Monthly Archives: May 2010

Sunday May 23, 2010

Today was a beautiful day in Kentucky, with temperatures in the mid 80s and plenty of sunshine.  The horses are all adjusting to the summer-like temperature, which means there was very little activity.  Commentator actually walked along with us, instead of displaying his usual show-off antics.  Pops and Ring broke into a slow trot, for about three steps.  Then, it was back to a meander.   They know we’ll wait for them.  Ogygian spent most of the day inside his run-in shed–all we could see was his tail sticking out.

We had plenty of tours today, including the usual organized bus tours.  Visitors came from Illinois, New York, and Tennessee. One of the bus tours had folks from Canada and Argentina.

Black Tie Affair spent some time outside today, napping on the sun.  He doesn’t move around a lot, but he sure manages to follow the sunshine. He regularly turned from side to side, like he was at the beach working on his tan.  I’m sure the heat felt good on his old bones.  With Blackie outside in Silver Charm’s paddock, Charmie was inside the small barn in a clean, deeply bedded stall.  Charmie must have given up trying to move around in all that straw—he was hanging out on the edge of the stall, where he didn’t have to wade through straw as deep as he is tall. 

This morning one of the women on the tour remarked at how short the horses’ hair is.  The first horse we saw was Gramps, and at his age he is always a little shaggier than the younger boys, so maybe she thought his coat was the norm.  But by the time we got over to Pops and Ring (or more accurately, by the time they puttered over to us) she was patting some silky, shiny necks.  Awad’s coat is so shiny this year, a beautiful dark brown with red highlights.  Unfortunately, his next door neighbor Kiri’s Clown was covered in crusty dried mud.  He had mud balls in his mane, mud caked onto his back, and mud on his chest.  He really enjoyed the hard rain on Friday evening, judging from how much rolling he must have done.

The lone exception to the lack of activity today was Clever Allemont. With so much rain, the paddocks are being mowed pretty regularly, and this afternoon it was time to mow Clever’s space.  I’m not kidding here–we watched Clever play “chicken” with the tractor!  Clever stood in the tractor’s path until the tractor got right up to him, then he took off at a run half way around his paddock, only to stop and wait for the tractor to catch up. Then he did it all over again.  We watched him do this three or four times, laughing at him the whole time.  He was just having a blast, racing that tractor!  He sure feels good, for 28 years old. Or, as one of the men watching said, “hey, I can only hope to race a tractor when I’m 90!”

This afternoon I took a group into the big barn to see Academy Award, Wallenda and The Wicked North. As we stood outside Norty’s stall, one of the ladies was telling me how long it took her to become comfortable hand feeding her daughter’s horse. As she was telling me this, she was holding an opened can of Coke.  Well, guess what?  Norty, like any horse, has a nose for sugar.  He stuck his nose out and took a quick swipe of his tongue over that Coke can, trying to get a taste.  We poured a little into my hand and after a tentative test sip, he slurped it right up.  The poor lady wasn’t sure if she should drink out of her can anymore, but after awhile she bravely took a drink.  I assured her Norty has had all his shots!  You sure have to hide the sweets around these horses.  They can sniff them out quick as a wink– he’s no dummy, that Norty.

Next weekend is the long Memorial Day weekend, and I will be taking the weekend off from tour guide duties to entertain out-of-town company.   On Monday May 31, Old Friends will be hosting a tribute and memorial for the horses we’ve lost over the past year or so.  If you are in the area, please join us.  Details are on our website, www.oldfriendsequine.org.

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

-Val

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Sunday May 16, 2010

As I drove around central Kentucky this week, I noticed spring is passing into summer.  Tree leaves have lost the tender, bright green of spring and moved onto the darker, deeper green of summer.  Along roadsides, grass is knee high or better, and pastures are routinely being mowed.  And of course, it rained today, again.  The best I can say is today wasn’t a total washout, as we had tours and no one got too wet.   But the benefit of all this rain is the lush, thick grass.  In fact, the paddocks are so thick that when Fortunate Prospect stretched out for his daily nap, he sunk so far into the grass you could barely see him. 

The entire day—gray, low clouds, intermittent rain and drizzle, cool, calm air–was tailor-made for napping.  This morning I walked into the big barn intending to say hello to Wallenda.  First I saw The Wicked North, curled up for a nap.  Then, I saw Wallenda was down for the count.  Next in line, Academy Award was also sleeping.   Even Black Tie Affair, while still standing, had his eyes closed for a snooze.  I’m beginning to think they take naps on purpose, when they hear me coming!  

I ventured into Blackie’s stall with a soft brush, which he always enjoys.  He pretty much kept his eyes closed while I worked, only throwing irritated glances at me when I brushed some place he didn’t like.  After a few minutes I heard Wallenda get up, so when I was done with Blackie I went to run a brush over him.  I know I am biased, but Wallenda looks better than he has ever looked, since I’ve known him. His coat is soft, sleek and shiny.  He looks like he’s been in training—his muscles are well-defined and he is in great shape.   When he went outside this afternoon I tried to take a photo, but all I got was (yet another) picture of Wallenda with his ears flopping and his nose in my phone camera lens.

We had some really nice people visit today, from Ohio, Michigan, Illinois and West Virginia.  There were lots of questions about horses in general, and racehorses specifically.  Over the course of the afternoon, in between raindrops, we visited nearly all the stallions. Pops and Ring were inside their run-in shed, which I don’t think I have ever actually seen them enter. Not that they don’t still prefer treats, as they came right over when we walked up.  Dan and Flick spent most of the afternoon in their shed as well, especially during the rain showers. We did watch them canter across their paddock at dinner time late this afternoon.

At one point today someone asked if the stallions ever get lonely, since they can’t be with other horses.  No sooner was that question posed than Awad, Will’s Way, Kiri’s Clown and Sunshine Forever demonstrated the answer.  The four of them were hanging out where the corners of their paddocks intersect, apparently discussing the same things any retired guys would discuss over their morning coffee.   Truth be told, it wouldn’t surprise me a bit to find out they are actually gossiping about all of us!

A couple weeks ago, Siphonizer moved  from a large, group paddock at the back of the farm to a smaller, single paddock in front.  The reason for this?  Siphonizer refused to be caught, daring anyone to come near him and taking off at a run when anyone tried.  Finally, it was decided he needed to be separated from his pals so he could remember his social skills!  And now?  Siphonizer comes over for every tour, as pleasant and friendly as anyone could wish for.  He is so much more civilized.  Its funny how this works; some of the horses are friendly and approachable no matter where they are pastured.  Kudos always comes over, as does Affirmed Success, Futural and many of the other geldings.  But there are always a few who think they are wild horses!

Despite the rain, it was a nice day to walk around and meet the horses at Old Friends.  We hope you can visit us soon, but in the meantime thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends.

-Val

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Sunday May 9, 2010

Every day at Old Friends is fun for me, but some days are just more fun. Today was one of those days.  From beginning to end it was alternately peaceful, exciting, and awe-inspiring.  I hardly know where to begin!

First of all, the weather was pretty nice.  It was chilly this morning, but mostly sunny with those puffy white clouds drifting by.   It was beautiful—seeing a shiny bay horse up to his ankles in that intensely green grass, with the blue sky and bright sun shining between the white clouds, framed by the black Kentucky fences.   I felt like I walked into a painting.

I didn’t have a tour scheduled this morning, so I went visiting.  I stopped by the annex farm to see Luke, Smokey, Seek Gold and Klassy.  Then I went to the main farm intending to visit Wallenda.  He was sleeping, and I’ve learned waking him up is guaranteed to make him grumpy.  Academy Award and Norty were also sleeping, and Blackie was napping outside in the sun.  No fun there.

Looking for someone who was awake, I wandered over to the small barn and Glitterman.  G-man’s arthritis is making it difficult for him to be outside in a larger paddock, so he gets the plush inside life with outside time in a smaller space.  I’ve always liked Glitterman; he’s a cute little guy, but I can’t say I’ve spent much one-on-one time with him.  I visit him with tours of course, and he is unfailingly friendly.  I just never really knew him, I guess.  But today, I thought I’d take a brush to him.  And here is the first thing I discovered about him:  he is a puppy dog.  Really!  If he was the size of, say a Pekinese, I believe he’d crawl right into your lap.  But since he is the size of a (smallish) horse, he makes do with leaning on you. Laying his head on your shoulder is good.  Or even just standing quietly with his eyes closed while you pat his neck is pretty terrific.  I am so doomed, again.  Everyone knows I love the boys with attitude– Wallenda and Commentator, among others.  But boy, am I a sucker for a puppy dog!

And this is the second thing I learned about Glitterman today.  He is a kid horse.  I had some kids visiting this afternoon and he dropped his head down so he can look the little ones right in the eye while he gobbled carrots.  Mind you, G-man is not that big, so it’s not that far down.  But still, he clearly loved interacting with the kids.  By the way, one of the tours this afternoon was some returning friends—Hayes, her little brother whose name I cannot possibly spell, and mom.  Brother made me laugh out loud as he called for Awad from across the paddock, “Awad, come here boy!”  Too cute!  It was good to see you all. 

I always enjoy having kids on tours, and I had a lot of them this weekend.  Yesterday I helped a bunch of Girl Scouts finish earning their Horse Badge.  The troop leaders felt that in addition to riding, the girls should learn a little about horse rescue, so we spent a couple of hours talking about racehorses, second careers and retirement. OK, so maybe it wasn’t quite that serious the whole time!  In addition to the rescue and retirement stuff, we had a great time meeting the horses and learning about their personalities. Blackie, Norty, Wallenda, Clever, Jade, Pops and Ring were our main professors.   Academy Award showed once again that he isn’t too sure about kids—until the girls quietly and calmly talked with him and gave him carrots.  After about two minutes of that, he just about walked out of his stall to get closer to the girls. They were terrific with him, and I think he learned a lot about interacting with kids. Well done, girls!  I also discovered (and maybe I should have known this) Commentator like girls.  I mean, he liked them a lot.  He gave kisses, he sniffed, he nuzzled.  He was a perfect gentleman, and he often is too busy showing off to be a gentleman.  So I was pleasantly surprised, I think.

Earlier this year, Maggie Mae Designs donated a series of designer Kentucky Derby Hats—you know, the fabulous ones women wear at the Derby.  Each of them was inspired by one of our retirees and they were sold online as a fundraiser for Old Friends. This afternoon, the folks who purchased the Sunshine Forever hat stopped in, hoping to be able to take a photo with Old Friends as a backdrop.  Backdrop, you say?  We can do better than that, so off we went to meet Sunshine.  I think mom, dad, kids, grandpa and grandma had a terrific time. Sunshine was such a ham.  He ate carrots and mints, told them how wonderful he is (The Greatest Horse Ever!) and posed with them for a family photo.  I believe Sunshine made some new friends today.  Grandpa was a retired sports newspaperman from Florida-he knew all our horses.   They were really nice people.  I know they’ll be back to visit.  And by the way, the hat?  It’s gorgeous!

I ended my day watching Commentator run back and forth in his paddock, waiting to be brought inside for his dinner.  He looked so beautiful, shiny and red, running fast and rearing to a stop right in front of me.  It’s not hard to understand why he was such a grand racehorse.  And no matter how many times I see the horses run and play, it never fails to take my breath away.  It’s such a privilege to know them.

That’s about all from the farm for today.  We hope you can visit us soon. In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends.

-Val

P.S. Happy Mother’s Day, to my mom and all the moms out there!

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Sunday May 2, 2010

Oh, the rain!  It rained all day Saturday.   It rained Saturday night.  It rained Sunday and it rained for our Homecoming on Sunday evening.  Rivers were flooded.  Roads were washed over.  And the skies just kept on dumping that rain.  (Of course, this morning, twelve hours later, the sun was shining and Monday turned out to be a gorgeous day.  Timing is everything.  Just ask Calvin Borel!)  Nevertheless, the grass is ridiculously green.  Leaves are lush and thick on the trees.  And the Homecoming party carried on last evening, despite the wet and humid weather.

As we drove up to the farm Sunday afternoon, it was funny to see the horses.  Some of them clearly didn’t mind the rain–I saw Will’s Way grazing happily, impervious to the two days of downpours.  Cherono, The Wicked North and Creator were all outside dozing, daydreaming, or grazing.  Gramps was in his shed, which is a sure sign he’d had enough wet.  Usually Dan and Flick are the first to head into their shelter when it rains, but after two days I guess they figured if they wanted to eat, they had to get wet!  Dan was soaked, his chestnut coat turned dark brown and his tail sodden and nearly dragging the ground.  The horses inside the barns, with time to dry off, were either covered in dried mud (Commentator) or soft and shiny clean from being out in the rain (Gulch and Wallenda).

Inside the big barn, the fun was underway.  Black Tie Affair was picking through his hay, keeping an eye out for wayward carrots.  Academy Award thought he’d died and gone to heaven—people lined up at his stall door to see him.  He got mints, carrots and attention.  He loved it!  He never left his stall door, making sure he didn’t miss greeting a single person.  Word of his friendliness spread, and he had a steady stream of admirers.  In the stall next door Wallenda, who has been through these events often, could care less. He turned his back to everyone and took a nap, irritated that his evening turnout schedule had been disrupted. 

At one point I took some people over to the small barn to see horses.  The lineup of horses in the small barn each night is amazing, when you stop to think about it.  Slip inside the door and Clever Allemont is on your left, munching hay.  Directly across from him, Commentator starts tossing his head and pawing for attention.  Next to Clever, Jade Hunter nickers, looking for carrots.  Glitterman peers out at you, wondering what the fuss is about.  Gulch comes over and presses his face against the door, wanting someone to rub his face.  How about that roster, all in one little barn? Only at Old Friends!

After Tator got his carrots, I asked him for a kiss, as I always do.  Yes, I know what you’re thinking.  “Big, bad, millionaire racehorse and she wants a kiss?”  It’s ridiculously silly, but I can’t help it.  He’s so darn cute.  (I bet there are people who knew him BOF, before Old Friends, who’d cringe if they read this!)  Anyway, usually he gives me a little nuzzle or a face rub in response.  This time I got a big, wet swipe of his tongue, chin to forehead, right through the bars on his door.  I’m pretty sure he was laughing at me when I sputtered and wiped my face.  I sure didn’t see the slobbery part coming. 

To raise money, we always have a silent as well as a live auction at our Homecomings—horse memorabilia, halters, “Moneigh” paintings, racing tickets, that sort of thing.  For those of you who haven’t ever seen a Moneigh, they are paintings done by the horses—using their lips, tails, hooves, and whiskers. The effect is a lot like a child’s finger paint version of an Impressionist’s work.  Last night we had paintings done by Sunshine Forever, The Wicked North, Commentator, Gulch, Black Tie Affair and Hidden Lake, among others.  Lake’s was especially artistic, I must say!

Every year, the live action part is undertaken by two of the auctioneers from Fasig-Tipton, who kindly come by and put on a show for us in the tent on the lawn.  They are terrific guys.  Last night, due to the rain, we had an “old-fashioned” auction scenario—the auctioneers stood on bales of straw in the big barn, and everyone crowded around to place bids.  I stood off to the side and thought it looked like a scene from a movie—“Seabiscuit” maybe, or some old John Wayne cowboy flick.  There was even a guy wearing a Stetson.  But the best part happened during the bidding for a Moneigh done by Fleet Indian, and I might have been the only person to notice this.  Still, I swear it’s true:  Black Tie Affair was trying to bid on the painting.  He tossed his head. He shook his mane.  He pawed at his stall floor. He did everything but scream.  Unfortunately, the auctioneers didn’t see him.   When I told them about it afterwards, they said, “Hey, he earned enough to afford it!”  Personally, I think he was trying to drive up the price to raise more money.  I know, I know.  I keep telling stories about Blackie, but he is that smart.

It was terrific to see everyone last night, especially the regular supporters who show up faithfully for all our fundraisers.  It’s gotten to be kind of like a family reunion—we get to visit with the “family” we only see once or twice a year.  I guess that’s the point of having a Homecoming, though.  I also enjoyed seeing a bunch of regular blog readers, some for the first time and others who I’ve met and known previously.  All in all, it was a lot of fun.  Now, if only we could order some better weather for next year!

I have to give a shout-out to Calvin Borel.  He is a real supporter of Old Friends and has been to the farm to visit and greet fans.  Winning three of the last four Kentucky Derbies is unbelievable.  It could not happen to a nicer, more genuine, and harder-working guy.   So, hat’s off to you, Calvin!  

Thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends, especially if you were at the farm this Sunday for Homecoming.  If you weren’t able to join us, we have more events coming up over the summer, so perhaps we’ll see you then.  In the meantime, from the bottom of our hearts and hooves, we thank you for all your support. 

-Val

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