Monthly Archives: June 2008

Sunday June 29, 2008

What a nice Sunday it was, too:  partly cloudy, a nice refreshing breeze and only 80 degrees.  Everyone was happy!

I have to officially welcome a couple horses to Old Friends.   Leave Seattle, our first son of Seattle Slew, (Williamstown being the second) returned to Old Friends after about a six or seven month stay at Hurstland Farm.  He’s glad to be back I think, and is settling in between his old neighbor Kiri’s Clown and the bad boys of racing, Pops and Ring.   Leave Seattle was the first Old Friends horse to take a nip at me, and for old time’s sake he gave it another shot this weekend.  No surprise there!    

Our other new resident is Danthebluegrassman!   Dan has been over at Dr. Byers’ farm recovering from his “surgery” (Dan was gelded) but now he shares a pasture with Affirmed Success.  I’d sure like to report that I had a great time with Dan this weekend.  Nope, not happening!  Unfortunately, he was far more interested in talking with the other geldings next door as well as showing off his running style.   About he closest I got to Dan was 200 yards and a view of his backend. 

Because of Dan’s arrival, Futural moved into the big pasture with the other geldings.  All this moving around and restructuring has the boys worked up.  Of course, the mares are in the field behind the geldings.  They are not worked up at all.  In fact, they obviously couldn’t care less.  Those girls just moseyed to the far end of their pasture and stayed out of it.   Ogygian is next to the geldings as well, and those silly young kids barely register on his radar.  He has no time for all that foolishness!

We had visitors from all over today.  Let’s see.  Philadelphia, and Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Rochester, New York.  Connecticut, Ohio, Kentucky, St. Louis.  Today’s “Far, Far, Away Award” goes to the lady from Israel.   Kids, parents, grandparents, horse people, not horse people, FOBs (Friends of Barbaro).  Everyone seemed to have fun and I always enjoy hearing what brought them to Old Friends.  Mostly, I think it’s a desire to meet the horses up close and personal, and have a chance to interact with them.   Every week it seems a different horse steps up and makes an extra special impression. 

Today was Sunshine’s turn.  He is always a good horse, but today he impressed everyone with his friendliness.  He allowed himself to be fussed over, patted, fed, and fussed over some more. One of his young fans brought him a beautiful blanket with his name embroidered on it.  Thanks Sarah!

We had a young lady in a wheelchair today.  Her family took turns pushing her around the farm and both Silver Charm and Awad seemed to take an extra interest in her, pushing their noses through the fence so she could reach out and touch them.   It was nice.

Well, June is about over and we are headed into July.  I want to wish everyone a happy and safe Independence Day.  Hope to see you soon, but in the meantime, thanks for spending another Sunday with Old Friends!

-Val

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Sunday June 22, 2008

Summer is officially here and the signs are everywhere.     I noticed today that Diane has changed out the flowers in the gift shop window boxes.  No more spring pansies.  Now we have beautiful geraniums, petunias and ivy.  We also have sun bleached manes, flies, and fly masks.  Sure enough, summer is here!

Ogygian has perhaps the most original fly mask ever.   As you may know, Ogie has only one eye.  Someone with a sense of humor (I know who, but I’m not telling!) painted a purple pirate eye patch on his fly mask.   I think he figures it gives him a rather rakish aura.  It’s pretty cute! 

We had great tours today.  A lot of kids; they are always my favorite visitors.  We had a nice family this morning with four kids. They really enjoyed getting to know the horses.  We also had a couple of families make unscheduled stops on their way to their vacation destinations.  As she patted Fortunate Prospect, my new friend Sarah confided, “I’ve always wanted to do this.”   She gave her first-ever horse kiss to Gramps, too.  He accepts kisses from little girls like he does everything—with dignity and kindness.

 I also want to say hi to Vicky, who came from Texas with her mom and dad for, as she called it, “a trip of a lifetime.”  This weekend, Vicky and her folks visited Claiborne Farm and Adena Springs Farm.  Vicky was happy to be able to visit Secretariat’s grave, and she was thrilled to see Pulpit and Giacomo.   But I think she liked our own Awad the best.  Really though, who wouldn’t?  

Jake and Marley were along for tours today.  I tried to get Jake to stay in the air-conditioned office this afternoon but he would have none of that.  He takes his tour guiding job seriously.  I had a group of people at 3 pm who looked at Jake laying in the shade, looked at me, and stayed with Jake in the shade! 

Central Kentucky has had a fair amount of rain this spring so our grass is still green and growing.  Yesterday, Williamstown’s paddock was being mowed and I watched him race the tractor.   Not that it was much of a contest.  He could run at least five laps to about one-half of a tractor lap!  But he sure looked pretty, with his tail streaming and his four white feet flashing.  Watching Williamstown run, looking at Creator gaze off into the distance with the wind blowing his mane, or seeing Fortunate Prospect dip his head so a little kid can pat him–it can take your breath away.  At its core, this was a simple idea that Michael had.  But I think that simple idea has made Old Friends a place that celebrates beauty, joy, kindness, and dignity. 

Thanks for spending another Sunday with Old Friends.  Come see us when you can!

-Val

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Monday June 16, 2008

Happy Father’s Day, a day late!    For me, Father’s Day seems to mark the beginning of the heart of summer.  And like most summer weekends, this one was busy.  Saturday a bunch of us went to Churchill Downs for Steven Foster day.  Sylvia was complaining that all her volunteers left to go to the races.  Thankfully, on Saturday  Beth and Tim didn’t desert the farm!

My go-to-the-races group arranged to meet at the farm on Saturday morning, prior to leaving for Louisville.  While I was waiting, Ruhlmann trotted over for a greeting, even without a carrot bucket in sight.  Maybe he was hoping for ginger snap cookies—his favorite treats.  He really seems to love his new shoes, as he is obviously very comfortable in them.  I walked over to see Flying Pidgeon, and Joey the barn cat jumped up on the fence post to say hello.  Joey isn’t too popular with the farm’s bird population, though.  As he sat on the fence post, four barn swallows started to dive-bomb us.   I had to leave—those birds flew close enough to ruffle my hair.  Joey didn’t care, but I sure did!

There is a house being built behind the paddocks housing Pops and Ring and next to Williamstown.  The construction crew was working on Saturday and all three horses were standing close to the new house watching the workers with great interest.  While I think that Williamstown watches because the activity interests him, I’m completely sure Pops and Ring are wondering if this ultimately could be a new source of treats for them!

My favorite eight year old, Ruth Ann’s and Mercer’s grandson Hughie, is here for his summer visit.  We all love it when he visits.  Hughie is a budding horseman, too.  Last fall he joined us on a trip to Lane’s End farm, where he had some bonding time with Kingmambo.  A picture is stuck in my mind of Hughie in his Old Friends sweatshirt and cowboy boots standing outside the stall, reading his Lane’s End stallion book, while Kingmambo gives Hugh the once-over!

As is usual when he is here visiting, Hughie couldn’t wait to help Kent with farm chores.  They did some tractor stuff, some golf cart riding, some general work, and ended with a nice piece of cake and an Ale 8 One.  (For those of you who aren’t familiar, Ale 8 is the Kentucky version of ginger ale.  It’s fully loaded with caffeine and sugar—very tasty!)   

We had another day of great tours filled with interesting people.  There was a van tour at 10:30, and a large group for the 1 pm tour.  About two dozen Harley riders biked down from Cincinnati to visit the farm.  It was quite a sight to see and hear those really nice Harleys roll up the driveway.   Not that the horses cared one bit.  They all understand noise and people pretty well. 

We also had a couple from Atlanta, three women from Ohio, a couple from Michigan, and a gentleman from northern Kentucky.  The lady from Michigan told me she was afraid of horses, but by the time we got to Sunshine she was handing out carrots like a pro.  I had told her she would be patting horses by the end of the tour—it’s completely impossible to resist them.  There is something about the horses that makes everyone want to touch them, give them a carrot, look in their eyes and just breathe them in.  One of the Harley ladies told me that if they could bottle the smell of horse, it would be a best-selling perfume.   I’m not too sure of that, but I do know that once the smell of horse gets in your heart, you never forget it.

We are really settling into summer.  The horses are lazily grazing, swishing flies and napping.  Farm work gets to be a hot and sweaty process, best done as early in the day as possible.  But the tours go on every day at 10, 1 and 3.  We look forward to your visit, so come see us when you can!

Val

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Sunday June 8, 2008

ABB– After Big Brown.   What a day.  We’re all feeling kind of bad about Big Brown.  I think our own Ruth Ann took it the hardest—she was ready to celebrate a Triple Crown winner.   But it sure makes you appreciate just how doggone HARD it is to win those three races, and what fabulous horses the past winners must have been.   And since my glass is generally mostly full, I figure there’s always next year!

Today was hot.   There was no escaping it and the only relief was a nice, albeit hot, breeze.  The horses were hot, the dogs were hot, and the people were hot.   Duncan (the Wonder Dog) would walk a few steps, rest a few seconds, go on his way for a  few steps, then rest for a few.  I watched him carefully dip his paws in a water bucket—a little extra cooling off for him.  I think animals are considerably smarter than we humans.  Because, yes, we had tours today and we did walk around in the heat!

 Our first tour this morning was actually three or four separate family groups, including a couple young ladies who took some serious pictures.   Sometimes the horses crack me up—let a camera point toward them and they pick up their heads and gaze off into the distance, usually with the wind blowing their manes just so.  Very majestic.   Of course, you are almost guaranteed to miss that pose.  Instead, you get a photo of floppy ears and droopy eyes.   (Actually it’s like that family portrait your Great Aunt Susie wants.  Someone always looks asleep!)

There are maybe three or four questions I am asked almost every weekend, and near the top of the list is what we do with the horses in the winter.  I always answer that horses prefer cold to hot, 30 or 40 degrees to 85 or 90.  Today was a perfect example of that—horses hanging out, kind of snoozing, with tails swishing.   You don’t see much action or enthusiasm from them when it’s this hot.   Pops and Ring were energetic enough to trot over for carrots, but only one time.  After that, they waited for us to come to them.  It was the same for Creator, Williamstown and Sunshine.  Fortunate Prospect, AKA the smartest horse in the world, just strolls from one part of his shade to another.  No hot sun for Gramps.  Swannie took a couple quick canters around his paddock but that was it for him.  Awad has turned into a watch-horse.   Janet and I were in the barn when we heard him neighing—he was letting us know we had some visitors.   Silver Charm said it was even too warm for soccer.   But all the horses are doing just fine, and we better get used to it because we will have more days like this!

Hmmm….that gives me an idea.  One of these times I’ll have to compile a list of frequently asked questions and answers for the blog.  

This afternoon we had a family from the Akron, Ohio area.  They were heading to the Smoky Mountains for vacation.  I enjoyed meeting both of the girls—I hope you come back and see us again!  We’ll have more carrots ready.   At the same time, we had a family from Dayton, Ohio.  It was Grandma and Grandpa, Dad, and two little guys small enough to take the tour in their very own wagon powered by dad.  The littlest guy had on a Margaritaville hat.   “Fins to the left,” boys!   All four had some quality time with Swan’s Way, who really enjoys kids, especially when carrots are involved. 

I hope the weather is tolerable where you are.  I think we’re heading into another hot summer, but we’ll be here and looking forward to your visit.  In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends!

Val

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Sunday June 1, 2008

Today was probably the first really warm day of 2008.  In fact, I would say it crossed right over the red line into downright hot by about 1 pm.  By then, tour dogs Jake and Marley were very wisely sitting in the shade at every opportunity.  They gave up completely after the 1 o’clock tour, and hung out in the office air conditioning.

We were very busy today.   The day started out with only few visitors on the schedule, but by the end of the day I think we must have had 30 or 35 visitors.   Meeting the different people who come to Old Friends is so much fun!

The day started with a couple from Australia who have a horse feed business back home.  I could have talked with them all day.  We had a great time comparing American racing to its Aussie counterpart and talking about each country’s recent racing greats.   The told us how the great mare Makybe Diva won the Melbourne Cup three years running, and how much Aussie racing fans look forward to seeing her babies run someday.    I also met a couple who had driven down from Dayton, Ohio to see us, a family from Tennessee, and two separate groups from California.   Lots of treats were handed out today!

I do want to backtrack a little, though.  Earlier in the weekend, we had a busload of preservationists—people interested in preserving historical places—from the Cleveland area.  They were a memorable group who had a deep passion for their work.   Apparently that passion was easily transferred to saving old horses, because they asked great questions and really understood what Old Friends is all about.  You all were fun!   If any of the preservationist group reads this—thank you and come back anytime.

The horses are doing great.   Ogygian didn’t bother to come say hello to my tours today, but Futural and Affirmed Success were happy to visit with us.   Pops and Ring have been playing tug-of-war with halters and fly masks.  This week, Pops is winning.  While he still has his halter and fly mask, Ring is without both.   It seems that most of the horses love to rid themselves of their halters and fly masks.   Awad has his fly mask, but no halter.   Creator won’t tolerate a fly mask at all.  He has that beautiful long mane and forelock, so he has nature’s fly protection.  But the last time Creator got his halter off, it took weeks and weeks to catch him so we could get his halter back on him.  He is very, very good at the duck and run!   

With the hot sun today, Flying Pidgeon was just kind of hanging out under his big tree in the shade.  Because of his teeth (or lack thereof!) he doesn’t get treats.  But he often likes to come over just to check out the visitors.  Today he was happy to get some of his itchy spots scratched by one of our visitors.  The Pidge generally doesn’t say much, but he does love a good scratching!  Ballindaggin gave me his version of the full-body hug–a big face rub all over my white t-shirt.  (Maybe I just look like a horse Kleenex; Wallenda sneezed all over me the other day.)

I was trying to think of a way to describe just how great the old boys look this year.  Today I thought that at age 23, Sunshine Forever looks like he could still strap on the saddle and run a good lick.  Realistically though, Old Friends is a farm full of mostly geriatric horses.  But I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that every horse looks better, and younger, than their age.  It’s definitely a testament to Janet and Kent’s care, Michael’s vision, Diane’s patient kindness, and the support of our vets and farriers.   All the treats from our volunteers sure don’t hurt either!   But it’s also in no small part because of the love the horses get every day from the fans, visitors, and supporters of Old Friends.   We couldn’t do it without any of these people.  It truly does take a village of horse fans to run this show. 

Another Sunday has passed and now we are into June.  Next Saturday, Big Brown tries to do what no horse has done in 30 years–win the Triple Crown.   I’ll be rooting for him.  And if he wins, I’ll tell the boys (and the girls too!) that we saw something pretty special.   Of course, I know exactly what all our boys would say.  “Big Brown?  Big Brown who?  That youngster?  We could still give him a whoopin’!”

Thanks for stopping by for this Sunday update.  Come visit us when you can!

-Val

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