Thursday August 5, 2010

Bonnie’s Poker   


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. 




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13 responses to “Thursday August 5, 2010

  1. Brianna

    I am so sorry to hear this news. 😦 Rest in Peace Bonnie’s Poker. What a wonderful mare and legacy she leaves behind.

  2. Colmel

    Oh Val,
    My heart is breaking. Bonnie felt, in every sense of the word, like mine. She and my first mare were pasture-mates in Florida. I bought my mare from Jack Dudley in 1988. My mare foaled a beautiful Silver Buck filly in 1989. We all know about Bonnie’s Silver Buck son.

    I was lucky enough to get to meet Bonnie in April last year. As you so beautifully stated in your touching obituary, she was regal – even when she was a bit muddy and tangled. Fairies had done a number on her mane. She was every bit the queen. I have some photos (Val, if you will tell me how, I’d be glad to share them with Old Friends and anyone who would be interested in seeing them). It was my distinct honor to purchase a “share” in her. In a way, it was almost like getting my old mare back – if only by proxy.

    I will miss Bonnie – just knowing she was with her friends and those who took such good care of her at Old Friends was reassuring. Bonnie had a great 6 years at Old Friends. She earned every minute of peace she got.

    I only pray that Bonnie and her old friend (my mare Permanent Cut) are once again pasture mates in Heaven.

  3. MRO

    What a tough month at Old Friends. To first lose Black Tie Affair and then Bonnie. I’m so sorry. I’m glad she had 6 wonderful long years of the retirement she deserved.

  4. I heard about Bonnie today, she is on her way now to be with Tie, Narrow, and so many other dear friends. Rest well, good Lady…

  5. sue

    I’m so sorry OF that you have lost yet another wonderful horse. As a retirement facility that I had the good fortune to visit, you all unfortunately greet these days too frequently….May Bonnie RIP with her wonderful mare mates in heaven and all the other famous horses she has descended from.

  6. Jennifer

    I am trying to type through the stream of tears running down my cheeks. So eloquently said.
    Bless you all.

    I am left overwhelmed and speechless.
    Thank you all for your depth and beauty.
    Inspirational to say the least.

    So wonderful to know I am not alone in trying to show graditude and compassion to our 4 legged family.

    I can’t say more without sounding like a whacko, lol
    Bless you all and THANK YOU
    Sincerely, Jennifer

  7. Nicole

    This was a sad day today. When I got the news of Bonnie Poker’s death from someone on my Twitter page I sat here and cried. When I heard that Bonnie was going to be at Old Friends I knew that I would have to get down there to see her and I did last year. Being an avid fan of Silver Charm’s it was an honor to finally see Bonnie. It was a brief meeting but a thrilling one for me. I just stood there and looked at her for a few minutes and then the guide let me give her carrots. That moment ranked right up there with the time I had the Triple Crown great Affirmed eating out of my hand. I have been able to spend time with Charm before he was shipped off to Japan and then to spend time with his dam was special. Rest in peace my sweet Bonnie. You will now be up there amongst the greats that have gone before you.

  8. Thank you as always, Val, for your words that lend such insight and comfort. I am rereading them again today. You have a gift for knowing what those of us who love these horses need to hear most at times like this. And I am thinking today of all the horses there at Dream Chase Farm, wondering how they are all doing with the recent losses among their herd. Bless them all, too…

  9. Ruth Ann

    Oh, I am SO sorry to read this news! 😦 R.I.P. Bonnie’s Poker, you were a grand lady. Run free now with all of your famous ancestors and be reunited once again with your friend, Narrow Escape.

  10. Viv from Ivytree

    A loving and beautiful tribute to a Great Lady. Thank you, as always, Val, for telling their stories. Hugs, Viv

  11. Beverly

    Rest well sweet girl. May you be running free in the warm sunshine and sweet green pastures reunited with your friends once more. You’ll will be greatly missed dear one. Thank you to everyone at Old Friends for making her last years happy surrounded by so much love.

  12. Gayle

    No wonder she was a queen with those names in her bloodline. I didn’t know Silver Charm was in Japan. I hope he come home to retire, too. I’m sorry you lost another one so soon and such a great lady. That’s got to be the hardest part, but spending the last part of their time on earth at Old Friends is what they deserve. It makes me think of Black Beauty dreaming about being back at the farm with Ginger and the other horses under the apple trees.

  13. Allie

    Rest in peace Bonnie. We visited Old Friends in late May and she looked very good doing her thing. Now she will be able to all she desires in horse heaven…

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