Monthly Archives: December 2008

Sunday December 28, 2008

Wow, it’s the last Sunday of 2008.  This year has just flown by; so much has happened and changed.  And yet, as is always the way, life moves on.   As you know, we lost three stallions this year:  Ballindaggin, Flying Pidgeon and most recently, Ruhlmann.   Wonderful, grand horses each, and their loss is felt daily.  I can’t walk by Ballindaggin’s paddock without seeing his white face and shiny copper chestnut coat waiting at the gate.   It’s the same with Pidge—he is there, standing in the sun next to Dan.  Ruhlmann is shimmering right behind Mighty Mecke, another black stallion in the paddock at the top of the driveway.  I don’t know it they are ghosts or just my memories, but today I found myself saying hello to each of them in my mind. 

It was a terrific, fabulous day to be outside at the farm.  The weather was beautiful—mid 40s, sunny with a slight breeze.  Great horse weather and a lot of the boys were napping in the sun today.  Fortunate Prospect, Creator, Stage Colony and Williamstown all took advantage of the nice day to stretch out for that nap. 

Mud was the theme of the day, as we’ve had some significant rain over the past week or so.  Dan loped over for a mint when I first saw him this morning.  He had just been brushed.  Or so I was told, because when I saw him?  Very dirty. Pops and Ring were running around, antagonizing Awad.  So he had to run around as well, and slid to a stop at the bottom of his paddock to await more carrots.  Leave Seattle just gazes over at them like they are all nuts; I have never seem him get worked up over anything.   Kiri enjoyed his carrots today, and he rubbed his face all over my jacket.   He does that a lot, of course always when he is muddy!  Will’s Way was very gentle taking carrots from the lone child on the tour.  A couple of his fans were here as well, but he wouldn’t stand still enough for them to pat him. 

 Ogygian looked great and relatively clean, I might add.  I had hoped the geldings would visit, but Affirmed Success, Futural and Siphonizer were at the far end of their field.  They completely ignored us.  Two of the geldings in the other field were lying in the sun head to tail.  From afar, we couldn’t tell who was who, but one lady commented that they looked like Dr. Doolittle’s “Pushme-pullyou.”

I had a fun tour this afternoon.  Teresa Genaro, Mary Jean Wall, and Carol Cusano came to visit.  Teresa is a member of the Thoroughbred Bloggers Alliance, and Mary Jean recently retired from the Lexington newspaper as its racing writer.  Carol is their friend and a racing fan as well.  We had a great time feeding the horses, taking pictures and sharing stories and thoughts about racing.   Check out Teresa’s blog at www.brooklynbackstretch.blogspot.com.   Mary Jean’s website is www.maryjeanwall.com. 

 Zach was the young man on the tour today.  He was very entertaining!  He ran around with Marley, carried the bucket for me, and chatted non-stop.  Once he decided to feed the horses, he wanted to try everything—like putting the carrot on his head for Sunshine to eat!  We had to nix that idea; I was afraid his spiky light brown hair resembled hay a tad too much.  But he had fun, especially when Pops, Ring and Awad raced him down the fence line.  His grandma said he would sleep well tonight.  

Since Sundays are my only day at the farm, that was my last tour for this year.  The class of 2008–Danthebluegrassman, The Wicked North, Siphonizer, Mighty Mecke and Stage Colony–has given us great new friends.    This year also brought us Cappuccino Kid and most recently, Judge’s Case at the Old Friends annex.   The class of ‘09 is starting to take shape as well, since 26-year-old Clever Allemont is scheduled to arrive soon from Kansas.  Clever, as you may have read, was recently saved from a trip to the slaughterhouse.   And of course, who can forget Lava Man, arriving in March?   

Sometimes, I can’t even fathom how I have been so lucky to get to know these horses.   One of the best things about Old Friends is that their fans can meet them as well.   I hope you will be able to come see us in 2009.  In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends. 

-Val

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Friday December 26, 2008

Ruhlmann 1985-2008 

At about 4 pm on Christmas Eve, Ruhlmann died.  He came inside from his daily paddock time and laid down for his afternoon nap.  He passed away in his sleep, peacefully and with the same class he showed every day. 

Ruhlmann was a big, handsome horse who ran against and beat some of racing’s greats, including Easy Goer, Sunday Silence, Bayakoa, and Criminal Type.  In 1989, he set the track record at Santa Anita Park for one mile on the dirt, a record that still stands.  (It is a record that could last forever, as Santa Anita is now a synthetic track.)   A millionaire, Ruhlmann was owned by Ann and Jerry Moss and ridden often by Gary Stevens.   His “people” are among the best in the industry.

Ruhlmann was a very smart horse but he had a long-time reputation as a tough customer.  Indeed, he was not the kind of horse upon whom you lavished love and kisses.  He didn’t have patience for such foolishness and unless you had treats, he really didn’t want to be patted or fussed over.  Try it, and you would most probably receive a good nip; Ruhlmann valued his personal space.  However, he mellowed considerably of late, and became more tolerant toward those of us who just wanted to admire him.  His nips became more of a threat than a guarantee, and he sometimes allowed a quick stroke on the nose or pat on his face with no repercussions at all.  Ruhlmann loved his treats and there was nothing picky about his tastes.  Carrots, peppermints, horse cookies, and apples were all good.  But his absolute favorite was gingersnap cookies.  Ruhlmann could have eaten an entire box—if he could talk, he would have said, “Keep ’em coming, people.”

At Old Friends, the horses have run-in sheds in their paddocks that each horse uses differently.  Some use them as windbreaks, some to get out of the rain, and some don’t use them at all.  Ruhlmann was different.  He used his shed as a place to get out of the hot sun.  I always suspected it was because he didn’t want his shiny black coat to bleach and fade.  He knew he was our very own “Black Stallion,” and he had an image to uphold.   It worked for him too, because of all the dark horses at the farm, Ruhlmann faded and bleached the least. 

As Ruhlmann aged, his feet tended to bother him more and more.  He wore special shoes that eased the ache and allowed him to be comfortable enough to trot around his paddock when he felt like it.  To allow him time to lie down and rest if he chose, Ruhlmann spent about half his day outside and the remainder in his stall.  Ruhlmann and Wallenda were next-door neighbors, their stalls side-by-side.   The two black stallions struck up a friendship, often napping with their heads just inches apart.  They were separated only by the stall wall, able to see one another through the gaps in the boards.  I know Wallenda misses his friend.

Last weekend, my husband and I were at the farm for a Christmas potluck.  As we headed home, we went through the barn where Ruhlmann was in for the night.  We walked to his stall, flicked on the light to say hello and woke him up. He blinked a few times and then took a few steps over to the stall door.  I didn’t have any treats, but he nickered hello and let us pat his nose.  I don’t know what a horse dreams of—sunshine and green grass, or the roar of the crowd after a winning race–but Ruhlmann closed his eyes and went back to his dreams.

I hope all your dreams have come true, Ruhlmann.

-Val

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Wednesday December 24, 2008

Wishing all of you a happy Christmas and a joyous holiday season from everyone at Old Friends.  May your days be filled with peace, love, friendship and horse kisses, even if from afar!

-Val

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Sunday December 21, 2008

It’s cold in Kentucky today.   Twenty-two degrees, bright and sunny and can I mention that four-letter Kentucky word that begins with “w”?   No tours today, so I spent a little time just visiting.   

I took a pocketful of carrots over to see Fortunate Prospect.  He is, as you probably know, our oldest retiree.  He is in great shape and such a smart horse.  He had been standing in the sun with his black body angled to maximize the heat absorption.  When I burrowed my cold fingers into his coat, it was like a heater; it felt great.  At least it did to me—he might not have liked my cold hands buried next to his skin!   But he loved having his face rubbed and his neck scratched while he munched on his carrots.

That was about all the cold wind I wanted to be standing in, so I headed up to the barns to see inside horses.  Wallenda was lying down, is as usual during the day.  I went into his stall to give him some carrots, and that lazy horse had the nerve to complain when I didn’t feed him quickly enough!  He eventually decided to get up, in the hopes of getting more treats.   Boy, once he was standing I could see that he was covered with mud from head to tail: his mane, his tail, under his belly, on his face and behind his ears!   Wallenda likes to be brushed but he is kind of funny about it.  He wants to chew something while I work—either the brush or my sleeve works for him.  Since Wallenda is a first-class slobberer and I prefer to stay dry, we compromise.  I keep a brush in each hand—one for actual use and one for Wallenda to reach back and nibble on.  When I was finished (and I wouldn’t call him clean, just less dirty!) he had another carrot and resumed his nap.

I walked over and shared some treats with Silver Charm, who was munching hay and didn’t seem at all affected by the wind.  Of course, he is wearing his bearskin coat!  I tried to entice Williamstown over for a carrot but he also had a nice pile of hay and wasn’t interested.  I turned around to find Stage Colony looking for a handout.   I think he enjoys attention; in fact, if we were as busy as we are during the rest of the year, I can see where he would already have learned to be waiting at the fence for tours. 

Back into the barn for me—this time to see The Wicked North.  Or, in today’s case, The Wicked Dirty!  Not only was Norty covered with mud, but there are sparrows using the barn as shelter and they are obviously spending time in the rafters above his stall.  It was not just mud on Norty’s back today!  Again, I can’t say he was clean when I finished with the brush, but he was less dirty– on the surface anyway.  (By now, he’s probably been outside and gotten good and muddy again.  Sigh.  They do it on purpose, you know.)  Some carrots to Cowboy and Dan, and my day at the farm was finished.

It is the weekend before Christmas, and nearly the end of another year.  We are gearing up plans to welcome Lava Man to Old Friends in the spring.  If you are planning a trip to Kentucky next year, keep an eye on our website for details, coming soon.   

In the meantime, from all the people, cats, dogs, and horses at Old Friends, we wish you a most Merry Christmas, a joyous holiday season and a terrific New Year.  Thanks for spending this year with Old Friends!

-Val

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Sunday December 14, 2008

Oh that Kentucky wind! It would have been a rather nice day, not too cold with mixed sun and clouds, but the wind was something else. And I know I talk about the Kentucky wind a lot, but it was unbelievable today. It was so bad that Williamstown turned tail to the wind to chew his carrots, turned around for another carrot and then turned back away from the wind to chew. Smart horse! I guess it was either turn away from the wind or have bits of grass, dirt, straw, and leaves blow into his face. (Well, into my face too, but I apparently wasn’t smart enough to turn away. My eyes are still feeling gritty.)

This week’s big news is that we have a new horse. His name is Mighty Mecke and his story is one that, thankfully, has a happy ending. After two knee surgeries and a career-ending fracture, owners Jeff Puglisi and trainer Steve Klesaris sold Mighty Mecke to an Ohio farm for stud duty. They later found out the farm resold him to race again…in Antigua!

As you can probably imagine, the original owners weren’t too happy, and they were successful in getting Mighty Mecke back. He arrived at Old Friends earlier this week and is settling in just great. I met him for the first time today and he is terrific—friendly and a big fan of carrots, cookies and mints. He is a nicely-built, dark bay horse with no white on him. You can tell he was loved and treated well throughout his life. Oh, and can I mention he is a maternal grandson of our own Fortunate Prospect? That makes Mecke our first multiple generation retiree. As soon as he rubbed his face against me and let me give him a kiss, I knew everyone is going to love this horse. I can’t wait to introduce him to tour groups.

If you want to read more about Mighty Mecke, The Blood Horse has a good article detailing the situation. You can find it here: www.news.bloodhorse.com/article/46799.htm. (And for those of you who pay attention to this kind of thing, I know that Mightly Mecke’s sire is a horse named Mecke. I don’t mean to be confusing, but MM is simply going to be Mecke to me…)

I did have one tour today. Two women from Houston braved the wind, and we had a great time. It was a typical kind of tour—Ruhlmann attempted to grab one lady’s jacket, Pops and Ring vied for treats, Sunshine wanted to know who else we had been patting, and Swannie begged for carrots. Both ladies were very taken with Mecke, who played to the visitors like he’d been doing it for years.

Funniest item of the day: Dan apparently has wild chives growing in his paddock, and he clearly likes them. He had the worst case of onion breath, if you can believe that. I couldn’t figure out why I smelled onions until he nuzzled me and breathed in my face. Whew! I gave him lots of peppermints today.

I spent some extra time with The Wicked North today. He has rapidly become one of my favorite horses to spend time around. He is just so darn pleasant, and he loves attention. He is a total gentleman. I also wanted to spend a few minutes with my guy Wallenda, but he was lying down and had no interest in attention. Heaven forbid I should interrupt his nap.

That’s about all from here. I hope you can come see us—if you haven’t been here in a few months, you’ll love meeting our new residents Stage Colony, Siphonizer, The Wicked North and Mighty Mecke. If you have never been to Old Friends, we hope you’ll make plans to visit us soon. In the meantime, thanks for spending another Sunday with Old Friends!

-Val

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Sunday December 7, 2008

If you looked outside today, you’d think it was a gorgeous day. And if you were outside, in the sun but out of the breeze, you’d still think it was pretty nice. But if that wicked cold wind got you, well, it was wicked cold! But the horses sure felt good. No tours again today. I think the economy is a factor, as there seem to be fewer people traveling. Add to that the holiday season and the chilly temperatures, and it’s been pretty slow. I miss sharing the horses with people, but I made the best of it (ha-ha!) and spent some quality horse time on my own.
There have been a couple of address changes among the horses. The first is that Danthebluegrassman has moved into the paddock formerly occupied by Flying Pidgeon. I suppose that seemed kind of weird, but Dan is really happy. It’s a larger area than he had, and its smack in the middle of everything. Dan, being the curious and friendly horse that he is, just walked from one attraction to another. He walked over to see Marley, then across the field to talk with Bull, then back across to see what Kent was doing with the tractor, and then over to me for a treat…you get the idea. Dan is a long, tall, lanky horse who doesn’t put on that extra insulating weight easily, so he is coming in at night to give him some time out of the cold. He likes that too.
The second move this week is Siphonizer moved in with Affirmed Success and his buddy Futural. Boy, he settled in with those two like he’d always been there. You might remember that we tried to move Dan in with Affirmed Success and it didn’t work out so well. But Siphonizer, Affirmed Success and Futural never even flattened an ear with one another. We put a large round bale of hay in there today and the three of them each picked a spot and happily started munching. They make a striking group–bright red Futural, milk chocolate bay Affirmed Success, and very nearly black Siphonizer.
I saw lots of napping in the sun today. Stage Colony was stretched out on his side for awhile. He couldn’t stay down for long though, as he had to get back up and police the neighborhood. I think he’s afraid he’ll miss something! Silver Charm was lying down—he looked like a big, fuzzy dog. Williamstown found a sunny spot to park it, and Fortunate Prospect took his daily snooze as well. Wallenda found a cozy spot in his straw and curled up. Even the mares were napping, although they stayed standing.
Of course, for every horse napping there was another trying to show off. Swannie, Bull, Leave Seattle, Kiri and Will’s Way were all trotting around. Pops and Ring were roughhousing, as usual! And the rest of the boys were just hanging out. Sunshine was happy to get patted. Kudos came over for some nuzzling and a treat. Ogygian stood at his gate and nickered until I went over to say hello. Then he wandered off, having gotten his message across! Norty was inside, as he is every morning while Ruhlmann is outside. (They share a pasture.) He got a handful of treats, too. When Awad came over to say hello, I gave him a horse cookie. But then he nipped at me, I’m thinking because he was “forced” to eat a cookie when I surely know he prefers carrots….
So in the end, it was just a typical winter day at the farm. To be sure, there are a few changes: a friend who is gone and new friends settling in. But I guess that is the way things go. I hope you will get a chance to come visit us sometime soon. In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends.
-Val

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Friday December 5, 2008

On my drive to work this morning, there were about 50 pigeons lined up along a power line.  Right in the middle of the black, gray, and silver birds sat one pure white bird, all puffed up against the cold.  I thought to myself, there must be some kind of message there.

 

Flying Pidgeon

1981-2008

 

Flying Pidgeon died today.  He laid down in the sunshine and decided he didn’t want to get back up.

I carry a special soft spot in my heart for the Pidge.   He was a smallish, dark brown horse, not particularly fancy.  You would not have picked him out in a crowd.  His bloodlines, while old and distinguished, weren’t trendy.  He wasn’t a household name, and his progeny aren’t ridiculously famous.  Nothing about him suggested that he won over a million dollars, racing 25 or so years ago when purses were much smaller.  No Triple Crown bonuses, no Dubai World Cup, no high dollar slots purses.  Just a million dollars, earned the hard way—by racing, and winning, and racing again, in a total of 56 races.  

I knew Pidge for the past two years or so.  His most notable physical feature was a white-rimmed eye that gave him a rather crotchety, dour look.  He always looked as though he was peering at you with skepticism and disbelief.  Maybe he was, because at age 27, Pidge had had a very long life.  His past few years at Old Friends, he went outside during the day and came in at night to rest his old bones.  Every day at 4:30 he wandered over to his gate, waiting for someone to bring him inside.  He was the easiest of horses to handle.  No chain, just a soft cotton lead rope and a pat on the neck. 

Pidge had few teeth left.  Those he had left were so grown out in front that when he did try, half-heartedly, to take a nip at me, his teeth wouldn’t meet enough for him to get much skin.  Because of his lack of teeth, keeping weight on him was difficult, so he pretty much had free access to grain every day.  Summer’s heat was hard on him, and he didn’t really care much for the cold either.  But in between, when it was comfortably warm and sunny, he felt great.  On those kinds of days he’d run around his field, not too fast but still clearly enjoying himself.   I watched him run just a few weeks ago.   He was an old warrior of the very best kind.

 Pidge didn’t get the carrots and treats the other horses are so fond of, because chewing them was impossible for him.  Most of the time, he would glance over at visitors, shrug his shoulder as if to say, “yeah, whatever.”  But, occasionally he would come over to greet visitors, usually in the hopes of getting his back scratched.

And oh, how the Pidge loved a good back scratching.  He’d lean into your hand, or the curry comb if he was really lucky, and close his eyes in bliss.   If you stopped before he was ready, he’d reach back and threaten to take that nip, just to make his point.   

I’ll miss scratching your back, Pidge. 

-Val

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