Monthly Archives: March 2010

Sunday March 28, 2010

You have heard what they say about the weather in Kentucky, right?  “Wait ten minutes and it’ll change.”  How true it was this weekend!  Yesterday was a beautiful, sunny, pleasant day with temperatures in the 60s.  Today, it was not so great:  chilly, wet, and gray, the total opposite of Saturday.  I was at the farm both days, and I can tell you yesterday was far more enjoyable!

Saturdays are not my tour day, so I spent my time hanging out with the horses.  First, I tried to help Janet catch W.C. Jones, who of late hasn’t wanted to be caught.  Jonesy is in a large paddock with my pal Luke, as well as Thornfield and Hussonfirst.   It didn’t go well.  Luke thought I was in his field to play. He knows I carry mints.  Husson wanted to be fussed over.  He kept sticking his head over my shoulder begging to be patted.  Thornfield did not help.  Every time Jonesy even thought about coming to get that peppermint, Thornfield gave him the evil eye and chased him off.  I spent the better part of an hour trying to push Husson and Luke off me, and I never did catch Jonesy.  But it was a nice day, I got a little exercise, and there’s always next time.

After that futile effort I thought I should spend some time with an “easy” horse, so I went back over to the main farm to brush Black Tie Affair.  Blackie was outside in Silver Charm’s paddock enjoying some sunshine, and his white winter hair is shedding off rapidly.  Blackie let me know exactly where he most enjoyed the brushing—he loves being brushed down underneath his neck, from his throat to his chest. But he understandably doesn’t like pressure along the sides of his neck where his tumors are most noticeable.  He loves being brushed along his spine but not so much down his back legs.  If I brushed where he liked, he closed his eyes and stood like a statue. If I got too close to his tender spots, he swung his head around and gave me an irritated look.  There was no mistaking what he was telling me.  And after I was finished with him, I had white hair in my mouth, stuck to my hair, tickling my nose and about everywhere else!

I also took some time to brush Early Pioneer.  Outside of feeding him treats on tours, I have never spent much time with him.  He is in the barn recovering from some foot issues, and he is shedding like a buffalo.  It seemed like a good time to get to know him a little more.  Now, I can say from personal experience he is a really nice horse.  He was happy with the company, laying his head on my shoulder and letting me rub his face.  He is shedding so much hair that a couple swipes of the curry and it filled with thick chestnut hair.  I’d have to stop to shake out the brush.  You get in a rhythm—curry, curry, shake, curry, curry, shake.  It’s peaceful and relaxing.

After such a nice day yesterday, we had to contrast it with today’s chilly rain.  This morning we had a family of four come for a tour.  Of course it rained–to some degree–the entire time.  But the kids pretty much ignored the rain, feeding carrots, pretending to drive the golf cart, and running with the dogs.  When the kids started to look cold and wet, we cut the tour a little short.  I still think they had fun.  But it did get pretty damp and chilly.

This afternoon the rain stopped long enough for a small tour—mom, dad and baby girl.  We visited the usual suspects—Tator, Norty, Wallenda, Academy Award and Blackie—initially not wandering far from the big barn, just in case the rain started up again.  When the sun tried to peek out, we got a little braver and saw Creator, Pops, Ring, Awad and Kiri.  Poor Dad turned his back on Awad just long enough for Waddy to take a grab at the back of his jacket.  No harm was done, and Dad was an extremely good sport about it.  He talked about it the rest of the tour.  I also noticed he gave Awad a wide berth as we walked along the rest of his fence.

I finished up my day with a visit across the road to Summerwind Farm. Their broodmare (and wonderful racehorse) Fleet Indian foaled a Distorted Humor filly this week, and I wanted to meet the new baby.  Oh, she is adorable!   A pretty bay with a crescent moon on her forehead, she let us pat her and then bucked and kicked around the stall while mom munched hay.  Not even a week old, and already a show-off!   Summerwind had a nice week—they bred the winner of yesterday’s Louisiana Derby, Mission Impazible.  His next start could well be the Kentucky Derby.

That’s about all from Old Friends for this week.  Another Sunday is gone, and April is nearly here.  Michael and Diane are headed to New York for next week’s Wood Memorial, where a day of recognition has been planned for racehorse retirement organizations.   They’ll have fun, I’m sure.  Keeneland’s spring meet begins next week and the Kentucky Derby is about a month away.  Spring is in full swing in Kentucky and tours have been getting busy.  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 March 21, 2010

We have daffodils!  Whoo hoo!  Spring has arrived in Kentucky, with the pastures getting greener every day and temperatures in the 60s most of the past week.  Not to mention how great it is to see those bright yellow daffodil blooms!  By this evening we are seeing the beginnings of a spring rain, but for most of the day it was lovely out.

And the horses just love this weather.   Most of them were hard pressed to decide what to do today—nap in the sun, graze the new green grass, or run and play?  Most of them opted to eat and play, but Fortunate Prospect chose the nap.  He stretched right out on his side and snoozed away.  Gramps is shedding his winter hair in great clumps—it’s all over his paddock and along the fence where people visit him.   As I patted him this afternoon, you could grab big handfuls of loose hair and let it blow away in the wind. 

But Gramps isn’t the only horse shedding, and most of them especially enjoy it when we scratch their itchy spots.  On this morning’s tour, Kiri turned his butt to us.  I think the people on the tour were a little taken aback until I explained that Kiri wanted us to scratch his itchy back.  So all three of us found a spot and started scratching.  Talk about a happy horse.  Unfortunately, that was yet another reason for Awad to get jealous.  Waddy ran, he kicked and he bucked–anything to draw the attention, and the carrots, back to him. 

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned how the persistent mud of winter has made Benburb look like some kind of washed-out palomino.  It isn’t just me who thinks that—one of the women on a tour today looked across the hill toward Bennie’s paddock and asked what color we call “that blonde horse.”  Vive de mudde, maybe??   Or maybe palomuddo… The only gray horses who are not blonde are Bull, who is nearly white, with his silver gray mane and tail, and Black Tie Affair who is the color of pearls.  Bull is too vain to get that dirty, and Blackie too sensible!

Ogygian, in his own way, helped set a visitor’s mind at ease today. Apparently her veterinarian has recommended her horse’s bad eye be removed, and she has been worried about doing that.  But she was amazed at how well Ogie manages with one eye, and I think she felt much better about having to take that step with her own horse.  I think Ogie was glad to help, because he stood patiently while she patted his face and fed him carrots.

There are a couple of horses who like to race the dogs—specifically Will’s Way loves to race Marley.  I wish I had a video camera, because this morning the two of them raced back and forth along the fenceline four or five times.  Will runs with his neck bowed and his face turned down to Marley, and Marley keeps an eye up on Will. They have a blast running side by side, the big bay horse and the little tan boxer.  It’s really cute, and I’m not saying that just because Marley is my dog!

One of the nice things about spring, besides the nicer weather of course, is that the new horses are finally getting to know what tours and buckets are all about.  Gulch pretty much comes over every time, and he is a very nice horse who is happy to be patted.  Of course, a few carrots and a mint or two aren’t too bad either!  The other horse who has settled right into the tour routine is Cherono.  (For better or worse, I want to call him Cherry Baby—like the old song! He might be stuck with Cherry, though.) Since being gelded and moving behind the office into Proper Reality’s old paddock, he has become a tour pro. He comes right to the fence and loves to be patted and fussed over.  He is a nice horse. 

Well, that wraps up another day at the farm.  We have been getting busier with tours, and as we head into April we’ll be into full-fledged tour season. Old Friends continues to do tours at 10 am, 1 pm and 3 pm daily.  We do appreciate reservations!   We hope you can visit us soon. In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends.

-Val

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Sunday March 14, 2010

Signs of spring continue to appear in central Kentucky—daffodils are 6 inches tall (not flowering just yet, though), trees are just beginning to bud, and paddocks are more green than brown.   With temperatures hovering in the 40s today, the soft rain of this weekend was more cool and spring-like than cold and wintery.

The horses are shedding winter hair in earnest now, and loose winter hair itches.  Itchy horses roll in the mud.  The resulting mud-covered, shaggy horses look as far removed from shiny racehorses as they ever will!  We have a photo poster in the office of Commentator winning some of his races.  Tator looked nothing like that sleek racing machine today.  He had mud stuck to him top to bottom, nose to tail. With mud matting his shaggy winter hair, he looked remarkably like some vampire-playing teen idol with carefully coiffed bed-head!

I spent much of my time inside the barns today—with the dampness and intermittent rain it was the place to be.  I watched Kent doctor and wrap Academy Award’s front leg.  I spent some time with Black Tie Affair, who was happily munching hay in his stall.  I think being able to get outside in the sunshine for a bit a couple of days this week did him a lot of good.   Wallenda got a good brushing.  He was covered in mud, too. 

This afternoon we had a tour with a bunch of kids.  Kids are my favorite visitors, since they always have the most fun with the horses.  One little guy named Jack had a blast, feeding carrots and apples to every horse he could reach.    The kids all wanted to race the horses, and most of the horses obliged.  First they raced Tator—who needs no excuse to run around and show off.  He loved having a bunch of laughing kids (and two dogs) running back and forth with him!  Before the end of the tour, nearly every horse the kids met ran at least a few strides.  The kids’ enthusiasm was infectious and I think the horses all picked up on it.   Even Leave Seattle came over to the fence at a canter; unusual in itself, but then he dropped his head and let Jack pat his nose.  Wonders never cease, but certainly Leave is plenty smart enough to know that Jack meant him no harm. 

Awad was pretty wound up—even a little obnoxious. He reared up and pawed at us as we stood at the fence, letting us know that he was unhappy that we would dare pay attention to Pops and Ring while we were in his royal presence. Of course, as soon as everyone gasped and backed up, Awad did it all over again.  He is a ridiculous, ridiculous ham.

Gulch came over to visit as soon as he saw us head his way.  He was kind and gentle taking carrots and letting the kids reach through the fence to pat him. Clever came over as well—maybe more than any of the stallions, he loves a tour with kids.  Norty was his usual patient self and Wallenda arched his neck, tossed his head and tried to look big and bad.  Academy Award came over to his stall door but was a little hesitant about taking carrots.  I suspect he maybe hasn’t been around kids a lot. He wasn’t unkind, just unsure of the protocol.

Blackie, of course, conversed with the kids and then we went over to meet Silver Charm.  Kent came out and kicked the soccer ball to him, and Charmie kicked it squarely back at him.  Dan, Flick, and Jade Hunter all enjoyed some attention.  Creator ignored us, barely even flicking an ear to see what was going on.   

Kiri’s Clown ran along side us as we made our way down to Sunshine and Will’s Way.  Will tried to bite me as I handed him a carrot, so no interacting with him today.  He was clearly cranky!  Sunshine hung his head over the fence to let all the kids pat him, and then raced with the kids up the hill toward Swan’s Way.   Swannie made out best of all, as one of the girls let him put his head into the carrot bucket and eat all he wanted.  He knows how to work the crowd.

A day that began as a quiet morning ended up being a loud and fun afternoon.  The horses were great, showing off the unique personalities that make them so fun to be around.  But if you ever think horses aren’t totally entertained by the silly people, guess again.  As much fun as the kids, dogs and I had with the horses, I know the horses had more fun with us.  No boring retirement at Old Friends!

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

-Val

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Sunday March 7, 2010

Finally!  There are tentative signs of spring in Kentucky.  With sunshine and temperatures in the upper 50s today, spring fever is grabbing hold of us all.   It was fun to see the different ways we all reacted to the weather—dogs, horses, and people!  Some horses napped–Fortunate Prospect stretched out in the sun for a couple of hours.  Even Swannie was down for a nap, although he rousted himself for carrots.  Commentator, Pops and Ring ran around.  Gulch found a barely-there little patch of  fresh green grass and picked every tiny blade clean.  Clever was fascinated by the new baby calves next door, watching them intently.

This morning, Janet and I, along with dogs Jake, Marley and Shane, took a walk all the way up to the “back 40” paddocks.   Shane and Marley ran back and forth like they hadn’t been outside in months; thankfully Jake is more sensible and sedate.  As we walked up the hill handing out pats and mints, it was great to see the horses beginning to really shed winter hair.  Mighty Mecke, Bluesthestandard and Wallace Station all look pretty fuzzy still, Wallace Station most of all.  Glitterman, still shaggy, came over to say hello but Polish Navy was laying down for a nap.  He ignored us completely. 

I discovered that Janet has a secret soft spot for Williamstown.  She told me she thinks he is the coolest horse.   I’d have to agree.  He is sensible, doesn’t get too worked up over anything and, as a bonus, he almost always comes over to say hello.  Not to mention that for sheer prettiness, it’s hard to match a handsome black horse with four white feet and a wide white blaze! 

Once we worked out way up to the back of the farm, pretty much every horse came over to say hi.  Kudos begged a couple of mints off me, and Bonapaw came over as well.  Futural, Affirmed Success and Northern Stone met us at the fence.  Siphonizer didn’t.  No big surprise there—that horse would be happy if he never had to deal with people again.  He subscribes to the Creator/Leave Seattle school of relationships:  feed me and leave me the heck alone.

Perhaps most surprising was that all the mares came over to say hi. Bonnie was first.  Let me tell you, it isn’t hard to see which of the mares rules that roost, since she is clearly getting the choicest hay.  Fat and shiny?  Oh yes!  She looks terrific for 28 years old. Bonnie seemed to enjoy having her face rubbed for a bit, too.   Cozy Miss wins the award for shaggiest winter coat.  I told Janet she looked like a buffalo!   Cozy’s winter coat is coming out by the handful; there are going to be some happy nesting birds that get their beaks on some of her hair.  Hidden Lake managed to look quite sleek despite the time of year—her bay coat is shiny, not too shaggy, and mostly clean. 

EscapedfromNewYork has moved to a paddock in the back, and he now has a friend.  He’s has been paired off with AP Slew, and they were hanging out today like best buds.  AP Slew tends to be picked on by the other geldings, so his pasture pals are chosen carefully.  Escaped does not have the sturdiest ankle, as it was broken at some point in his past.  Because of their issues, they were a good match.  As Janet said, Escaped doesn’t pick on AP Slew, and AP Slew doesn’t get Escaped all wound up.  It works perfectly.

Since the ground has thawed and the mud has gone from slippery and wet to kind of half-dried, all the paddocks are getting dragged in preparation for the grass to start growing.  Awad was having a grand time racing the tractor around his paddock this afternoon, running and snorting like he was outrunning a fire-breathing dragon.  It was really fun to watch, since Awad is as beautiful as any horse could be when he gets to showing off. 

We had a couple of tours this afternoon, and it was a fine day for a walk around a farm.  A young lady named Jenna visited with her mom, aunt and grandparents.  She came armed with a large bag of carrots and apples. She was a little scared at first, but by the time we got to Norty she was giving kisses like a pro.  She even snuck a couple kisses onto Awad’s nose and I think he was too shocked by it to react!  Since Jenna really wanted to pat some horses, we made our way around to the kind stallions-Clever, Norty, and Jade Hunter.  I think Jenna would happily have taken Jade home with her. 

But for me, the best part of a really great day was seeing Black Tie Affair spend the afternoon outside in the sunshine, in Silver Charm’s paddock.  Blackie checked out the entire space—even wandering into Charmie’s pony-sized run-in shed, before settling in to eat some alfalfa and greet the afternoon tours.  His winter blanket was off for the day, and with his coat shining silver in the sun and his beautiful tail nearly reaching the ground, he looked like some magical, mythical horse.  As you know, Blackie is ill, and every day we have him is a wonderful thing.  He looks great, all things considered, and he is as tough and brave as they come.  On a farm full of great, smart, classy horses, I think he is just something else entirely.

While Black Tie Affair was outside, Charmie spent the afternoon in Blackie’s freshly bedded stall where the straw was piled nearly as tall as he is. You could barely see any of Charmie– mostly his thick pile of white mane kind of floating through a big pile of straw!  Frankly, THAT was funny to see!  

The weather today reminded me that springtime isn’t far off, and our busy tour season is about to gear up.   We hope you can visit us soon, and when you do, we hope you leave having experienced a little bit of the magic the horses provide for us each and every day.  Thanks for spending this Sunday with OId Friends!

-Val

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