly suspect he enjoyed splotching mud on his visitors.  Like Bull, he seemed perfectly happy in the wind and rain.  Awad, Kiri, and Ballindaggin were all calm and happy enough, but not exactly frisky today.  Fortunate Prospect, who I believe to be the smartest horse in the world (no mail, please!) knows better than to run around on slick wet grass.  He puts each foot down deliberately and with care, grazing on the finest grasses and making sure not to wrench anything.    Pops and Ring—well, they are just as silly as usual.  Splash in the mud?  OK.  Jostle for prime carrot position?  No problem.   Have a little racing competition?  Absolutely! 

All in all it was a pretty nice day at the farm, in spite of the wind and rain.   We hope you can visit soon.  In the meantime, thanks for spending another Sunday with Old Friends.

-Val

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Monday May 5, 2008

I’m a day late posting, but what a week it has been!  For me, it started at 5 am on Wednesday when a group of Old Friends volunteers and supporters served sausage biscuits on the backside of Churchill Downs.  The Louisville Thoroughbred Club, their charity arm called My Racing Heart, and Purnell Sausage Company held the event each morning last week to raise money for racehorse retirement charities.   Old Friends is one of several beneficiaries of the LTC’s commitment to this cause.  What a great way to spend a cold and crisp spring morning—watching Derby and Oaks horses during their morning workouts, and serving up some good.   

This time of year we get a number of school field trips.  One day we had 60 kindergartners and their parent chaperones for a tour and picnic.  What a great time!   We split the group into three parts, found three tour guides, and went to see some horses.   I am still amazed at just how patient the horses can be with small kids.   Fortunate Prospect is always great, but so are many of the other stallions.   Awad in particular stood out.  He stood perfectly still while 20 sets of little hands reached through the fence to pat his nose, his neck, his shoulder and about anywhere else they could reach.  

Then, of course, it was the Oaks on Friday and the Derby on Saturday.  Not much to say that someone hasn’t already said elsewhere.   It just reinforces to me how the old warriors in this game deserve a dignified, caring retirement.   

Oh, but then came Sunday afternoon, and the reason I am late with this.  It was the day we had the Old Friends annual homecoming celebration.   No one could have conjured up nicer weather to officially welcome Danthebluegrassman home-it was clear, sunny and just warm enough. 

   The big tent went up, Wallace Station served up a terrific buffet and the auction items were a big hit.  People took tours, sat in the sunshine listening to music and generally had a great time.   Dan wasn’t too sure about the commotion but he took it all in stride.  Williamstown seemed to love the crowds—I saw him prancing around his paddock with his tail arched up like a banner.  Show off!

I have to give a big shout-out to the Gallatin County Bluegrass Youth Band.  They are fantastic.  If they are ever in your area, go see them.  Unbelievably good, let me tell you.   

The homecoming was a great success, and people came from everywhere.  Linda from Maine, who saved Cappuccino Kid, made the trip down.   It was an honor to meet her—she put it out there to save the Kid, and he thanks her.   Jean Cruget was there; he rode Kiri’s Clown.  Oh, and a little old horse named Seattle Slew as well!   

I could go on forever, but it’s time to stop.  Thanks to everyone who helped make this week special—the Louisville Thoroughbred Club, the Old Friends staff and volunteers, the people who came to Dan’s Homecoming, the kindergartners and the everyday visitors.  I want to end with a special thank you.  Eleven year old Lucy from Louisville emailed to say she wished to donate her winnings from her Kentucky Derby favorite Eight Belles.  She said she couldn’t enjoy her winnings and wanted the money to help other horses.

Lucy, you made everyone of us feel proud to know someone like you.  I hope you visit us very soon. 

-Val

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