Monthly Archives: January 2010

Sunday January 24, 2010

I am almost positively sure it has rained every Sunday for the past two months in central Kentucky. Except perhaps for the couple of frigid Sundays when it snowed, we have been completely waterlogged every weekend in recent memory.  Today continued the damp trend, with rain falling virtually non-stop all day.  Paddocks are wet and soggy—walking around feels like stepping on saturated sponges.  Ponds are overflowing and water is running across roadways, making driving a bit hazardous.

At Old Friends, the horses each handle this weather differently.   I was sure Dan and Flick were going to slide right through the fence, as they were running and bucking like two big kids on a slip-n-slide.  If they aren’t sore tomorrow it’ll be a miracle.  I wonder if Commentator raced well in wet weather, because he was happy as can be today.  Completely covered in thick, slippery mud, he came at a run for his mints.  He looked like he was having some kind of mud wrap body spa treatment!  No way was I patting him, either—there was no clean part of him to touch.   At one point I heard pounding hooves from farther back on the farm–in the rain and low clouds, the sound echoed until you couldn’t really tell where it came from.  

The older guys were less enthusiastic about the rain–not unhappy, mind you–just more sensible.  Clever Allemont was cozied up in his run-in shed, with barely a whisker to be seen.  Gulch could care less about the weather—he was out grazing like it was a bright, sunny day.  Swannie stood in the middle of his field, looking wet and bedraggled, taking a nap.  Fortunate Prospect came over for carrots, his long shaggy coat dripping on top but wondrously dry when I burrowed my fingers underneath.  Of course, if Gramps is getting carrots, Proper Reality is right across the way, waiting for his share as well.  Even Will’s Way bowed to the rain and went into his shed.  I’ve seen Will stand behind, in front of, and next to his shed.  I don’t think I have ever seen him actually go inside it!

The dogs seemed happy enough in the rain.  Shane and Jake actually laid down in the grass, pretty much impervious to the wet.  Marley ran around in the mud, following me from horse to horse.  Only Duncan, who was confined to the back seat of Janet’s car, was fairly dry.

We had one tour today, a mother and daughter team who met in Lexington for a visit before heading back to their respective cities.  Of course the hardest downpour occurred while they were here. They especially wanted to meet Clever, but no way, no how was he coming out of his shed!  We mostly visited with Norty, Wallenda and Black Tie Affair, inside and out of the weather.  

I spend a lot of time talking about our more well-known residents; in large part this is because so many people remember their racing careers and ask about them.  Still, Old Friends is home to any number of lesser-known horses.  Among our newer residents is a young stallion named Gasconade.  He is a beautiful son of War Chant who was injured on the track and recently retired as a result.  Since he is on stall rest until his leg heals, he is dry and mud-free—a real bonus of late!  I spent some time with him today, running a brush over him and just enjoying his company.  He is a nice, friendly horse who loves attention, with a beautiful reddish bay coat and a pretty face.  Probably no one has ever heard of him—he won a few dollars less than $60,000 in his 13 race career.  So many times people talk about how “hyper” Thoroughbreds are.  But here is a 6 year old stallion, stall-bound for weeks now, and he is easy to be around, sensible, and kind.  There are so many ex-racehorses like him, who with TLC would make someone a terrific friend.  They all deserve homes.

I have to finish with another note from Summerwind Farm across the road.  Since it is baby horse season, a couple of us Old Friends volunteers went over to see a brand new arrival, less than 24 hours old.  He was all wobbly and sleepy, and adorable.  I also met their broodmare Fleet Indian, a really grand racehorse who was Eclipse Champion Older Mare in 2006.   Like so many of the great race horses, she barely deigned to acknowledge the human peon, finally accepting a mint and a pat from me.   

But the surprise treat at Summerwind today was meeting Ziggy the Zebra.  In addition to breeding racehorses, Summerwind is an animal rehabilitation facility and Ziggy is a permanent resident.  He lives in a large field with three donkeys.  He is clearly a character!  Apparently, he bites, he kicks, and in general acts like the non-domesticated wild animal he is.  Nevertheless, despite his nature, Ziggy does like some things about humans.  Specifically, he likes carrots, vanilla wafers, and we discovered today, peppermints. So, I was able to get up close and personal, giving Ziggy two mints—striped candy for the striped horse.  Zebras definitely appeal to the kid in all of us!  And as cool as I thought it was, Tim Ford had even more fun.  He was able to sneak a couple pats to Ziggy’s nose before the teeth came out.  He must have told me ten times that he “patted a zebra!”  Way to go, Tim!

Despite the weather, it was a fun albeit damp, day at Old Friends.  We are eagerly anticipating spring and the gearing up of tour season.  There are so many new horses, and old favorites, to visit!  We hope you will come to see us soon.  In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends.

-Val

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Sunday January 17, 2010

After a long couple weeks of unusually cold weather in central Kentucky, this week the weather took a turn for the better.  Temperatures slowly moderated all week, culminating in the low 50s yesterday and….gray, damp, unrelenting rain today.   While it was still in the 40s, today was no one’s idea of a picture pretty day!

Not that the horses mind, of course.  There was plenty of mud to entertain everyone, and compared to the previously frigid temperatures, the rain felt nearly warm.  Okay, I am greatly exaggerating, but the horses did seem very happy.  I, however, didn’t relish the idea of walking around in a January rain.

We had a large tour bus visit this morning, about 50 folks from Nebraska.  It was pouring at the time, so no one wanted to be outside.  Luckily, there are four (well, maybe three, as I’ll explain) horses in the main barn who loved the company.  Michael introduced Black Tie Affair, who ate his carrots and then nearly knocked Michael over when he didn’t get refills quickly enough.   When the first shove drew loud laughter, Blackie tried the same trick twice more.  You think he was playing to the crowd?  Oh yeah.

After Blackie, I introduced the crowd to Gulch.  Gulch checked everyone out and was in no way intimidated by 50 Cornhuskers.  He took it all in, eating his carrots and a couple mints with his ears pricked, wondering what all the fuss was about.  I am really looking forward to spring tour season because he is going to love the attention.   Yet another ham, because apparently we specialize in them!

And then we get to the horse that could care less about company.  Wallenda was napping–need I say more?  He had his back to us and didn’t even move an ear.  I tried; I did. I even went into his stall and attempted to roust him.  Nope.  Nothing.   Finally, finally, when most of the group had moved on to Tim and The Wicked North, he reluctantly got up and came over.  He had some carrots, took a drink of water and turned his back on us again.  This is a horse who loves his routine, and it was naptime, darn it.  We disrupted him.

Thankfully, Norty was happy to be patted and admired.  Even covered in mud, everyone remarked on his beauty. There is something about Norty; he looks so smart and dignified I guess. People always notice, and I watch people try to put it into words and end up saying just that he’s beautiful.  But really it’s something more than that.  He has such presence.

A couple of horses have switched paddocks, not that you’d necessarily notice, given the amount of mud covering everyone.  Fortunate Prospect moved back in his original paddock behind the office a couple weeks ago.  This week, Bull moved to the large paddock behind Ogygian (one of the prettiest stallion paddocks on the farm to my thinking; Williamstown has the other).  Gulch is in Bull’s old paddock, next to Commentator during the day and Norty at night.   

Commentator was running around screaming all morning—between the warmer weather, the bus full of visitors and the neighborhood changes, he was all wound up.  I kind of hate to say it, but Tator is like a spoiled child—he fully expects to be the center of attention all the time.  Considering that he hasn’t yet gone through a full busy summer tour season, I can’t imagine what he’ll be like with 100 or more visitors every day.   Maybe that is why he was such a good racehorse—his competitive nature makes him want to be the first and best at everything, even eating treats and greeting people!  But he came at a run for his mints today, and he looks great underneath all that mud.  He is such a large, exuberant personality–he demands that you notice and interact with him.  

I saw my first baby of 2010 today, as Tim and I ran across the road to Summerwind Farm to see a week-old grandson of Jade Hunter.  He was adorable as only baby horses are– bright chestnut with a white face.  After a little nap he got up, had some milk and then nibbled on some of his mom’s hay.  I look forward to seeing him grow up and race someday.

Well, that is my rain-shortened report for today.  I can’t wait for kinder weather, and here in central Kentucky we’ll start to notice early signs of spring in February.  We have so many wonderful horses to introduce people to:  famous ones like Gulch and Commentator, as well as not so famous ones like Leave Seattle, Mighty Mecke, and Malibu Mix.  We hope you will be able to visit us soon.  In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends.

-Val

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Sunday January 10, 2010

Taking a week off from the blog–be back next weekend, maybe with some wintertime photos from the farm if the weather cooperates and the sun shines!  In the meantime, stay warm and have a great week. 

-Val

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Sunday January 3, 2010

There is cold, and then there is cold!  The frigid air covering much of the central part of the country has settled into central Kentucky as well.  You’d think the horses would be cold—I surely was—but they were all happily munching hay or napping.   When I arrived at the farm in today’s brisk 10-degree morning, Dan was laying down in the sunshine having a nap, as was Escaped.  Commentator was standing and napping in the sun across from Bull.  Proper Reality must love the cold because he was alternating between enthusiastically bouncing around and standing at attention, as he watched the farm tractor putter down the driveway.  Black Tie Affair wears a nice cozy blanket, as do a couple of newer horses who don’t have thick winter coats.  But for the most part, the horses were nowhere near as cold as the people.

If you read my post from a couple days ago, you know that we gelded two horses this past week.  My pal Lukas, who normally comes right over when I call, wanted no part of me this morning.  He clearly let me know he did not forgive me for being part of his surgery.  He picked up his head when I called, then very deliberately turned his butt to me.  Boy, do they let us know how they feel!   Luke made his point, and this afternoon before I left the farm I stopped to see him again.  This time he came over and nuzzled me.  So, I guess we’re good.

One of the things that always amazes me is how new horses pair off and become friends.  When Smokey Stover arrived, we paired him with Benburb.  They are BFFs now, the black horse and the white one.  More recently, Seek Gold and a horse named W.C. Jones paired up.  The two of them stood down by the main road today, watching traffic go by. They seemed quite entertained.  Although maybe the mares across the road at Summerwind had something to do with it!  Our newest pairing is Tour of the Cat and a gelding named Malibu Mix.  They began sharing a paddock this week and they are already pals. 

And let me just say this:  on a farm full of pretty horses, Smokey Stover is among the most stunning.  He was standing at the fence today, with his neck arched and the wind blowing his tail, as he snorted at Luke.  You just have to stop and stare.  

Wallenda and Gulch are still side-by-side in the big barn.  I brushed Wallenda, as usual, and Gulch peered at us between the boards in the stall.  So I went in to run the brush over Gulch, and Wallenda kept a close eye on things between the same gap in the boards.  I suppose it is human nature to look for similarities between father and son, and since Wallenda is my boy, I am inclined find those comparisons.  Wallenda has Gulch’s wide, short, fuzzy, ears and their heads are much the same shape.   Both horses eat peppermints the same way—they kind of suck on them for a bit before crunching them up.  Now, I’m pretty sure peppermint-eating styles are not hereditary, but it was interesting nonetheless!

We are settling into what is predicted to be a long, cold week.  In this kind of weather, there is something wonderful about burrowing your fingers into a long winter coat to feel the horse’s body heat, or having a horse nuzzle your cold face with his warm breath.   Old Friends is open for tours all year, including during the winter.  We hope you can visit us soon.  In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends.

-Val

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