Monthly Archives: July 2008

Sunday July 27, 2008

Compared to the last couple of weekends, today was relatively quiet and calm at Old Friends.  After last Sunday’s incredibly busy tour schedule, I admit it was kind of nice to have smaller groups.

The horses are all doing well.  Now that Wallenda is going outside at night, he is one tired guy during the day.  Both the 10 o’clock and the 1 o’clock tours found him lying down in his stall, snoozing.  He didn’t even bother to flick an ear when we peered into his stall window.  He looked like a big, old, black dog lying there, with his legs curled underneath him.    But by the last tour he came to his window, dipped his head and checked out the four or five kids who were checking him out. 

Speaking of kids, we had 3 year old Jacob visiting today.   He thought it was pretty funny that he had the same name as Jake the tour dog.  At one point I asked Jake (the dog) to sit and both Jakes actually listened.  That may never happen to me again!  But Jake, the human one, was awful cute.  He made sure his mom kept up with us, (“Come on Mom; let’s go!”) and made really sure that I knew the horses needed more carrots. 

We had a young lady named Daniela and her dad today.  Daniela lives in Columbia and she was very nice.  Maybe a little shy around the horses at first, but she handed out carrots just fine.  Danni and her dad came with specific instructions from Grandma in Boston to meet Ogygian.   So, if Grandma is reading this–mission accomplished, with pictures to prove it!   

Ogie was great with the group of kids, and they were good with him.  Once I explained the need to talk to him so he knows where you are, (since he only sees from one side) all the kids chattered away at him like they’d known him forever.  “Hey Ogie, I’m over here, Ogie do you want another carrot, why does he only have one eye, does Ogie like kids, can I pet Ogie?”   And on it went!   Ogygian just seemed rather bemused by all the fuss.

We tried to get the gelding gang to come over for a visit, but no luck.  Futural and Affirmed Success wanted no part of us either.  I couldn’t even see the mares; they were so far up in the back of their pasture.  Come to think of it, even Fortunate Prospect didn’t come over until the end of the day.   I don’t know if it was the heat or just that they were more interested in grazing. 

Thankfully Williamstown, Awad, Pops, Ring, Sunshine and Kiri were up to socializing today.   Leave Seattle is looking good.  

Dan is almost as much of an attention hound as Swannie, and that is saying something.  No horse loves attention more than Swannie.   I’m sure many horses enjoy it almost as much, but he is the champ!  And I think the only thing he likes more than attention is DIRT!  He is the dustiest horses ever and isn’t happy unless he is covered head to tail.  And he is always willing to share his dirt, rubbing or shaking on you.  What a guy!

Before I wrap up for this weekend, I want to say “hey” to Curtis from California.  Hope you can return to Kentucky soon; I enjoyed your company today.    And, Happy Birthday to my (much) younger sister Karen, in New York!     

That wraps up another Sunday at Old Friends.   Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you can visit us soon!

-Val

P.S.  Miss you, Big B.

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Wednesday July 23, 2008

Ballindaggin   1985-2008

We lost Ballindaggin yesterday.  He had been having spinal problems that were significantly affecting his balance and ability to move comfortably.  Yesterday he took a final van trip to the clinic, where the vets said his problems were chronic and worsening.  The decision was made to euthanize him.

Ballindaggin was a big, thick-necked, wide-bodied stallion with a crooked white blaze down his face.   In the summer, his coat gleamed in the sunshine with a metallic, coppery sheen that I have never seen on another horse.  He was a kind and friendly horse, a favorite with everyone who knew him.  He almost always welcomed visitors, the only exception being when the first tender green grass of spring demanded his attention.

Nothing much fazed him.  When I think of Ballindaggin, the word that comes to mind is dignity.  He was always calm, always deliberate, never one to get worked up or nervous.  When his recent problems forced him to spend much of his time in the barn, he adjusted without hesitation.  He learned to stand with his hindquarters braced in the corner of his stall, giving external support to his uncooperative body.  When he went outside each morning to the small ring, he never tried to move any faster than his now-wobbly legs could carry him.  As his body failed him, he handled it quietly and without fuss, like it was just another part of his daily routine.  For the past few weeks, he developed a kind of friendship with the gelding in the next stall.  Stallions aren’t often in the position to have a buddy, but Ballindaggin was the exception and Cowboy was clearly a comfort to him.

I was there when Ballindaggin left Old Friends yesterday morning.  He looked beautiful; his coat shining, his head held high and the name plate on his halter catching the sun.   He looked at us as he walked out of his stall toward the van with the same dignity and class he always displayed.  Only his walk betrayed him, unsteady and uncertain.

Ballindaggin will be cremated and buried at Old Friends.

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Sunday July 20, 2008

Welcome to Sunday at Old Friends.  What a day it was!  It was Breyerfest weekend at the Kentucky Horse Park.  For those of you who aren’t familiar with Breyer, it is a line of very collectable model animals, especially horses.  Breyer often issues models of famous horses like Barbaro, Smarty Jones, and famous horses of other breeds and disciplines.   I still have a number of Breyer horses from my childhood, including my favorite, the Black Stallion. (Personally, I think there should be a model of our own Silver Charm!)

Breyerfest weekend is important to Old Friends for several reasons, but for me it is always among our busiest weekends of the year.  Today was no exception.  I think we had over 100 visitors today.  It was great, since so many of the Breyerfest visitors are families with horse-crazy kids.  Always my favorite visitors, today we had terrific kids from beginning to end.

Today’s tour groups were all pretty large, and with the larger groups it can be difficult to remember everyone.  So for all the kids who were here today, I sincerely wish I could remember each one of your names, because all of you were polite, kind and very, very nice. 

Among today’s visitors was Anna from Knoxville, Tennessee.  Anna and three of her young friends held a bake sale during their neighborhood yard sale, and raised $150.00 for Old Friends.  When I told the tour what she and her friends Hannah, Erin and Laurel had done, the entire group applauded her.  How great was that?  (Anna, if you read this, maybe you and your mom can call or email the farm and leave your last names with Sylvia?  Thanks!)

I know sometimes I tend to mention certain horses over and over. But no kidding, some of them are such darn characters, how can I not?  Let me tell you, today I saw a horse do something I have never seen.  I am talking about Awad, and he is loaded with character.  Janet calls him high-strung, and he is.  He is very vocal; he neighs when cars come up the drive like a watch dog, he is a sucker for letting Pops and Ring antagonize him, and any change in routine upsets him.   But on our tour this morning, I turned around to see blood dripping out of his mouth.  Yes, blood!   Now I know that should seem like a big deal, but I know Awad and his tendency to do goofy things.  So, I opened his mouth to check it out, and he had bitten his tongue!   Like one of the men on the tour said, “Well, I’ve bitten my tongue, too, so I know how he feels!”    

The rest of the horses are all fine as well.   Flying Pidgeon came over for a quick visit today.   Everyone always feels badly that he can’t have carrots, but Pidge just doesn’t have the molars left to chew carrots.  I think Fortunate Prospect is getting more of his little white spots.  Other horses go gray with age; he is getting little white spots the size of pennies all over his body.   Everyone laughs at Kiri—he adores a good scratching just behind his withers.  He gets this ridiculous look on his face, his neck cranes out and his lip quivers.   Pops and Ring are hooligans; there is no other explanation for the things they do.  Today as they ran over for treats they were bucking, kicking and biting at one another.  As Michael said, they were a little cranky today!   All the geldings are doing well. (Including one of my favorites who I never seem to mention.  So, kudos to Kudos!)  Ditto with the mares—all good.

All in all, it was a great day at the farm.  Visitors came from Alabama, Texas, Chicago, Michigan, Ohio, California, Pennsylvania and New York, among other places.    I look forward to having you all visit us again.  If you haven’t been to see us, I hope you can visit sometime soon.  In the meantime, thanks for spending another Sunday with Old Friends!

-Val

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Sunday July 13, 2008

Today was, according to the TV weatherman, supposed to be rainy with a strong chance of thunderstorms.   Mother Nature had other plans of course, and after a cool, cloudy and breezy start we ended up with an absolutely gorgeous day.   And boy, were we busy!  

 It started at 10 am, with a family from the Chicago area who came to Kentucky specifically to visit Old Friends.   They brought pictures of their own rescued Thoroughbred, both before and after rescue.  What a happy difference!    But little did I know they were setting the theme for the day.

From that point on, both Michael and I were busy with tours pretty much straight through until 4 pm.  At one point I looked at the lineup of vehicles parked outside the big barn.   Including my own Kentucky plates, we had plates from Florida, Tennessee, Illinois, Virginia and Ohio.   I generally ask my groups where everyone is from, and I think we all enjoy hearing the different locations. 

The horses are all doing just fine.  Kiri’s Clown has some new shoes—glue-ons, which will help him with some “ouchy” feet.  A part of aging in this case, but he seems very happy with the new sneakers.   (There is something to that old fable about the mouse and the lion and the splinter in the lion’s paw, because I think even Ruhlmann has mellowed since he got his new sneakers!)

Wallenda was able to spend last night outside in his “private” small ring.  Janet said he came inside very tired this morning.  It’s really great that he can do that, since his back leg is more than a little fragile-no running and bucking for Wallenda!  Still, he has a good life, and enjoys his time outdoors

I haven’t told Janet yet, (and this is not a great way for her to hear it), but today her girl Monday took off running like a quarter horse from one end of her paddock over to our tour group.  When she got close to the fence she tucked her behind like a good reining horse and slid a good 30 feet right up to the fence.   I know it was that far because she left two very clear skid marks in the grass.   A little scary, but I suspect Monday knew exactly what she was doing.   The athleticism of horses always amazes me, no matter how many examples I witness!

I’ll bet we had more than 50 visitors today.  Like always, they came from all over and represented multiple generations of kids, parents and grandparents.  Not unusual for us, at all.   But something pretty special struck me about the people today.

At least three of the people at the farm today have been directly involved in rescuing an unwanted horse.   It was clear to me that every one of them would do it again, and every one said the horse they made a part of their family has made an immeasurable contribution to their lives.  Each of those people and their families came to Old Friends to celebrate and share that joy with us.   It was very cool.

Thanks for spending another Sunday with Old Friends.  We hope you can visit us sometime soon. 

-Val

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Sunday July 6, 2008

Another holiday weekend at Old Friends is done and in the books.  Independence Day weekend is always a good tour weekend, I think.

On Saturday, Kent and Greg went to get hay.  It’s that time of summer and thankfully it looks like a good year for hay.   But that meant Greg and I were at the farm without Jake and Marley.   This is most definitely not OK with our dogs!  Jake and Marley knew they had been cheated, so they were especially happy to go to the farm today.   (They wait all week for Sunday.  They love to see Janet’s dogs Duncan and Shane, as well as visit with all the people. )   A couple of people asked me this afternoon if the dogs and horses get along ok, and they really do.  Danthebluegrassman was very curious about Marley today– they were nose to nose at the fence.    All four dogs know not to go into the paddocks and they never bark at the horses.   Although I have to admit it did get rather warm for Jake today.   This afternoon he was sprawled on his belly in the barn with all four legs spread-eagled in the dirt.  He looked so silly laying there, out came the cell phones as people took pictures of him. 

Anyway, it apparently was quite busy Friday and Saturday, but today started out kind of slow.  The 10 am tour cancelled, so we helped Kent and Janet unload and stack a trailer of hay.  Worked up a little sweat, got a little dirty…an overall fine start to the day!  

I had a few minutes before the afternoon tours started to just sit and enjoy the farm.  It’s so peaceful. Only Swannie had any energy.  He took a few laps around his paddock but then settled in for some quiet grazing.  Everyone else was just kind of snoozing.  You can feel the pulse and rhythm of the farm slow down significantly in summer; no one really moves too much.  Pops and Ring probably have the most energy, along with Swannie, but Ogygian, Williamstown and Kiri don’t move around much at all.  Creator, Flying Pidgeon, and Fortunate Prospect each found some shade, propped a back leg and took naps.  Ruhlmann spent the hottest part of the day in his run-in shed, out of the sun.  He did come over to get some treats, though.   Wallenda was outside in the small ring and got down for some serious rolling.  He sure sounded like he was enjoying himself too, grunting and groaning.   When he got up, he shook off a major cloud of dust.

The big move of last week– Dan with Affirmed Success, and Futural with the gelding gang–didn’t work out so well.  Affirmed Success and Futural are too attached and are happier together, so Dan moved to a paddock next to Sunshine Forever.  Now Sunshine and Dan have become rather chummy across the fence.  They must be comparing notes on their respective racing careers!   Dan has very quickly learned to watch for the “bucket brigade”—he heads right over to the fence for treats.   He’s a very friendly horse and I think must have been treated pretty well throughout his racing career, because he sure likes people.   

The afternoon wound up pretty quickly and we had almost continual tours from 1 pm right through until 4 o’clock.   Our intern, Aubrey, managed the gift shop and office all day.  She is a great help on Sundays.   

We had a nice little girl from here in Frankfort, Kentucky who wants a share in a horse at Old Friends for her birthday.  Mom asked her who her favorite horse was, but it was all of them, I think.  Someone asked me which is my favorite horse.  I’ll admit to soft spots for Wallenda, Kiri and Fortunate Prospect.  Oh, and Sunshine, Affirmed Success, Awad, Swannie, the Pidge…oh who am I kidding?  Every horse is my favorite, too!

That wraps up another week of summer, and another Sunday with Old Friends.   Thanks for stopping by, and we hope to see you soon!

-Val

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