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.



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6 responses to “Friday December 26, 2008

  1. oldfriendsblog

    Tim Ford sent along his best memories of Ruhlmann:

    I will add just a bit to what Michael said about him…to me all the horses at Old Friends are wonderful and special but some of them are truly the heart of Old Friends and Ruhlmann was one of the “hearts” of Old Friends….People who had never heard of Ruhlmann would leave loving him….I had one gentleman that came on the tour and when the tour was over he asked if I could take he and his wife out to see Ruhlmann one more time. Of course Ruhlmann didn’t disappoint them and even let them feed him some ginger snaps. My other favorite Ruhlmann story is over the summer I was giving a tour and it was a young girl maybe 8 and her mother…Ruhlmann had some feet issues over the summer so he wasn’t out all of the time…so when we went by his paddock it was empty but he had been turned out by time we were finishing up….we came around the corner and he was standing there his black coat shining in the sun and the little girl gets this look of pure joy on her face and goes… “OHHHHH MOMMY!!!! He looks just like the black stallion…he’s beautiful!”
    She was right……his presence will be greatly missed….

  2. Brianna

    Rest in Peace Ruhlmann…I’m sad I didn’t get to see him when I came in May but reading about him on the blog entries, beautiful as always, I feel I got to know him a bit. RIP gorgeous.

  3. I cried when I heard. I only saw him twice. And sneaked a treat to him once. My condolences go out to all of you at the farm.

  4. Gayle

    What a sad Christmas with the loss of this beautiful horse. Since I grew up reading the Black Stallion books, I think he would have been my favorite, too. My sincere sympathy to all.

  5. Viv and Bea

    Val – we are thinking of you and everyone there. Ruhlie was Bea’s very favorite boy in the whole world and I always had a soft spot for him, too. From the beginning of our visits to Old Friends, he and Creator were neighbors – I will forever miss making the rounds, going down to see Creator while Bea would spend time with her friend. Once, we saw Ruhlmann sleeping in his paddock. I even have a photo of it, he is dreaming and his legs begin to move, he was running! I know he was winning! The photo reminded me of the line from the Tempest, “we are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.” Ruhlie was both a friend and a dream horse to many folks and I shall keep him in my heart always. Thank you again for your lovely, fitting tribute and give Wallenda a hug for us, too. Viv & Bea

  6. Ruth Ann

    R.I.P., Ruhlmann. You lived with a wonderful group of people and I know that you will be sorely missed by all. Please accept my condolences on your loss, and so sad on Christmas Eve 😦

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