Monthly Archives: April 2009

Sunday April 26, 2009

This was one of those weekends to remember.   Lots of people visited the farm—LOTS of people!  It was the Rolex Three-Day Event at the Kentucky Horse Park—jumping, cross-country and dressage.  It’s a big deal–people come from all over to see it.   That alone makes for a busy weekend for us.  But then, on Saturday, we had the Friends of Barbaro visit.  Add to that our usual numbers for a nice summery day, and we pretty much ran tours non-stop on Saturday. 

Today was busy, too.  We started out with maybe 20 folks scheduled for the morning tour, but more just kept coming.  I bet there were 40 people by the time all was said and done.  Michael took part of the group, I took the rest and I think everyone had fun.   A couple of the horses were cranky—Will’s Way grabbed hold of one lady’s shirt and wouldn’t let go.  (I swear he thinks he’s funny.)  Thankfully, he didn’t get any skin and no damage was done.   Shortly after that, Awad made a grab for a different lady.   He missed, though.   Of course, The Wicked North made up for the others, being his usual kind and dignified self.  He let everyone who wanted pat him, feed him and even stood for a couple kisses.  Fortunate Prospect was the same, waiting patiently while everyone patted him.  (Remember to root for Fortunate Prospect’s grandson, Musket Man, in the Kentucky Derby next week!)  Kiri’s Clown had a great time with the FOBs.  He apparently wanted to be scratched, because at one point I think he had three or four people reaching over the fence to scratch some part of his body.  He just loved it. 

The Friends of Barbaro were great.  They have a small stuffed animal Barbaro who has apparently made it all over the United States, with photos to prove it.  The toy Barbaro had his picture taken next to every paddock sign at Old Friends—Barbaro with Clever Allemont, Barbaro with Sunshine Forever, Barbaro with Pops and Ring.  Kind of cool, really.

Having had a big hand in rescuing Clever Allemont, the FOBs were all very excited to meet him.  I bet my group he would take one look at all the people and walk directly to the far side of his paddock.  Sure enough, that’s exactly what he did.  Michael had to go get him, at which point Clever Allemont graciously allowed his public to ooh and ahh over him.  He looks so fabulous—shiny, with not a rib to be seen.  In fact, he is a perfect counterpart to our new horse…

By now, you may have read in the news about the big Thoroughbred farm in New York State.  The short version of the story is nearly 200 horses were found neglected and starving at that farm.  The SPCA has taken over the care of the horses and is finding new homes for them.  On Thursday, one of those horses arrived at Old Friends.  He is a little, 4 or 5 year old, bay stallion. He is very skinny and malnourished, and he doesn’t even have a name.   At some time in his short life he broke a front ankle, which fused as it healed.   He is curious but shy and unsure, and has yet to take a carrot or mint.  I don’t think he has any idea what a treat even is.   He isn’t sure of what to make of all the people, and yet he was kind and gentle with a couple of little girls who fussed over him.  Janet has him going outside for a few hours each day, getting used to the grass.  I promise that in two months you won’t recognize him!  Much like Clever Allemont, good food, green grass and love will make a huge difference for this little guy.  And, because he has no name, we are going to have a contest to name him.  Steve Haskin, the Blood-Horse writer, Chris McCarron and Jean Cruget, the retired jockeys, are going to pick the winning entry.  Watch the website for details!

A couple of my friends from Pennsylvania were here this weekend for Rolex.   We had lunch at Wallace Station, then Marta, Tracy and I took our own tour of the farm.   We had a great time catching up and seeing all the new horses.  By the way, Polish Navy and Glitterman have arrived at the farm.  Both horses are beautiful old boys who really seem to enjoy attention.   Gold Spring, our other new stallion, is across from Mighty Mecke and Williamstown.  Willie doesn’t care much about who his neighbors are, but Mecke apparently isn’t too happy being across from Gold Spring.  I heard he was being kind of cranky the past few days, although he was fine today.

The mares and geldings in the new paddocks are also enjoying their space.  Futural has gotten downright chubby—he might be rounder than Special Ring!  Bonapaw looks great and is having fun romping with his pasture mates, including Kudos and Futural.   

Next Sunday our annual Homecoming fundraiser.   We are looking forward to it, especially because we see a lot of our out-of-town supporters who make a point of coming to this event.   With so many new horses, it’ll be fun to introduce everyone.  I have to wonder what the horses think about all this.  The Wicked North figured it out in less than 10 minutes and never looked back.   But the new boys like Gold Spring, Glitterman, Polish Navy, and our poor little rescue horse must wonder what all the fuss is about. 

In any case, given the Homecoming next week, I am pretty sure the blog entry for next week won’t be posted until Monday, so look for it then.  In the meantime, thanks for reading, and for spending this Sunday with Old Friends.  We hope to see you soon!

-Val

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Sunday April 19, 2009

Once again, horses have proven to me that they are smarter than humans, and today illustrated one of the myriad of reasons why.   It was a chilly, damp, and gray day, with almost constant drizzle punctuated by frequent downpours.  Still, we had a fair number of visitors and while we spent a great deal of time in the big barn with Wallenda and The Wicked North, we still had to see the outdoor horses.  And this is why horses are so smart:  we had to walk in the rain, over to Dan and Flick, who came out of their cozy and dry run-in shed only long enough to grab a mouthful of carrots and a couple mints before immediately dashing back under shelter.  Whereupon they stood, peering out at the crazy humans standing in the pouring rain.  Really, who are the smart ones here?

There was a lot of news coming from the farm this week.  Some of the off-site residents came home, including Max A Million and Easy Grades.  They are in one of the new gelding paddocks toward the back of the farm, and they seem to be getting along just fine.  They are a pair of little bay geldings who look enough alike to be brothers.  We also have a new stallion, Gold Spring, who was a stakes winner both in Argentina and the United States.  We are still waiting for Glitterman and Polish Navy to arrive, hopefully this week. 

The opening of the new part of the farm does give us an alternate tour trek, which is going to get a good test next week when nearly 100 Friends of Barbaro are scheduled to visit.  (For those who don’t know, the FOBs are a large group of people who came together through their common affinity for the late Kentucky Derby winner.  As a group, they are very active in horse rescue issues.)  It is going to be crazy and fun.  Let’s cross our fingers for dry weather, though.

I was a little worried about Bonnie’s Poker after losing her friend Narrow Escape last week, but Bonnie seems to be fine.  I think it was good that Cozy Miss and Hidden Lake were already in the same paddock with Bonnie, so she didn’t feel all alone this week.  We have another new gelding, Rocky (sorry Rocky, I don’t know your registered name yet) who has quite a crush on the mares.  Apparently he has been hanging out as near the mare paddock as he can get, gazing longingly over the fence.  Probably has a thing for that cutie, Hidden Lake.

We had some really nice people on our tours today.  There were several little girls, including one who had on a hot pink rain poncho.  She was a smarty too, since she didn’t quite believe it when mom said told her we were meeting Seabiscuit.  The little girl very skeptically said, “Really? The REAL Seabiscuit?”   Clearly, she knew something wasn’t quite right.  And she wasn’t nearly as impressed with the movie actor Pops as she would have been with the “real” Seabiscuit. 

Clever Allemont was completely unconcerned with the rain.  He was standing outside, eating the remains of his breakfast grain.  The rain had turned his grain into cereal, but he seemed to like it that way.  Turns out, however, that he isn’t all that fond of umbrellas–we had to toss his carrots into his feed tub.  He absolutely was not coming anywhere near us while that large umbrella was unfurled, no way.  But, boy, does he look great.  No ribs are showing at all, not even with his coat soaking wet and plastered to his chubby little belly.

Creator came over to get a few carrots.  He has moved to the paddock behind the house where his biggest fan, Diane, can see him from the kitchen. His long forelock and mane were dripping wet.  I tried to convince some visitors that he normally is among the most handsome horses at the farm but I don’t think they believed me, since he looked rather… drippy!  The  wet coat, however, just made Silver charm look svelte. He wasn’t his usual fuzzy self, although his wild forest of a mane and forelock are impervious to rain and sure kept his face dry.  

Fortunate Prospect is in the paddock right next to the big barn so we spent time with him today.  He was hanging out next to, but not inside, his run-in shed, kind of snoozing in the rain.  (We are all rooting for his grandson, Musket Man, in the Kentucky Derby two weeks from now.)  Bull trotted over for a mint or two, and that was as many horses as we saw today, given the weather.  We tried to stay within dashing distance of a barn, for when those downpours started. 

By the way, wish a Happy Anniversary to Michael and Diane.  Today is number 26 for them.   

Thankfully most days don’t feature the kind of weather we had today.  Tours are much more fun in the sunshine, although you could say it was a bit of an adventure today.  We look forward to having you visit us soon, but in the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends!

-Val

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Sunday April 12, 2009

Narrow Escape

1983-2009

 

We lost Narrow Escape yesterday afternoon.  At age 26, she told us it was her time and was euthanized in a green, grassy pasture on a beautiful spring day in Kentucky. 

 

Narrow Escape was Old Friends’ very first horse, making her in many ways our role model and inspiration.  Her owner kindly donated her to Old Friends after a successful broodmare career.   Narrow Escape was a lovely, medium-sized bay mare who for a long time lived in a large paddock at Old Friends with her friend and co-conspirator Bonnie’s Poker.  The two mares were inseparable, but nevertheless Narrow Escape was the boss.  Eventually Cozy Miss and more recently, Hidden Lake joined the little band of mares.  Narrow Escape remained in charge, deciding who was allowed into the run-in shed with her and who got the best pile of hay.  Naturally, the choicest hay was all hers.   She didn’t often come over for treats, preferring to be left alone to graze or nap as the mood took her.  Sometimes, though, she came over to pick up some carrots and have her face rubbed.  We will all miss her, but I believe Bonnie will miss her most of all.

 

In one of those quirks of fate, Narrow Escape’s very name was prescient as her sire, the great racehorse Exceller, died in a slaughterhouse in Sweden.   Along with Bull inthe Heather, a son of Ferdinand, Narrow Escape became a living reminder of how narrow the line can be for any unwanted animal.   In her own gentle way, she also showed us everyday that the old horses have value, even if for no other reason than their beauty, kindness and heart.

 

A couple of weeks ago, the four mares moved to the new part of the farm, to a large paddock where the grass was green alfalfa and the breeze blew, well-removed from road noise and everyday happenings at the farm.  The mares are happy there, with grain, water, good grazing and room to stretch their old legs.  It’s the most peaceful part of the farm and on a day like yesterday– with warm sunshine, a gentle breeze and that impossibly green Kentucky grass– you can almost imagine it is a mirror of the place where old horses go when they die.  I think Narrow Escape tried it, liked it, and decided it was time to move on to the real thing. 

 

-Val

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Sunday April 5, 2009, Part Two

The Weekend Part Two

(This is Part Two of this week’s blog–Part One is posted below)

Friday dawned rather cold, windy and raw.  But it was opening day of the Keeneland Spring Meet and it didn’t snow, so I guess that means it was a good day!  (Two years ago I remember watching a race on opening day and being unable to see the horses due to the swirling snow.)  However, yesterday was another story.  It was beautiful–65 degrees and sunny.  It was the first big Saturday stakes racing day of the meet, featuring the Grade 1 Ashland Stakes for three-year-old fillies.  Greg, Ruthann, Mercer, Janet and Kent (that would be the Old Friends’ Kent, not the jockey Kent. Too many Kents!) and I all went to the races.  It was crowded—turned out it was the fifth-largest attendance ever at Keeneland.  And let me tell you, I think I bumped into every one of the over 30,000 people there!  Finally, I decided my best option was just to stay in my seat.  But it was a fine day to be at the races and we had a great time.  In fact, Old Friends karma was working for the jockey Kent Desormeaux, who rode four winners on the day.  Good for him!

Today was another nice day to be outdoors so I was happy to visit the farm.  We had a nice group of folks this morning, including some real racing fans who knew their stuff.   The morning tour also included a little girl named Seneca who just wanted to pat a horse.  Once she fed Wallace Station and patted his nose, she was pretty much ready to go home!  She kept asking me if the next horse was a “biting horse” or if she could pat him.  Swannie, Sunshine and Norty all accommodated her wish to pat horses.

After the morning tour, Mercer kindly took the 1 o’clock tour for me.  I left the farm for a bit, and then spent some time visiting horses.  For the Clever Allemont fans out there, I have to say he looks fabulous.  He has put on enough weight that he even looks a little chubby.  More noticeably, he is shedding his long, raggedy winter coat to revel shiny, cocoa brown…dapples!  It’s amazing to see how terrific he looks.  The other horse who is really blossoming is Flick.  He was a little underweight and ribby when he arrived.  He is still slender and lanky, but he has filled out some.  He is also shedding out to reveal his rich, beautiful bay coat.  Dan and he have become inseparable, which is nice for them both.

I think today reached a new scale of nice, because even the horse who hardly ever lays down for a nap decided it was time.  When you see Bull inthe Heather stretched out, you know its irresistible napping weather.  Fortunate Prospect also took his daily constitutional.  By the way, Fortunate Prospect’s grandson Musket Man won the Illinois Derby yesterday and looks to be headed to Kentucky for the first Saturday in May.  We’ll be cheering him on!

And wonder of all wonders, Creator allowed someone to get a quick pat on his nose today.  Of course, when the man went back for seconds, enough was enough.  Out came the teeth.  Still, it was more a threat than an actual attempt.  You know, if Creator is mellowing, what could possibly be next?   Maybe Musket Man will win the Derby….

That’s about all from here.  Homecoming in May and then we are into summer.  We hope you can visit us soon.  In the meantime, thanks for spending this weekend with Old Friends!

-Val

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Sunday April 5, 2009 Part One

The Weekend, Part One.

What a jam-packed, busy and eventful weekend it has been.  It started on Thursday with a day at the farm and an evening with comedian Frank Santorelli at O’Neills Irish Pub in Lexington.  Then, Friday was the opening day of the Keeneland spring meet.  More on Keeneland later; first I want to go back to Thursday.

If you are a horse person, a racing fan, or just someone who appreciates a beautiful morning you really should try to go watch racehorses train some spring morning in Kentucky.  On Thursday, I went over to the Thoroughbred Center in Lexington to watch morning works.  It was a gorgeous day– cool but not cold, sunny and bright. The birds were singing and horse after horse galloped by.  Some of them are working hard, some just jogging, some alone and some in tandem with a workmate.  You hear their hoofbeats, their snorts and their breathing as they run past.  Occasionally one will buck or kick, and all of them are full to bursting with life.    It’s just beautiful to watch—interludes of peace punctuated by flashes of intense activity.  I highly recommend it, if you are ever in Kentucky.

After the morning at the track, I headed back over to Old Friends.   It was a busy day at the farm.   We had a delivery of 5 or 6 boxes of racing trophies and memorabilia from the owners of Bonapaw—every racing trophy he won as well as a scrapbook they kept of everywhere Bonapaw took them.  The trophies are amazing and the scrapbook is stuffed full of memories.  What a journey that horse led them on!   Eventually, we’ll have a racing museum of our own to showcase them, but for now they are adorning the office.  Check them out if you come to the farm.

I took some time to enjoy the farm on Thursday, which means I wandered around and visited horses.  I didn’t have treats with me, which actually makes for some different interactions with the horses.  With no food to distract them, the boys enjoy being patted and fussed over.  I brushed Wallenda and The Wicked North, and then wandered down to see Williamstown, Pops, Ring and Kiri.   Williamstown strolled over for a visit and let me pat his nose for a bit.  Pops looks ridiculous.  His coat is a mixture of short, sleek dark brown summer hair and patches of long, light winter hair. I hate to say it but he looks….moldy!   He does this every year—it’s just the way he sheds.  But you sure wouldn’t call it pretty. 

Kiri’s Clown is usually a nice horse to visit, but he’s even friendlier when you don’t have a bucket of carrots.  He loves to be rubbed and scratched, and he knows exactly how to get what he wants. All I had to do was stick my hand over the fence and he just moved whatever part he wanted scratched to my hand.  His face, his neck and his withers—he twists and turns to get what he wants.  His butt?  He just shows me his behind so I could scratch above his tail.  But his favorite might have been his chest—I rubbed out handfuls of winter hair, much to Kiri’s delight.  He finished with a good face rub on my arm and he was a happy horse.  Unfortunately, all that rubbing on Kiri didn’t set too well with Sunshine, who snorted and fussed over the smell of another stallion.  So Sunshine fixed that by rubbing his face all over my arm.  Now, Kiri is big and strong enough to push me around some.   But Sunshine is huge and stronger still.  I pretty much have to hang onto the fence when he decides to rub on me.  

After a great day outdoors with the horses, we headed over to Lexington for the “Bada Bing in the Bluegrass” event at O’Neills.  Comedian Frank Santorellli, who played the bartender on the Sopranos TV show, did a great, very funny comedy act.  Lexington radio’s morning DJ Jason Bailey (from 92.9 The Bear) was also there to introduce Frank.   

And if that wasn’t enough celebrity, jockey Kent Desormeaux was a special guest.  After visiting Old Friends this past week, Kent was gracious enough to join us for the fundraising event.  (In case you didn’t know, Kent Desormeaux rode Big Brown to win last year’s Kentucky Derby.)  He visited with everyone on Thursday evening, signing autographs and posing for photos.  He told me he thought Old Friends was an amazing place, and we truly appreciate his support.   For me, it was a pretty big thrill to meet him.  I think it’s great when someone whose accomplishments you admire turns out to be a nice guy.  Between Jason, Frank and Kent, you couldn’t ask for friendlier, more down-to-earth, nice guys.

Since it was so busy this weekend, I am splitting this week’s blog into two parts.  Part Two will follow later tonight.  -Val

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