Monthly Archives: May 2009

Sunday May 31, 2009

Another fine Sunday in Kentucky.  You know the kind of day– warm, sunny, blue skies–the kind of day that just begs you to be outdoors.   Sadly, I’ve spent it at home nursing one of those annoying summertime colds.  I apologize for not getting to the farm this weekend, and thus for not having an updated blog entry today.  I will be back next weekend with a full report.  Thanks for your patience!

-Val

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Sunday May 24, 2009

Welcome to summer!  It’s hot, muggy, and did I mention hot??  It felt good, though, in a drippy, sweaty way!  Even a lot of the horses were sweating just standing still and except for Pops, Ring and Awad, no one was moving too much.  But, none of the people seemed to mind the heat too much, and so we had a full day of tours.   We started at our usual time, 10am, and didn’t leave the farm until 5 o’clock.

Pops and Ring  were quite active today, although because of the temperature their usual gallop up the hill was a trot.  Pops looks wonderful; as good as I have ever seen him, all shiny and dappled.  As usual, neither he nor Ring was wearing their halters, and Pops struck his movie star pose—head up, ears pricked, gazing off into the distance– for photos. 

Awad gets so upset when Pops and Ring get too much attention.  As Kiri was his usual calm and friendly self, he got more attention as well.  Awad was just beside himself, so irritated he could barely contain himself.  He fidgeted and banged on the fence and tossed his head incessantly, wondering what he had to do to become the center of the action.  Poor guy. 

Someone asked me today why I haven’t been writing as much about the horses who moved to the new paddocks at the back of the farm.  So I apologize for that and I promise to fill in some gaps on those horses today and next week.   Having said that, we once again spent today touring the front of the farm.  It was too hot to hike that hill to the back.

The horses are all doing great.  In fact, I would say that Will’s Way, Creator, Special Ring and Kiri’s Clown are downright fat.  The horses in the new paddocks are especially chubby.  I barely recognize Siphonizer, and Futural is massive.  One of the new geldings, Rocky, is kind of short and he just keeps getting wider, too.  We had to put a grazing muzzle on Cozy Miss because she was getting too fat.  The grazing muzzle still allows her to eat grass; it just slows down her consumption from large mouthfuls to more reasonably-sized portions.  It’s the Cozy Miss diet program! 

EscapefromNewYork looks terrific.  He has shed out his dull, old coat and is now a shiny little bay horse.  He handled his recent gelding well and I was thrilled to see how happily he came over to get his carrots today.  When he first arrived at the farm, he didn’t know how to take a treat.  That has completely changed!  Everyone who meets him just falls in love. 

I suppose mostly because of Escape, we spent a lot of time today at the intersection of Swan’s Way Lane, Sunshine Forever Drive and Escape Road.  All three horses happily hung out with us, taking treats and winning over their own fans.  In fact, it’s fun to see who gravitates to which horse.  If someone is a Barbaro fan, they often adore Sunshine, given that he is related to Barbaro.  Swannie always gets the people who root for the underdog, and the Boston Red Sox fans.  (If you didn’t know, Swannie is a member of the Red Sox Nation.)  And Escape seems to draw in the soft-hearted, the folks who recognize that he never had much in his young life.   One of the best things about Old Friends, as I’ve said before, is the different personalities of the horses.  It’s just as cool to see how people find some connection to one certain horse and he (or she) immediately becomes their favorite. 

I had couple of young helpers today, at 10 am and 3 pm, ironically both named John.  My first new friend John was maybe 8 or 9, and his parents told me he wasn’t that thrilled about coming to see horses.  But he had a great time, feeding carrots and patting noses.   The second young man named John carried the carrot bucket for the entire 3 o’clock tour.  After a long day in the heat, I could not have appreciated that more!  

Today , both Judge’s Case and Mark of Success moved over to the main farm from Dr. Byers’ place.  Now I feel sorry for poor Bull.  Judge’s Case is a pretty gray gelding, meaning Bull is no longer the “only” gray horse on the farm.  And since so many people love gray horses, Bull is going to have some competition.   Knowing Bull, I’m not sure he is going to handle this well at all!

We have a bunch of new horses that I have not talked about yet.  Over the past month or so, we also welcomed Discreet Hero, an 11 year old gelded son of Honor and Glory, and King James, who is affectionately known as Elvis.  We also are getting to know Early Pioneer, a millionaire son of one of my favorite stallions, Rahy.  The horse I mentioned above, Rocky, is really named Northern Stone.   And just this weekend we welcomed Personalized, one of only four offspring sired by our late, great stallion Precisionist.  Personalized arrived at Old Friends following her rescue from a slaughterhouse pen.  We are feeling pretty good about having her with us, as you can imagine. 

Since this is a holiday weekend, Happy Memorial Day! I hope you are having a fine day, wherever you are located, and will take a moment to remember those who have served our country.   Thank you for spending this Sunday with Old Friends, and we hope to see you soon!

-Val

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Saturday May 16, 2009

Ok, so I am cheating this week. I am not going to be at the farm for tours on Sunday. I’m actually going to the steeplechase races. Never been to jump races, so it’ll be fun. Anyway, since I won’t be doing tours this week, I took some time to visit with my own very favorite horses. Selfish, but what can I say? It’s a perk of volunteering! I also have a couple of links everyone might like to see.

As you know, any tour of my mine has to begin and end with Wallenda. I no sooner walked into the barn than he started nickering. He knows I think he is special, and he expects his attention to begin NOW! With the rain we’ve had recently, all the horses have found good patches of mud in which to roll. Wallenda had his share of dried mud on his left flank. And across his back. And completely ringing his left eye. And in his mane. You can just imagine, right? Dried, crusty mud. And every bit of it ended up on me! Wallenda loves to have his face brushed and rubbed, but I have to remind him of that every single time. He tries to avoid face brushing until he remembers “oh yeah, this feels good.” Once he remembered, he just closed his eyes and stood still until I was done. He was in an unusually mellow mood (for him, anyway) and I think he really enjoyed the attention.

The other stallion who stays indoors during the day is The Wicked North. Norty has the tour procedure down. As soon as he sees a group of people, he lifts a hoof and starts banging on his stall door. It would be hard to miss him, given the racket he makes. But once everyone gathers around him, he is so kind and nice I sometimes can’t imagine him being a big, bad racehorse. But he was a grand racehorse, an Eclipse Award winner with speed, heart and determination. Thus the first link for today, one I neglected to add last week: http://www.bloodhorse.com/horse-racing/videos/watch/43F75F9B-642A-4408-919B-ACDF7A732363  Thanks to regular blog reader Rich for reminding me!

Having spent a couple of years getting to know the farm’s horses, the more I understand three things. First, the best racehorses are very, very smart. Second, they are good racehorses not only because they are fast and love to run, but because they are intensely competitive by nature. And third, good racehorses understand adulation and applause! Don’t believe me? Watch one horse start running, just for fun or to show off for a crowd, and then see all the horses around him run around faster. Want proof? Ahh, this leads me to today’s second link.

A wonderful photographer named Candice Chavez was at the farm all afternoon last Sunday. You’ll see a bunch of pictures of our new gelding, Appygolucky, as he is turned out in a paddock for the very first time at Old Friends. Scroll down and you’ll see photos of Will’s Way, taken at the same time, in the neighboring paddock. Will saw Appy run and said, “oh no, my new little neighbor. I won a million bucks and the Travers Stakes. I am the man in this neighborhood!”
Check out Will, Appy, Fortunate Prospect, and more, here on Candice’s Flickr page: http://www.flickr.com/photos/24553848@N03/sets/72157618000318978/.
Thanks, Candice, for your wonderful photos.  I also want to say–aren’t dogs Jake and Marley pretty darn handsome, too?  Yeah, I know I’m biased.

As you can see from Candice’s photos, Fortunate Prospect is doing great. At 28, he is a little shaggy and a lot gray. But he maintains his routine—eat a little, nap a little, jog a little, do some serious sleeping, and round it all out with more grazing and greeting visitors. Gramps could write a book, ”The Fortunate Prospect Secret to Life, Love and Treats.”

At one point I looked up just in time to see Clever Allemont running across his paddock. No reason that I could see; he just felt like it I guess. He sure looked like he was having fun and feeling great.

The laugh of the day, courtesy of Silver Charm: Charmie’s little paddock is normally pretty devoid of grass, as we have to carefully manage his rather delicate little-horse digestive system. But with all the rain we’ve had, the corner area where he normally eats his hay is sprouting little blades of grass from the seeds in his hay. You think he would even lift his head to visit with me today? Not a chance. He figured he was getting’ while the gettin’ was good!

Mightly Mecke had some surgery today. Yep, he was gelded. It’ll be good for him as he was getting a little, shall we say, rambunctious. EscapefromNewYork (the horse formerly known as Nameless, from the Paragallo farm in New York) had the same surgery. Thanks to Hagyard Clinic for the services. I heard Escape did fine with it, but knowing Mecke, I bet he was a little unhappy!

Dan and Flick were hanging out near the fence today, hoping for some treats. Dan looks wonderful. It’s really taken him a year to fill out and lose his lean, lanky racehorse look. He is so handsome, and Flick has also put on significant weight. Dan rules that roost, but in a nice way. While Pops and Ring beat on each other rather relentlessly, Dan is much more subtle with Flick. He stretches out his neck like he is going to bite Flick, but then never really makes the final connect. He’s more like the big brother who picks on his kid brother in a lovable way, even though Flick is really the older child! Pops and Ring are just hoodlums with one another, even though no two horses are closer buddies.

I do have to comment on the Preakness today. Rachel Alexandra is awesome, and Mine That Bird is a real racehorse. But really, how about Musket Man? Count me as a huge fan of all three.

That about does it from here. We hope you can visit us soon, but in the meantime, thanks for spending this time with Old Friends.

-Val

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Sunday May 10, 2009

After what seems to be weeks and weeks of rain (but was more like a few days, I suppose) today was a fine, sunny day in central Kentucky. The grass is really deep and lush and we had a gentle breeze, rather than a monsoon wind. All in all, who could complain? And Happy Mother’s Day, to my own mom and all the other mothers out there.

We started out the morning with my favorite kind of tour—we had kids! First of all, there was Braden, who really, really liked the horses. Braden was maybe 3 or 4, and about that tall, too. He and Dan really hit it off. Dan was nuzzling Braden’s hair, which caused Braden to giggle. Dan apparently likes small giggling children because the more Braden giggled, the more Dan nuzzled and tickled. It was really cute. Braden was quite friendly, even inviting me along on a trip to see an octopus next month. You don’t get that kind of invitation every day!   I won’t be able to make it, but it was a great invitation, Braden. I hope you and your brothers come back.

Another young man, Bradley, was on the same tour. Bradley, Pops and Ring had a little race up the hill. Pops and Ring mostly used the opportunity to show off, bucking and kicking. Bradley might actually have won, although Ring came on strong at the end. Pops and Ring felt a little rowdy, running, biting one another, begging for treats and generally hamming it up. And the more attention Pops and Ring got, the more agitated Awad became. I think I have said this before, but Special Ring is extremely good at annoying Awad, who lives in the next-door paddock. They are just like kids–you know, when one says “Mommy, he’s looking at me! Make him stop!”  One lady remarked that she didn’t realize horses had so much personality. But they surely do.

Silver Charm, on the other hand, was quite accommodating. And I have figured out what he did in his previous life.  I’m positively sure he ran for political office.  Today he walked the fenceline like a politician, stopping to visit each person for a pat and a few words before moving on down the line.  Silver Charm, Mayor of Old Friends.

We had a pretty vivid demonstration of Clever Allemont’s hearing loss this afternoon. We had a van tour group, and despite many visits their tour guide, Nicholas, had yet to see Clever Allemont up close. So I walked into the paddock to get Monty.  I talked to him the entire time I was walking over to him, and as I made a wide berth around his bad eye, I kept up a running chatter. Nevertheless, he was startled when he finally saw me.  He clearly had not heard me at all. But once he knew what I wanted, he happily came over to the fence to see everyone. He does love to be patted and fussed over.

 As I mentioned last week, we have three or four new horses. I’m going to have to admit I have yet to learn their names, but one of them arrived just yesterday and his name I do know. It’s Appygolucky, and he is a 12 year old bay gelding who retired from the racetrack just this week. He started in 100 races (!), winning 24 times. We were lucky enough this afternoon to be able to watch as he went outside to a paddock for the first time. He ran and ran, which caused his neighbor Will’s Way to run and run, too. (Will is very competitive—he did have to prove that he is faster!) But Appy really loved being outdoors and we are looking forward to getting to know him. Yep, it was a fun day.

On a sad note, yesterday we lost one of our newer horses. Gold Spring, who just arrived last month, died after a paddock accident. I barely knew Gold Spring, having met him maybe three or four times over the past few weeks. He was a lovely chestnut stallion who had been a graded stakes winner in both his native Argentina and in the United States. Because I didn’t really know him, I can’t offer any great insights into his personality, or talk about funny stories or quirks that he had.  But I can say this: as far as I can tell, Gold Spring was one of the lucky ones. His people cared about him and made sure that he had a good home.  I’m sorry that I won’t get to know, and share, those funny stories and facets of his personality. But I am happy that he had a good life, surrounded by people who loved and cared for him.

And on that note, I’ll sign off for this week.  I hope you can visit us sometime soon. In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends.

-Val

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Monday May 4, 2009

Ahh Monday… what a weekend! Yesterday, in a cool and drizzly rain, we had the annual Homecoming event at Old Friends. I actually think in many ways it was among our most successful. Lots of people ignored the weather to come out and support the horses and everyone seemed to have a great time. There was a great deal of laughing, camaraderie, music and fun. Wallace Station (the restaurant, not the horse) provided their usual outstanding food; we had bluegrass music from Bullshippers and a remote broadcast from radio station 92.9 The Bear.

The horses took all this in stride, of course. Wallenda had to move from his usual stall in the big barn to temporary housing in the small barn. Given his tendency to act like a teenager, I expected him to be a little aggravated when I went over to see him. Nope, he was laying down taking his usual afternoon nap. I went in to say hello and rub his face, so he got up to visit for a bit. He then became engrossed with peering through the gaps in the stall wall at Cowboy next door. Not one bit of stress for the big horse. I was watching replays of previous Kentucky Derbies on TV over the weekend and saw the 1993 edition, featuring Bull inthe Heather and Wallenda. Bull was much, much darker—a dappled steel gray, almost unrecognizable. Wallenda, though….anyone who knows him would pick him out immediately. His carriage and demeanor was exactly the same.

Fortunate Prospect had a great weekend himself. On Saturday, his grandson Musket Man finished third in the Kentucky Derby! I can’t even describe how exciting that was. Yesterday, I went over to tell Gramps how terrific he is. He just calmly looked at me as if to say, “Well, of course I am.” The whole Derby thing clearly impressed me more than it did him!  Not much gets Fortunate Prospect going, including the shindig last night. He hung out near the big barn, keeping an eye on the proceedings and making himself available for photo ops, carrots and admiration. He’s one very cool customer.

Clever Allemont paid absolutely no attention to the event.  I guess to him it was just some extra activity that had no bearing on his grazing.  At one point, Swannie and Wallace Station were racing one another like a couple of, well, racehorses. Bull kept a hopeful eye out for treats and Creator kept his eye out for potential victims. Volunteer Viv, from our MySpace page, (http://www.myspace.com/oldfriendsequine) was assigned as victim protection. She spent most of the event sitting in the rain near Creator, keeping the unsuspecting away from his chompers! She either had the most fun or no fun at all, I’m not sure which.

A couple of guys and Michael were playing soccer with Silver Charm. Charmie was having a blast, since there were plenty of people cheering him on. He is such a ham. You know, he really does think he is a big Thoroughbred. Maybe he is, as a visitor pointed out a couple weeks ago “he was just a short-race specialist!”

Before the festivities began, I took a couple of rounds of the farm on the golf cart, once with Kent as he did the afternoon feeding and once with Greg, just for fun. So I did get out to see all the horses. Everyone looks great. Cozy Miss is now wearing a grazing muzzle since she has gotten too chubby!  The muzzle helps limit the amount of grass she can grab in one bite. She’s in good company though, because I believe that AP Indy often sports the same fashion accessory.

Will’s Way ran over for his dinner. He’s so handsome, and I say that after he bit me last week.  Awad looks especially terrific this spring, and Pops has finally gotten rid of nearly all his winter hair.  We have some new horses on the farm as well, but I’ll spend more time talking about them next week.

The highlight of Homecoming for a lot of people is the auction, both live and silent, of horse memorabilia. As you may know, halters worn by well-know racehorses and stallions are very collectible. We had some great ones at the auction yesterday—Rags to Riches, Big Brown, Cigar, Giacomo, and Medaglia d’Oro among others.  We also had some great Moneighs, which are paintings done by some of our horses including Danthebluegrassman, The Wicked North and the late, great Ruhlmann. Of course, we also offer tours during homecoming.

All in all, it was a great weekend despite the weather. I was happy to meet some regular blog readers, as well as see some of our returning regulars. Thanks to everyone who attended the Homecoming event, and we look forward to our next event! If you didn’t make it to Homecoming, we hope you will be able to visit us soon. In the meantime, thanks for spending Sunday with Old Friends!

-Val

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