Monthly Archives: February 2009

Sunday February 22, 2009

Let me start by saying this:  I am so completely ready for spring!  It was just too darn cold today, unless you are a horse with a thick, wooly winter coat.   In that case, you felt good enough to run around a little, maybe toss in a buck here or there and generally act like… a horse!   But really, brrr!

A couple posts ago I think I mentioned that our new gelding, Flick, wasn’t settling in so well.  Any activity on the farm would set him off and it would take him hours to settle down.  We tried putting him in a different paddock, but it didn’t help.  So we stopped trying to figure him out, and instead turned him over to Professor Danthebluegrassman.   Dan and Flick are now sharing a paddock, and what a difference a horse makes!  Dan is so smart, I swear he is teaching Flick how to behave.  Treats? Dan leads Flick right over to see people. Dinner?  Michael told me he watched Dan take Flick over to his grain bucket so Flick would know it was time to eat.  Wound up?  Just be like Dan, all calm and cool.  It is pretty clear that Dan understood what we were asking him to do.  It’s especially amazing considering that Dan never really seemed to want to be in a paddock with another horse.  I suppose Dan was waiting until he was needed.

Despite the cold today, the horses all seem to feel great.  Wallenda was napping when I got to the farm, but he got up and enjoyed having the mud brushed off him.  Clever Allemont broke into a trot and then a canter to come over for treats.  He looks terrific, carrying good weight with a shiny, albeit long and shaggy coat!  Ogygian performed that dressage-horse canter he does—about six full strides without moving more than 20 feet.  It’s one of my favorite things to see.   Creator, Pops and Ring were bucking and playing too.  

But I promised I’d get over to see some of the off-site horses and so today that is what I did.  Riva Way, Bingo and Cappuccino Kid are over at Dr. Byers’ farm, eating their hay and hanging out.  They all look terrific, fat and fuzzy.  Cappy is a glutton for treats-he stuck his head right into the carrot bucket and grabbed as many carrots as he could cram into his mouth. Except for his bay color and the white star on his face he bears little resemblance to his much more famous half-brother, Medaglia d’Oro.  Probably the mud and thick winter coat!  Also residing at Dr. Byers’ farm is Judge’s Case, who didn’t have a lick of winter coat when he arrived.  But he caught up quickly and has turned into a little fuzzy bear.  He is nearly white except for his knees, which are sort of a brownish-black.  Kind of an interesting look, like he has knee pads on.  The other horse at that farm is the mare Klassy Briefcase.  Klassy is a pretty little chestnut with a white face.  She looks like a wise grandmother, which she is, and she isn’t shy about neighing to get your attention.

My other off-site visit today was to Summerwind, where Max and Easy Grades are residing.  Both geldings are really friendly, especially Max who comes over at a trot as soon as you call his name.  Easy is wearing a blanket since he is another one who arrived with a minimal winter coat.  Easy didn’t come as readily, but eventually he worked his way across the paddock for his share of the treats.   

But I have to admit to my real reason for visiting Summerwind, and it isn’t because of the geldings we have there.  No, it’s because I have a serious crush on the three yearling fillies in the paddock across from Max.  A bright chestnut, a roan and a dark brown, they are several levels beyond adorable.  As a group they are friendly and curious, sniffing and nuzzling until they had completely checked us out.  If it wasn’t so cold, I could have stood with them forever.  They are completely impossible to resist and a treat to interact with.

The last Sunday in February, already, and I hope March will usher in some nicer weather–quickly!  Next weekend is the “Old Friends along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail” event at the Seelbach Hotel in Louisville.  Shortly after that we will be gearing up for Lava Man’s arrival; we can’t wait for that day!  Hopefully we’ll see a lot of you over the next few months, either at one of our upcoming events, or just for a visit.  In the meantime, thanks for spending this cold Sunday with Old Friends!

-Val

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Sunday February 15, 2009

Stage Colony   1987-2009

We lost one of our newest Old Friends this weekend.  Stage Colony died early this morning after becoming ill and colicking.  His last day, yesterday, was spent greeting visitors and making new friends.   As much as any horse at Old Friends, he enjoyed the attention that came with his new job at the farm.

Stage Colony was a very handsome bay stallion who arrived at Old Friends just last November.  A son of Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Pleasant Colony, Stage Colony himself was a Grade III winner of over $300,000. 

 In so many ways, we were just getting to know Stage Colony.   Still, there are some things you knew right away.  Like this– Stage Colony was a more than a little bit of a character. He supervised everything that went on around him; he wanted you to think he was large and in-charge, the biggest, coolest stud out there.  When Stage Colony first arrived at the farm he spent days roaming his paddock fenceline challenging the nearby geldings, checking out the mares, and making sure everyone knew he was “in the house.”   Even though we learned quickly that it was mostly an act, he worked hard to maintain his aura.  But as he got used to the flow of activity at the farm, Stage Colony began to stretch out in the middle of his paddock every afternoon for a snooze.  Naptime was the only time Stage Colony went off-duty.  A couple of weeks ago, we watched as a coyote ran within 15 or 20 feet of Stage Colony as he slept.  He didn’t even flick an ear. 

As is true for most horses when they first arrive at Old Friends, Stage Colony needed some time to understand what tours and buckets mean.  At first he wasn’t always interested in visitors, especially during that designated nap time.   But it didn’t take too long for him to realize that groups of people meant treats and adulation.  He began to demonstrate an affinity for kids—just yesterday he had some very young visitors, gently taking treats and letting them pat his nose.  Show up with enough visitors, and even sleeping was negotiable.  So much for big and bad!

A couple weeks ago I walked to the part of the farm where Stage Colony’s paddock was—next to Ogygian, across from Affirmed Success, Futural and Siphonizer, and behind the small barn.  Ogie nickered until I went to give him some carrots.  The geldings ignored me in favor of their hay.  But Stage Colony just stood at his fence with his ears pricked, quietly watching me and patiently waiting for his turn.  I gave him a carrot and a couple peppermints; he stretched out his nose to gently nuzzle my shoulder, turned around and cantered over to his back fence, once again distracted by the four mares a long paddock away.   I think that was Stage Colony in a nutshell—aware, watchful, loving treats and enjoying attention, but really, mostly just interested in the girls!

Stage Colony was a terrific horse in many ways, not in the least because of his “people.”  They came to visit him every week, bringing treats and love to their boy.  I felt bad for them today, coming to the farm with tears in their eyes.  Every horse should be that fortunate, to be loved and cared for with such devotion throughout their life.   While I know that we at Old Friends will miss Stage Colony, his people will miss him far, far more.   And because of that, wasn’t Stage Colony a fine and lucky horse?    -Val

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Sunday February 8, 2009

Winter weather?  Ice storm?  Snow?   Boy, a week later and that’s all changed.  Today was a simply gorgeous, sunny, and warm with a light breeze.  I saw my first robin of the spring today and with temperatures in the mid 60s, the icy mess of last week is gone.  Still, the reminders are everywhere—broken trees, branches on the ground, damaged property.  I think there are still folks without electric in parts of the state.  It has been a difficult couple of weeks for a lot of people.

But today at Old Friends, the horses are reveling in the nice weather.   When I got to the farm this morning, horses were running around all over the place.  Swannie, Monty, Sunshine, Will and Mecke were all bouncing around their paddocks.  Dan was in his shed, but when I called he came to the fence at a run, slipping and sliding in the mud. 

And oh yeah, did I mention the mud?  It’s everywhere, and it is sticky and slippery and slimy.  The horses love it, too; they are all muddy from ear to ankle.  Leave Seattle was so dirty that when he laid down for a nap this afternoon you could barely pick him out in his paddock–he was wearing his mud-colored camouflage gear!   Stage Colony was covered, and so were all the geldings.  It was hard to tell Siphonizer from Affirmed Success, and you could only pick out Futural because of his white face.   Visitors got too close at their own risk; the horses just felt so darn good they wanted to share their mud!   One head shake, a face rub, a sneeze, and visitors were muddy as well. 

Having said all that, it was still shocking when I first saw Monty today.  I never saw so much mud on one little horse!   I don’t know how, short of a fire hose, you could get that horse clean.  His face was dirty, behind his legs and inside his ears, even his tail was caked and coated with mud.   And he just looked so darn pleased with himself over the whole situation.  He came right over to the fence today, working the visitors for more treats like a pro.  In fact, poor Swannie was a little miffed, since Monty got my last treat.  I guess I’ve spoiled Swannie a little.  He is used to walking with us along his fence line while finishing off the bucket of treats.  Not today, though.  I’m going to have to hold back a couple mints for him next time.

Back to Monty for a minute—as you may know if you are a Clever Allemont fan, his “real” birthday is this month.  (If you didn’t know, all Thoroughbreds officially turn a year older on January 1 each year.  For racing purposes, that allows horses of the same year class to race others of the same age.)  There has been an internet initiative about sending birthday cards to Monty.  Let me tell you, the response has been amazing!  We will take a picture of him with all his cards—we’re going to try to line the cards up on his paddock fence and have Monty pose behind them.  Let’s just hope he’s somewhat cleaner when that photo is taken, or you won’t even be able to tell what he looks like!

The new horse, Flick, is having some “issues” settling into his new routine.  It’s not that he doesn’t like Old Friends; it’s the opposite, actually.  He is so friendly and seems to like attention so much that as soon as he sees people walking anywhere around the farm he gets all worked up.  Today he paced, back and forth, up and down his fence, until we get to his paddock.  By this afternoon he had worked himself into a sweat, waiting for his share of the attention!  Once we worked our way over to see him and Flick got his treats, he settled right down and was calm-until the next time he saw people walking around the farm.  It’s endlessly entertaining, the individual personality each horse has and how they express what they want in different ways.

We also had a photographer come over to the farm today to take some photos.  He had Sunshine, Awad, Monty and The Wicked North on his list.   He wanted to get a shot of Norty with the big barn’s quilt sign in the background.  Norty, being the highly intelligent and most fabulous horse he is, obliged with a lovely canter across his paddock, headed in the correct direction, with his neck arched and his ears pricked.  I surely hope that photo turns out as good as I think it will.

I had promised I would get over to the annex to see Riva Way, Cappuccino Kid and Judge’s Case today, but I wasn’t able to do so.  I didn’t get over to see Max and Easy Grades either.  We had a couple of tours today and I puttered around the main farm some, and then it was time to head for home.  I will try again next week.   

We hope you can visit us soon. There are lots of fun events on tap over the next few months at the farm and we are all looking forward to the busy spring tour season.  In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends!

-Val

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Sunday February 1, 2009

What a week it’s been in central Kentucky!  The big news, of course, was the weather.  By now everyone has heard about the winter storm we had this week.  Lots of folks in the state were severely incapacitated by this weather, although as of now I hear most of the power is back on and cleanup is under way.  Luckily, Old Friends escaped any major damage and never lost power—some downed tree branches are about all the evidence remaining of the storm.  Well, that and some piles of rapidly melting, slushy snow.  Kent had the tractor out and was plowing the heavy wet stuff off the driveway when I left the farm today.   (Oh, and by the way Kent, thanks for “accidentally” tossing that shovelful of very wet, cold snow on me….)

Despite the damage and the power outages and the lack of water in some communities, the iced-over trees and fences and even the frozen blades of grass were outrageously beautiful once the sun came out on Friday. I wish I had taken my camera to work.  On the drive home Friday night, as the sun was sinking and backlighting the trees, the entire world seemed to be made of glass.  You know those little blown glass ornaments you see in gift shops?  Just like that, only life-sized.  Unbelievable.   And this morning all that ice had fallen off the trees in piles, making the trees look like they were mulched with broken glass.

The horses did just fine during the storm.  We’ve had numerous phone calls and emails from all over the country asking if the horses are ok.   Probably the only horse who was “inconvenienced” by the storm was Wallenda, who had to stay inside overnight during the worst of the icing.  He has that weak back ankle and we didn’t want him to slip and injure himself.  I doubt he was all that happy about it, either.  But for the most part, during the worst of the storm the horses hung out in their run-in sheds and went on about their business of eating and napping. 

Today however, was another story.  The day was bright and sunny with temperatures in the 50s—it felt like spring!   All afternoon you could hear sheets of ice sliding off the metal roofs of the run-in sheds.  The spring-like weather felt great, and horses were all clearly happy today.   Danthebluegrassman, Kiri’s Clown, and Leave Seattle were prancing around with their tails in the air.  Because we’ve had nearly a week of snow on the ground, no one was muddy.  All the horses were shiny clean and velvety-looking, with their plush winter coats.  Silver Charm rolled at least four times that I saw today.   Even Swan’s Way was clean, although he had been rolling as well and was rather wet. 

No running around for Clever Allemont today, as he was busy soaking up the sun.  Since last week I think he has put on even more weight and now pretty much looks like all the other horses at the farm—chubby!  Ruthann and I walked down to see him and we had to laugh.  He was standing in the sun and was very nearly asleep.  His head was drooping, his eyes closed and his front legs nearly buckled a couple of times.  He caught himself at the last second, just before he toppled.  Monty either had to lie down, or he was going to fall down!  But he quickly realized that his neighbors were getting treats, so he roused himself and took the few steps over to get his share of the carrots.  Last week’s new horse, Flick, is next door to Monty and he came right over for his treats. Flick is a long, tall horse who is best described with one word: elegant.  And he loves his treats too!  Sunshine wanted to play, as usual, and rubbed his head against both Ruthann and I.

We have a couple of new horses this week, too.  Summerwind Farm, directly across the road from Old Friends, is graciously hosting the two new boys until we have room for them.  The first horse is named Max A Million. He is a 9 year old son of Jules who earned over $100,000 during his racing career.  He is pretty little bay horse who already loves mints and carrots.  Ruthann, who is on the short side of tall herself, thought he was the perfect size to be her personal riding horse.  Um, maybe not, Ruthann!

The second new horse is Easy Grades.  He is a 10 year old son of Honor Grades, out of an Easy Goer mare.   Easy Grades finished 13th in the 2002 Kentucky Derby, behind War Emblem.  He is also a pretty bay gelding, an almost-twin for Max, although maybe a little taller.  When we went over to Summerwind this morning, Easy wanted nothing to do with us.  I am pretty sure he was making it clear he likes his new pasture time.  But by this afternoon he was a little more willing, already having figured out that people with treats is a good thing. 

I think we are all happy to be done with this week’s crazy weather.  Hopefully, today’s sunshine was a harbinger of the coming spring.  Tomorrow is that famous day when Punxatawny Phil makes his weather prognostication—cross your fingers for an early spring!  And thanks to everyone who called or wrote this week to make sure the horses, and people, were ok.  We appreciate your concern and we hope you will be able to come visit us soon. 

Lastly, as a former resident of western Pennsylvania who is married to a Pittsburgh native, I just want to say….Go Steelers!

-Val

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