Monthly Archives: November 2009

Thursday November 26, 2009

(Note:  Since today is Thanksgiving, The Wicked North offered to write this week’s blog.  I took him up on his offer. He’s a very talented horse….thanks Norty.  –Val)

Hello.  The Wicked North here.  I gave Val the week off from writing the blog, and I thought maybe you’d like to hear some thoughts “straight from the horse’s mouth,” so to speak!!    You’d probably be amazed at how talkative some of us are, when we are just hanging out chatting amongst ourselves.  I asked my pals to tell me what they are thankful for, and here are some of their answers.

Fortunate Prospect   “I’m just happy to still be here. I mean, I am 28 years old, soon to be 29.  What?   I’m old, what did you think I’d say?”

Jade Hunter   “Don’t let the old man kid you.  He loves carrots!  Me?  I guess I am thankful that people want to come visit me.  I mean, who knew an old racehorse could get this much attention?”

Danthebluegrassman “I’m just glad I don’t have to work anymore.  I shudder to think that I might have been ridden every day at that Jockey School. Thank goodness I perfected the limp.”

Clever Allemont  “Thankful?  Let me start a list.  Kristin.  Jeanne.  Ray.  Kelly.  All the Friends of Barbaro.  The list is nearly endless. “

Wallenda   “I am thankful for Dr. Fraley.  He takes care of my bad foot.  Man, he’s a seriously cool dude.”

EscapedfromNewYork   “I am thankful for whoever reported the bad conditions at my old home.  Until I got to Old Friends I didn’t know what life should be like.”

Swan’s Way   “I am still thankful for the Boston Red Sox winning the Series a few years ago. Hey, we BoSox fans have to savor our victories for a long time!”

EscapedfromNewYork   “Go Yankees!”

Bull inthe Heather   “I am thankful for whoever invented my special shoes.  I can run around nearly as fast as Commentator.  Well, I think I’m nearly as fast.”

Commentator   “What’s he talking about?  He can’t outrun me.  I smoke these old geezers!   Got any mints?  By the way, love, love, love it here.  Do you have any idea how many people feed you treats? And you don’t have to actually race—just run around some and they oooh and ahhh.  Amazing.”

Black Tie Affair   “I’m thankful for every day I have.”

Klassy Briefcase   “Janet loves me.  I am grateful for that. I love her, too.”

Williamstown    “I deserve this life.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled and thankful Michael took me in, but still, I deserve this.   Now leave me alone.”

Smokey Stover    “I’m thankful I came to Old Friends.  Greeting people is my new career and I am going to be really, really good at it.”

Du Pars   “What he said!  Is that cellophane I hear?”

Awad   “I am thankful that I look so mahhvelous.  Don’t you think I look great–really, really great?  And who is that red-haired kid who thinks he is so special?  Kiri, do you know who he is?”

Kiri’s Clown  “I think his name is Tator.  What kind of name is that?  By the way, I’m thankful for anyone who will scratch my back.  I can never get that spot right behind my withers. “

Sunshine Forever   “Glad I came back home to Kentucky from Japan.  I am the greatest horse who ever lived, you know.  Michael tells me that all the time.”

Popcorn Deelites   “I’m just thankful the movie people found me and recognized my inherent acting talent.  So many actors never get a big break in this business.  Now does anyone know what happened to my residuals?  Do I need an attorney?”

Special Ring   “Mostly I am thankful that Awad is next door—he’s such an easy target and I can get him so wound up.  It’s too much fun!”

Bonnie’s Poker   “No more babies. Thank god!”

Glitterman   “I love it here, don’t get me wrong. But I am mostly thankful that darn Makor’s Mark horse got moved to another paddock.  He just plain irritated me.”

Creator   “Pears. Pears are good. Carrots.  Grain. Mints and horse treats. Stop trying to pat me. And I don’t do kisses.”

Benburb    “Naps in the sunshine.  Those are my favorite.”

Silver Charm   “Oh, where to begin?  I am thankful that Michael brought me here, of course.  I adore Diane, and I love all the people who come to visit me.  I kind of like that silver horse that lives in the stall next to my paddock.  We talk, a lot.  I am thankful my photo is hanging in the jock’s room at Keeneland.  It was a lifetime goal for me, you know?  But mostly, I guess I speak for all the horses here at Old Friends when I say that we are thankful for all the love from you, our fans and visitors.  We wouldn’t be here without you and your incredible support; it means everything to us.  Please visit us—we’d love to show you around and introduce you to our staff and volunteers.   We are so proud of our farm and the work we are doing to raise awareness about finding homes for all retired racehorses.   I promise kisses for everyone when you visit. “

Well, there you have it.  Val will be back blogging next week. In the meantime, thanks for spending this Thanksgiving with Old Friends.  We can’t wait until you visit us!

-The Wicked North

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Sunday November 22, 2009

It’s hard to believe this week is Thanksgiving.  Maybe the horses are feeling the imminent arrival of winter as well, because to a horse, they were either very affectionate or downright cranky!  Some of them (yes, I am talking about you, my little Tator-head!) managed both.

No tours this morning, so I had some time for treat-free visiting.  I think the “treat-free” is probably what set Commentator off, because he was just plain irritated this morning.  I guess he figured he walked all the way across his paddock to see me and all he got was a pat on the nose?  He was not happy about that one bit.  He pushed me away and walked off in a huff.  He was much better this afternoon, though.  He kept trying to get my ball cap off my head.  Thinks he’s funny, that one; the more people laughed the more he tried.  On a farm full of characters,  he is as big a ham as any of them.

 On the other hand, Jade Hunter didn’t care at all that I had no treats. He rubbed his face against me and laid his head on my shoulder while I patted his forehead.  He was perfectly happy with just the attention.  Gramps was the same way, although even without carrots he shared plenty of slobber with me.  Clever walked part way over, didn’t see a bucket and turned right around.   If you walk around without treats, you quickly learn which horses actually like you, and which ones just want carrots.  It can be a bit of an ego deflater!

A new gelding arrived this week.  His name is Seek Gold and he is an almost-millionaire son of one of my favorite racehorses, Touch Gold.  Touch Gold stands at Adena Springs, where they affectionately call him by several names, all referring to Touch Gold’s penchant for biting.  I say this because my first impression of Seek Gold is that he inherited some of dad’s traits!  He tried to bite me right off, although once we got past that he seemed to settle down.   Still, for the sake of my skin there will be no kisses for him, at least not anytime soon!  Seek Gold is next door at the annex farm and he’ll settle in fast enough, I’m sure.  Here is a link to his pedigree:  http://www.pedigreequery.com/seek+gold.

Speaking of the annex farm, I have to say that a couple of the horses there are really blooming. First of all, Benburb is fat.  I don’t mean kind of chubby or sort of well-fed.  Nope, he is plain rotund.  What a happy horse—I saw him stretched out in the sunshine today, with his friend Smokey Stover standing guard.  Smokey also looks amazingly good—his winter coat literally looks like velvet.  Smokey is a very clean horse–no mud to mar his pretty coat.  There must be something about those black California horses because it reminds me of another black horse from out west–our late, great Ruhlmann, who also had a streak of vanity.

Klassy Briefcase is settled in at the new place.  As you know, the other mares had been pretty mean to her and I think maybe she was kind of depressed after that experience.  But now that she has a spacious paddock all to herself, she has just blossomed.  Klassy is fairly arthritic, as many older horses are, but she galloped over to see us this afternoon.  It was great to see her feeling so good.  The other recent arrival, Du Pars, has gotten a barn name.  Because “Du Pars” doesn’t seem to work as a barn name, we are calling him Luke.  And unlike some of the other (spoiled!) horses who require carrots to come see me, Luke came right over every time I went to see him.  No treats required!   I think he is going to be one of those off-the-track horses, much like Danthebluegrassman, who settle into Old Friends life and never want to leave.  Plus, he’s pretty and I just like him!

People on tours this afternoon kept commenting on how playful the horses are.  It’s true—they act like we exist solely for their amusement.  Sunshine tugged on my sweatshirt sleeve and licked my hand.  Awad ran and kicked the fence with a loud boom, eliciting gasps from the visitors.  Pops and Ring raced back and forth, high-kicking like equine Rockettes.   Will’s Way ran along his fence line, tossing his head and snorting.   All in all, there was plenty of activity to entertain everyone.

Thanks for spending another Sunday with Old Friends; we hope you can visit us sometime soon.   Lastly, best wishes to everyone for a very Happy Thanksgiving!

-Val

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Sunday November 15, 2009

Autumn is such a wonderful time to visit a horse farm, and today was just about the nicest fall day you could ask for.   Today’s tours were small at Old Friends, and small groups make for a more up close and personal experience.   Despite the small groups, however, it was an international day as we had visitors from Scotland, Ireland, and Korea, as well as New Orleans, Kentucky and Vermont.  With sunshine, warm temperatures and little wind, walking the farm was a treat all day long.

The horses were a lot of fun. They usually are, but today everyone seemed to be in a terrific mood and there was a good deal of showing off going on.  Awad was at the far end of his paddock looking bored this afternoon, and I told the group to watch him.   The situation was perfect for one of his favorite moves—running across his paddock and rearing to a stop in front of the visitors. Sure enough, all of a sudden Awad burst into a gallop and headed our way.  Everyone oohed and ahhed over him, which is exactly why he does it.   Awad is nothing if not a ham!

And speaking of hams, Bull ran over to us not once, but twice today.  I said it last week, but he looks terrific.   His coat has gone pretty much completely white and less flea-bitten (that term refers to the tiny little brown spots in a gray coat, not actual flea bites!) His mane and tail are kind of a warm gray color.  Where Black Tie Affair is silvery white, Bull is kind of a creamy white.  They are two different colors of gray, but equally handsome.  And I say that even though Bull did threaten to bite me today.

Will’s Way, Sunshine and Commentator all did their share of running today.  Being young and just recently retired, Tator likes to show off by running, bucking and kicking.  I think he took a few laps for every tour today, like Awad having quickly learned that he gets more admiration when he looks the part of a big, bad racehorse.   Even when it was time for him to come inside for the night, he did his best to avoid being caught.  But after a couple of minutes the promise of dinner won out and he was ready to be caught. 

I had a few extra minutes today to take a golf cart ride up to the back of the farm.  I haven’t seen the gang in the back 40 for a while and it was nice to visit them.  Kudos came right over to say hello.  I really like him and I could happily take him home to live in my suburban backyard.  Probably not a great idea, but I’m just saying I could!   Affirmed Success and Futural came right over but Siphonizer was too busy eating to bother.   As usual, the mares ignored us, although Cozy Miss was near enough to the fence to wander over for a carrot.  I said hello to Polish Navy and Glitterman.  Williamstown was back over his little hill, hiding.  And the three musketeers—Mighty Mecke, Wallace  Station and Bluesthestandard–had no interest in us at all. 

I missed it, but Tim said he saw Fortunate Prospect running today.  Mostly you just get a little jog or a slow canter from him, but he must have been feeling especially good today.  Even Kiri cantered over to us today, although that was probably in response to Awad’s shenanigans.  (And by the way, Kiri’s grandson Get Stormy won his fourth race in a row today.  Grandpa Kiri is so proud!)   Sunshine, Will’s Way, Clever—they all ran over for carrots today.  It was just that kind of day. 

A little girl named Anna asked me this afternoon if horses tell us how they are feeling.   Of course they do, and I tried to explain it to her.  But what I should have told her is this:  when the horses run over to see us, bucking, rearing and playing, when their coats are shiny and their ears are pricked, when they gobble carrots and let us kiss their noses, they are telling us they are happy.   I don’t think they could make it any clearer if they spoke out loud.

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

-Val

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Sunday November 8, 2009

Today might have been the perfect weather for horses—70 degrees, sunny, a nice, fresh breeze.  It wasn’t too shabby for people either!  The grass is still green and the ground is dry but not hard.   It was a slow visitor day, only two tours, but there was a lot of action to see.   This morning some people adjacent the farm were flying a kite.  All the horses in that area were absolutely fascinated.  Creator just stood and watched (sensible!) but Flick, Dan, Pops and Ring thought it was a good reason to snort and run around.  At one point or another today a lot of the horses were running and bucking, including Swannie, Escaped, Will’s Way, Clever and Awad.  Commentator really put on a show this afternoon– running, bucking and rearing up repeatedly.  He is a serious show-off. 

This morning we started out with a walk behind the office to see Proper Reality, Regal Sanction, Commentator, and Bull.  Bull looks really good this fall.  His coat is almost pure white, and his mane and tail are a silver-gray.  He loves his treats as much as ever and he actually waited fairly patiently when we turned to focus on Tator.  Although patient for Bull still means banging on the fence and tossing his head, at least he didn’t try to bite anyone! 

We continued the morning tour with a walk straight back behind the barn. Along the way we met up with Clever, Ogygian, Gramps and Jade Hunter.  Clever’s gal pal Klassy has moved to the new farm and I’m not sure how he feels about it.  He seemed happy enough, munching carrots and having his face rubbed, but I notice he wasn’t hanging out at the far end of his paddock.  Since Black Tie Affair was in the small pen instead of Klassy, you can’t really blame him! 

Speaking of Klassy, she has a nice big field all to herself over at the new farm.  Eventually she’ll have a friend I would imagine, but for now I think she really loves her space.  No mean mares to pick on her, lots of grass and plenty of space to wander.  When I saw her this morning she was peacefully napping in the sunshine.

Horses continue to move into the new farm’s paddocks.  Among them is a horse just off the racetrack, by the name of Du Pars.  I would imagine he’ll find himself with a barn name but for now he is just Du Pars. He is on stall rest for an injured ankle, so I took him out for some hand grazing today.  He could not stop looking at everything.  He’d absolutely stuff his mouth full of grass and then pick up his head, prick his ears and look all around while he chewed.  Cars on the road?  He watched them for as long as he could see them.  Helicopter fly-by?  He stared right up in the air at it.  Birds?  Fascinating.   He pretty much ignored the other horses, though.   Apparently he’s seen plenty of horses; it was the other stuff that enthralled him.  Oh, and mints.  Once he figured out I had mints, he kept rubbing against me looking for more.   I was his new best friend!  Du Pars is a dark brown horse with four white feet.  He is a very handsome boy and I really liked him.

Among our visitors this afternoon were a nice couple from the Saratoga area. They were big racing fans who remembered Kiri, Awad, Will’s Way and all of our older horses who raced so successfully at Saratoga.  I always enjoy introducing people to horses they actually saw race.  Kiri especially enjoys having his fans scratch his back, and Awad manages to look especially fabulous when someone remembers him.  It’s like he knows he has a fan admiring him.

Will’s run-in shed was being repaired today and while he did come over for treats, most of his afternoon was spent supervising the repairs.  He just stood near the activity, keeping an eye out to make sure everything was done to his satisfaction.   The other new horse we got this week is in a paddock across from Sunshine.  His name is W. C. Jones. He is a big bay gelding and he followed along with the tour group like an old professional treat hound!

I can’t blog today without mentioning Zenyatta.  Congratulations to her and her connections on her Breeder’s Cup Classic win yesterday.  She is just awesome.

Also, today is my parents’ wedding anniversary; Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad!

Fall is such a great time to visit the farm, and we hope you can visit us soon.  In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends!

-Val

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Sunday November 1, 2009

Today, on a lovely bright fall day, Old Friends began moving horses onto our new annex adjacent to the existing farm.   The new place is lovely, peaceful and green with a great view across the hill to the main farm.  Most of the horses who will reside at the new place have been boarded off the main farm, although some horses currently at the main farm will move as well. The shuffling of spots will allow horses who need stall space to get it.  For our more timid souls, like Early Pioneer, AP Slew and Klassy Briefcase, having more possible paddock configurations gives them their own space away from the mean boys and girls who pick on them.   

Tour of the Cat was among the first to move today.  Marshall Rooster, Sgt Bert, Sea Native, and Shadow Caster moved this afternoon as well.   Moving over the next few days will be Smokey Stover, his pasture buddy Benburb, the team of Judge’s Case and Mark of Success, and Klassy Briefcase.  Eventually, we’ll have, I think, 20 horses at the new farm which is across from Kiri’s, Will’s and Leave Seattle’s paddocks.  It will add another dimension to tours since we have any number of potential loops to make, all with different horses to see.   If you have a specific horse you want to see when you come to the Old Friends, you’re going to have to tell your tour guide before you start, because there is no way to see every horse on the farm in an hour!  Although we have many wonderful racehorses like Commentator, Black Tie Affair, Awad, Will’s Way, Bonapaw, Kudos, and Sunshine Forever, we have even more horses you probably never heard of.  If you have never been to Old Friends, you’ll be amazed.

Hmmm.  I suppose we need a name for the new place.  In any case, I stopped over there to see Tour of the Cat this afternoon. He was standing in his new stall, gazing out the door.  After he inhaled a couple of mints, I ran a brush over him.  He has such a soft winter coat.  Some of the horses get coarser hair in the winter but Tour’s coat is very soft.  I am not sure he initially liked being brushed, as he halfheartedly tried to bite me.  But we had a nice discussion about appropriate behavior, and he amended his attitude.  After that, I think he really enjoyed the attention. 

The horses are all adorned with their winter fuzz, but in the bright sunshine today you could still see dapples on Pops and Commentator.  Probably more of the horses are soft and shiny but it’s hard to tell under all the mud!  We have had so much rain nearly every horse is covered from head to tail.  Some folks this afternoon remarked there were only two relatively mud-free horses on the farm.  The first would be Creator, who is far too vain to get dirty like a common Thoroughbred.  He was almost perfectly clean.  The second nearly clean horse was Commentator.  He has an image to uphold for his fans, I guess.  Speaking of Tator, call his name and he throws his head up and comes right over.  He loves his adulation!  Actually, now that I think about it, Smokey was also very clean.  He is in a stall during the day and he sure loves having people come to his door with treats.  He is already putting on some weight and he looks gorgeous.

And in a new development this week, the dirtiest horse was not Swannie!  The dirtiest, muddiest, filthiest horse was Black Tie Affair.  Since his acupuncture treatments have helped his arthritis so much, he just loves to roll in the mud.  It was cold this morning when he went outside and he was wearing a blanket.  So in addition to having mud in his mane, his tail, all over his neck, face and legs, his lovely blue blanket was covered as well.  I briefly thought about cleaning him up but it was just too much to contemplate.

It was a busy day at Old Friends, that’s for sure.  The busiest tour season is winding down, but in truth, fall and early winter are great times to visit the farm.  Tour groups are smaller and you can spend time really getting to know the horses.  We hope you can visit us soon. In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends!

-Val

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