Monthly Archives: August 2009

Sunday August 30, 2009

Black Tie AffairI just cannot believe we are at the end of August.  Even though we are usually still well into the 80s or even low 90s in late August, this year summer seems to be rapidly turning into fall.  Today was sunny but temperatures were only in the low 70’s, distinctly not summer-like!

The horses just love this weather.  Dan and Flick were acting like stallions, rearing up in a “pretend” fight.  Of course, they did this just as a large group of people headed their way.  No point in showing off if no one is there to appreciate it!  Actually, I thought Dan was a little cranky today.  He didn’t want Flick to have any treats, and a couple of times we apparently weren’t paying enough attention to him, because he was a little demanding. 

Since it was so cool this morning, and I had a small tour of three people, we made the long trek to the back 40. It’s a nice, albeit hilly, walk—stallions on both sides going up the hill, mares and geldings in back.  Mighty Mecke and Wallace Station came right over, as did Judge’s Case and Mark of Success.  Hidden Lake was the only mare who gave a hoot about us, but then she is a very friendly girl who loves attention.  The only other gelding who came over was Siphonizer—he patiently waited for us until we made our way over to him.  Then he chomped as many carrots as he could fit in his mouth!   But Bonapaw, Kudos, Bonnie, Personalized—none of them gave us so much as a second glance.  The stallions are another story, as every one of them came to see us; both on the walk up and on the way back down.  Glitterman was glaring at Makor’s Mark.  Apparently he doesn’t much like him–talk about the evil eye!  And seeing as Glitterman isn’t exactly large and intimidating, he copped a lot of attitude for a little guy.  Williamstown was waiting for us as we got to his paddock, and Polish Navy wandered right over for his attention. I actually think Polish Navy enjoys the pats as much as the treats. Well, maybe not as much, but it is pretty close.

In the interest of fairness, this afternoon we covered the other half of the farm.  As you know, Black Tie Affair has melanoma and mainly spends his days in the barn out of the hottest sun.   He comes right to his stall door now with a nicker and pricked ears, waiting for his carrots.  One lady, who is a huge racing fan, tried and tried for a reasonably good photo of him, but I’m not sure she ever got one.  Black Tie is really good at posing, until the split second before the camera shutter clicks. Then his closes his eyes, lops his ears, sticks out his tongue–anything to frustrate the photographer.  It was kind of funny, but then I wasn’t the one with the camera.  Sigh.  Another one has wormed his way into my heart.   

The lady who is the big racing fan is from Pittsburgh, and I don’t think she expected to see some of the horses she saw today.  First, she noticed Norty’s paddock sign and asked if that was really The Wicked North.   Then, she realized Jade Hunter was here, and shortly after that was excited to see Kiri’s Clown.  I think I have said before how competitive some of the stallions can be.  For example, Bull doesn’t like to be ignored in favor of Norty, and as I said earlier, Glitterman doesn’t seem to have much use for Makor’s Mark.  But maybe the two most competitive are Kiri and Awad.  Kiri is much cooler about it—if he doesn’t get what he considers his fair share, he just walks away.  But Awad gets downright agitated.  So today Kiri has his fan fussing over him, and that just irritates Awad beyond all measure.  He huffs and puffs and sputters and preens like you can’t imagine.   Finally one of the guys on the tour had pity on Awad and fussed over him, too.  It wasn’t quite the same as Awad having all the attention to himself, but it was enough to settle him down.  By the end of the tour, several of the people commented about what great personalities the horses have. You have to figure Awad is on top of that list tonight.   

EscapedfromNewYork made a few friends today as well.  His story certainly tugs at people’s hearts, and I suspect Escaped totally gets this.  You know he was rescued from that big Thoroughbred farm in New York where they found so many starving and neglected horses.  Somehow, he manages to look sad and pathetic just as I am telling people about him.  Considering he is now well on his way to chubby and in no way looks like a rescue horse, this is Oscar-worthy acting on his part.  But sometimes I see people wipe away a tear while they pat him.  And it isn’t just the story—it’s that look he manages to give everyone.  I’m telling you, the horse is good!

Another week has wound down at Old Friends.   We hope you can visit us sometime soon.  In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends!

-Val

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Sunday August 23, 2009

Last week:  hot and humid.  This week:  cool and cloudy.  What is it they say?  Don’t like the weather, wait a minute and it’ll change.  How true this week!   It was a terrific day for a walk around a horse farm.  The horses all felt great and there was plenty of equine activity to see.

I have to start with Clever. He is still enamored of Klassy and spent plenty of time trotting and cantering back and forth in front of her stall.  This morning she was outside in the small, round pen and he really enjoyed showing off for her then.  Of course, she was ignoring him, but that didn’t discourage Clever.  On the other hand, he is kind of hedging his bets. Unlike last week he made time for every tour today, getting his share of treats and pats.  Love is all fine and good, but treats still rule!

Proper Reality has settled into his new paddock quite nicely.  He is a little on the slender side, but give him a few weeks and he’ll be just as chubby as the rest of the horses.   He is very friendly, and comes over for treats at every opportunity, including on the outgoing and incoming trip past his paddock.  I’m pretty sure he thinks we won’t notice that we already fed him!  For those of you who are fans of racing “back in the day,” Proper is a direct male descendant of Man o’ War, considered by many to be the greatest racehorse who ever lived.   (Unless of course, you are a Secretariat fan, but I’m not going there!)  Here is a link to Proper’s pedigree:  http://www.pedigreequery.com/proper+reality.

Across from Proper is Regal Sanction, but he didn’t come over for any treats.  He was staring across the road at the mares and babies in one of the Summerwind fields.  He is so busy rubbernecking at what everyone else is doing that he misses out.  Still, there is something about a horse staring off into the distance with his nostrils flared and his ears pricked…just beautiful.

We attempted to get Ogygian to come over to visit today, but he was ensconced in his run-in shed and refused to come out.  The only reason we even knew he was in his shed was that we could see his tail flicking back and forth.  I guess he wasn’t feeling sociable.  On the other hand, Fortunate Prospect and Jade Hunter can be counted on for visits.  Jade Hunter doesn’t miss a carrot.  He looks terrific.  One lady remarked several times how shiny and metallic his red coat is, and he does look like a brand-new penny in the sunshine.  Gramps, next door to him, is black and the little white age spots in his coat are definitely getting more numerous.  He’s looking more like an Appaloosa all the time!

Dan shared a big, green, sneeze with one group today.  Thankfully I had warned them and no one was too close.  Well, one guy was right there and he was pretty much covered in grass green Dan slime.  Poor guy, but he took it with good humor.  I can tell school is back in session because we only had two kids touring today.   I also think it was South Carolina day in Kentucky, because I believe I had people from that state on every tour but one. Unusual.  We also had people from Greece as well as Wisconsin, Indiana, Ohio and California. 

One of the cool things about being at Old Friends every week is watching a new horse become accustomed to the change of lifestyle.  Especially the stallions, who are coming from breeding farms and acclimating to an “admiration” farm.  In that vein, I think Black Tie Affair is going to be a very nice horse.   Of course he is famous (1991 Horse of the Year and winner of $3.3 million) and beautiful, but it has taken a little while for his personality to show through.  I saw a hint of it a few weeks ago when he stood and listened to my niece Kayla talk to him.  Now it seems he has finally stopped looking for mares and started looking for treats.  Today he came right to his stall door and seemed to enjoy all the attention, even parking his head on my shoulder while everyone admired him.  I think it bothered Wallenda though, who was especially feisty and demanding of his share of the attention.   After everyone left today, I walked Wallenda out to his paddock for the night; it’s my favorite “perk” of being at Old Friends.  The big horse wanted to play, grabbing his lead shank after I unclipped it and trying to keep me from taking it.   It wasn’t until he saw Kent drive up with his dinner that he gave up on the game.  Ahh, the power of food!

Today’s weather was a forecast of things to come; summer is definitely winding down and we are headed into fall. It’s a great time of the year to see the farm and meet the horses.  We continue to offer three tours daily, so give us a call and visit sometime soon.  In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends.

-Val

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Sunday August 16, 2009

Ahh, the dog days of summer have arrived at Old Friends: hot, sunny and humid.  The horses mostly stood quietly, sweating and flicking at flies.  The tours meandered slowly, sweating and sticking to the shade where possible.  Only a few kids today, all of them on one last trip before they head back to school.  Marley the tour dog was so aggravated by the heat that she took after her buddy Shane and we had to separate them.

Despite the heat, the daily routine continues at the farm uninterrupted.  Horses brought inside for the day, out for the night, or vice versa.  Feeding time twice a day. Fences repaired, hay stacked.  Stalls need to be cleaned and grass needs to be mowed. 

A new stallion arrived last evening.  His name is Proper Reality, and he ran fourth to Winning Colors in the 1988 Kentucky Derby.  He’s a little brown horse, possibly now the smallest stallion on the farm.  Of course, those little guys are awfully cute, which probably offends his stallion ego!  He was in the stall next to Wallenda this morning for the first tour and we had to convince him to come over for carrots. I always say the good racehorses are really smart, and by the end of the day, he was waiting at his stall door when he saw us walking toward him.  He picked that up quickly enough.  This afternoon, he went outside to his paddock for the first time.  Bull, Norty and Regal are his new neighbors and they were all worked up.  But I don’t think Proper is going to have any problem settling in—he pretty much ignored the other stallions and went directly to grazing.

Even though it isn’t exactly springtime, we have a little Old Friends romance in the air. Klassy Briefcase is still staying in the small barn and she is making eyes at Clever Allemont.   She watches him through her stall window, and tosses out a coy little nicker every now and again.  Clever has limited vision and his hearing may not be all that it once was, but clearly something is working well enough.  He spent all day showing off–trotting back and forth across from Klassy’s stall.  Even when we stood in front of him with carrots he was too distracted to eat.  Off he went, trotting back and forth, keeping his good eye on Klassy.  I guess he knows how good he looks these days and figures, “what the heck, I may be 27 but that cute chestnut is 24 and we both look fabulous for our age!”

Today’s heat kept us close to the barns and their shade, but I did have a chance last evening to head up to the “back 40” to see the mares and geldings, as well as some of the other stallions.  I’ve said it before, but that Polish Navy is one nice horse.  He came right over for his share of attention, once again putting his head right into my arms for a face rub.  I am a sucker for those big, bad stallions who are secretly softies, and Polish Navy sure is that.   Both Glitterman and Williamstown also came over to say hi.  No horse loves his paddock more than Willie—big, shady, and hilly enough that he can pretend no one sees him.   

All the horses in the back part of the farm look great—Mighty Mecke and Wallace Station came over at a run, and Hidden Lake was waiting at the fence for some attention. Personalized and Bonnie were hanging out in their run-in shed and didn’t much care if we were there or not. I suspect Bonapaw thinks he rules the place back there, although in truth Bonnie is the queen.  The horse who stuck out for me last night was Siphonizer.  He has really bloomed compared to the horse he was when he arrived last year.  Nearly black, he has become a big, muscular horse.  There sure is a lot of him, and he looks very content hanging out with his pals Futural and Affirmed Success.  Because you know, it’s a rough life—living in a large paddock with your friends, with plenty of food, water, green grass and a steady supply of carrots. 

We had a wonderful group of visitors today, albeit fewer of them than usual.  A nice couple who are big fans of Old Friends came from Texas, and we had visitors from Pennsylvania, Virginia, Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee.  One lady was a big fan of Black Tie Affair and we had to walk back to see him a second time before she left.  A handful of kids, some grandparents and a few racing fans rounded out the day.  In between tours I brushed Appygolucky, who is still in the barn, and Wallenda of course.  All in all, it was a great day to be at the farm.  I think all our visitors had fun, too.

We hope you can visit us soon.  In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends.

-Val

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Sunday August 9, 2009

After a cooler than normal and very comfortable July, summer heat has arrived with a vengeance in central Kentucky.  It’s hot and humid, saved today only by a nice steady breeze.  The horses have stopped trotting over for carrots, preferring to amble over, knowing we’ll wait for them– in the shade if possible!

I read in the newspaper this week that the Lexington area has gotten about five inches of rain over normal.  As a result, the grass is still green and all the horses look sleek and shiny.  Well, except for one horse.  Swannie has created an almost perfectly oval dust hole in the middle of his paddock, where we watched him roll today.  He coats himself with dust, then gets up and shakes.  The dust cloud drifts off him for 20 or more feet, but he is pretty happy when he is finished!

With all the heat and humidity only Awad broke into a trot today, but then this weekend was an anniversary of sorts for him, so he might have been showing off a little.  On Saturday, the Arlington Million was run.  Awad holds the stakes record for that race, and for another year his record went unbroken.   We made sure to tell him that, and he just tossed his head as if to say, “but, of course!”   There are a few horses at the farm that seem to have inspired exceptional fan memories.  Will’s Way, Black Tie Affair and Ogygian are among them.  But over the past couple of years on my tours, more people seem to remember Awad for some special reason than any other horse.  Wedding memories, honeymoons, trips to the races with friends and family—a lot of people apparently associate an Awad victory with some special event or memory.   It’s kind of amazing, actually.

We had a bunch of kids on tours today, as it seems a lot of families were taking one last weekend trip before school starts.  The kids on the tours today ranged in age from one to maybe 10 or 11.  One girl was an old hand with horses and one little boy was a novice but had no fear.  But the best was a girl who was maybe seven.  She had on a beautiful pink summer sundress, and she was a little shy around the horses at first.  But once she got the hang of carrots and mints, she had a terrific time.  Every time one of the horses took a treat from her hand, she let loose with the cutest little giggle.  I am pretty sure she will always remember her time at Old Friends, and at the end of the day that is the best part about being a tour guide at the farm.

I’ve talked before how some horses settle right in when they arrive at the farm.  The all-time champion of that, of course, is The Wicked North.  Clever Allemont “got it” almost immediately as well.  Even EscapedfromNewYork, given his complete lack of socialization, has come a long way very quickly.  He is a friendly little guy who walks right along the fence with us, hoping for more treats.

On the other hand, you have the horses who take a little while to settle in. Wallenda was a little nutty upon his arrival.  I remember him pacing his fence for a week or so.  Flick didn’t settle down until Dan got hold of him.  One of our newest horses, Regal Sanction, is taking his time as well.  I think he has figured out the bucket of carrots idea, as he meets us at the fence every time.  But he isn’t too sure about these stallions all around him.  He lives next door from Bull and across from Norty.  Now, Bull isn’t one to let any horse go unchallenged.  He makes sure the new guy knows he is in the presence of The Great Bull inthe Heather.  Bull doesn’t do anything halfway, so there is some noise and bluster in his manner.  Norty, in his much less overt way, is just as challenging.  I think Regal is wondering what is going on!

On another note, one of our summer interns, Aubrie, begins her senior year of high school tomorrow.   Aubrie has worked in the gift shop with me on Sundays for most of the past two summers, and I am pretty fond of her.  I hope she has a great senior year! 

In the interest of equal time, after mentioning Rachel Alexandra last week I have to talk about my other favorite race mare, Zenyatta.  She continued her unbeaten career with a thrilling victory tonightPeople ask me all the time if horses love to race.  If you saw Zenyatta do her special dance step on her way to the starting gate, you just know she loves her job!  She is one cool horse.

Thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends!  We hope you can visit us soon.

PS.  I had a request for a picture of Black Tie Affair.  Thanks to Rick Capone. More photos are available on his website www.kentuckyhorsephotos.com

Black Tie Affair

 

-Val

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Sunday August 2, 2009

Someone on a tour asked me today if I was a racing fan and of course, I am.  And if you watched Rachel Alexandra win the Haskell Invitational today, how could you not be a fan?  She looked like she was having the greatest fun running that race. She is something else.    

Back at Old Friends, we had a full day of tours, visitors and horses.  Of course, a couple of the boys must have known Rachel was set to run today.  Both Awad and Will’s Way wowed the crowd with their antics this afternoon, reminding us that they were pretty darn speedy in their day, too.  Awad came toward us at a dead run, sliding to a stop with a whinny.  Will added some dramatic skills, standing still and intently staring off into the distance, before suddenly exploding into a bucking run across his paddock.  We also had a chance this morning to visit with the boys on the hill–Polish Navy, Glitterman and Williamstown—and the biggest ham of the day was Silver Charm, naturally.  He offered pony kisses to every small child who wanted one.

This morning I had a small tour of four people.  One lady was admittedly not a horse person and I think she had the most fun, learning to feed carrots and pat noses.  In fact, several people visiting today had never patted a horse before, and one lady said, “I had no idea their noses are like velvet.”   We got a chuckle out of Jade Hunter, whose lips may be velvety but sure haven’t gotten any more limber, and watched Makor’s Mark run around like a wild thing.  The Name’s Jimmy, who lives across from Makor, happily got his share of carrots while the group realized that when I said his name I wasn’t kidding– it’s “The Name’s Jimmy!”

Glitterman, whose daughter Glitter Rox won the Royal North Stakes in Canada this weekend, came right over to visit.  He is just the cutest little guy.  Polish Navy is also a real sweetheart, but Williamstown was grumpy and let us know it.  Apparently we were interrupting his morning routine and he just wanted us to leave.   After four or five teeth-chomping threats, we got the message and left him alone.  I know it’s all for show, but he sure makes it look real.

One of our newer geldings, Appygolucky, is having a difficult time acclimating to his new pasture mates.  Appy is a sweetheart and not nearly aggressive enough to stand up to his neighborhood bully, Max A Million.  After some rough treatment from Max, Appy is enjoying barn time in the stall next to Wallenda.   I spent some time brushing and fussing over Appy this afternoon.  When I began brushing, Wallenda came over to the wall to check things out.  Poor Appy.  He must figure every horse is going to beat on him, because as big stallion Wallenda sniffed at us through the gap in the boards, Appy got very tense and nervous. But I think Wallenda knew–he just nickered very quietly at Appy.  I’m not sure what Wallenda said, but Appy immediately relaxed.  I know I tend to assign human emotions to the horses and a lot of folks would roll their eyes at me, but I do think horses communicate amongst themselves.  I think Wallenda told Appy, “it’s ok bud, just relax and enjoy.” 

The other human emotion I firmly believe horses share is a sense of humor.  We’ve had a good deal of rain in central Kentucky of late and some of the paddocks have areas of lovely mud.  A lot of the horses are covered with dried mud (none more than Swannie, but what else is new?)  Pops and Ring, at the bottom corner of their paddock, have a mud puddle that is especially wet and watery.  We were all standing around admiring Awad and Kiri this afternoon and it was too much for Special Ring.  He stood in his mud hole and began splashing.  And this is where the sense of humor comes in:  Ring didn’t just paw at the mud like you would expect.  Nope, he splashed mud forward, toward all of us.  He was obviously enjoying his little joke! 

Today’s moment when I wished for a camera occurred when three little girls and one little boy reached over the fence to scratch Kiri’s back.  Kiri will pass up carrots and frankly maybe even dinner for a good back scratching.  The kids were little but mighty—they must have really put some muscle into it, because Kiri just about closed his eyes in bliss.    One of the girls, Valencia, gave him a big hug; she just wrapped her arms right around his neck before I could even guess what she was doing.  She was so comfortable with Kiri and he seemed to really like her.   Another example of girls-and-their-horses thing, I guess.

That’s about all from here. Hard to believe it’s August and summer is winding down.  We hope you can visit us soon.  In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends.

-Val

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