We lost a great old mare at Old Friends today. Bonnie’s Poker was 28, a matriarch in every sense of the word when old age finally caught up with her on a hot, summer afternoon.
Bonnie retired to Old Friends in 2004, making her one of the farm’s earlier citizens. Late in her breeding career there was some dispute over her worth as a broodmare, and after some legal wrangling it was decided she could retire. Bonnie never looked back, becoming a fixture on the farm. Her long-time pal Narrow Escape died last year and while Bonnie carried on, I am not sure she ever stopped missing her best friend. I have no doubt the reunion of those two friends this afternoon was sweet.
Bonnie was the dam of ten babies, the most successful being 1997 Kentucky Derbyand Preakness winner Silver Charm. A good racehorse herself, Bonnie earned a little over $150,000 on the track and finished in the top three in 30 of 63 starts.
Among the things that always struck me about Bonnie is her close link to some kingly names in the Thoroughbred world. Man o’ War was a fifth generation ancestor of Bonnie. Closer up in her family tree are names like War Admiral, Princequillo, Nearco, Nasrullah and Round Table. Bonnie’s sire, Poker, was Seattle Slew’s broodmare sire. Bonnie’s family was royalty in the racing world, and she herself was a kind, smart and dignified mare. Her head wasn’t turned by the regular offer of treats and she only met you at the fence if she conveniently happened to be nearby anyway. She often preferred to graze away from the people who visited her, choosing not to be fawned over. For most of her stay at Old Friends she ruled her pasture, getting the choicest grass and hay and presiding over the other mares with an iron will. And yet if you approached her in her field, she was welcoming, gentle and easy to be around.
A couple of summers ago Bonnie moved to the back of the farm, up the hill and away from the stallion paddocks. This new paddock, shared with Narrow Escape, Cozy Miss, Hidden Lake and later on, Personalized, is large, grassy and far enough back that there is no road noise, no people noise and not much activity except for horses, birds, and the cows next door. Bonnie was always fat and content there, her dark bay coat shaggy in the winter but shiny and smooth in the summer. If she wanted to graze, she grazed. If it was hot or rainy, she staked out her corner of the big run-in shed. If she wanted to nap, that was good, too. It is a bucolic, peaceful and breezy spot; life there is very uneventful. Retirement suited her and I could tell Bonnie liked it.
At Old Friends, where we are essentially a retirement home for the elderly, the personalities of the individual horses are as different as night and day. And as with any retirement home, there are cranky personalities, loud, demanding ones, and kind and gentle ones. In the end, Bonnie was exactly what her royal ancestors suggest she would be—as stately and dignified as any queen that ever was.