Monthly Archives: September 2010

Sunday September 26, 2010

I think it is safe to say autumn is on its way to central Kentucky.  This morning I found myself wishing I had brought a jacket or sweatshirt with me—it was just cool enough to make you wish you had something with long sleeves.  The horses love it—Pops, Ring, Awad, and Cherono all danced around.  This afternoon, Pops and Ring raced the kids we had on the tour, and even Kiri moved a tad faster than normal on his way to get carrots.

It was a pretty busy day at the farm, since many visitors are in town for the 2010 World Equestrian Games.  You hear accents from all over the world, all brought to Kentucky by a shared love of horses.  Today our tour mix was about 50-50 between folks in town for the games and our usual visitors—families and racing fans.   Fortunate Prospect let everyone pat him, Cherono ran and bucked to show off, and Gulch didn’t miss a tour.  Silver Charm came out of his paddock to visit the kids, Ring showed his tattoo, and Pops took a healthy nip at one lady who was apparently not meeting his carrot expectations.   

The generally larger tour groups today seemed to fascinate the horses more than usual.  I don’t ever want to imply they are blasé about tours, because every horse genuinely enjoys the attention.  But the larger groups must have been noteworthy, because the horses somehow seemed friendlier and more in-tune with what was going on.  They behaved, for the most part, too. Dan and Flick shared nicely today, and except for Pops’ bad-boy moment, all the usual suspects put their best hoof forward.  Tinner was outside in a paddock down by Kiri, and he met us at the gate for tours. Week two of knowing Tinner and my initial opinion hasn’t changed—he is still a manly-man.  At least now he has stopped yelling at everything!  But you’d be hard-pressed not to see the resemblance between him and his oh-so-famous dad, especially when he looks directly at you.  Anyone who remembers Secretariat made the same comment today.

We had some fun kids today, including a three-year-old who had her dad pick her up so she could feed every horse.  She was fascinated that the horses like peppermints and she asked me several times why they like it.  But her best line was when I commented that she and Silver Charm have hair the same color.  She thought about it for a split second and came back with, “No, my hair is a little lighter.” Silly me!

I finished up my day, as I often do, visiting Wallenda and his cohorts at the annex farm.  I watched Buzzy and Klassy head outside for the night and I was struck by how comfortable the two old girls are together.  They walked out to their paddock, took turns drinking, and waited patiently for their dinners to be delivered.  I spent a few minutes pulling burrs out of Benburb’s forelock (should I call him Benburrb?) and scratched Wallenda’s back.  You can never underestimate the value of a good backscratching.

You know, I have said this before, but it struck me again today.  On our tours today, we saw the sire of a Kentucky Derby winner, in Gulch who sired Thunder Gulch.  We also have Polish Navy, who sired Derby winner Sea Hero.  We have sons of Derby winners:  Williamstown, Leave Seattle, Kiri’s Clown, I’m Charismatic, and Tinner’s Way. We have Breeder’s Cup winners, Eclipse Award winners, and Kentucky Derby runners.  And we have Little Silver Charm, who didn’t win the Derby but thinks he would have, if he had only been entered. Ahh, what could have been…

 We hope you can visit us soon.  Until then, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends.

-Val

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Saturday September 18, 2010: Part 2

Saturday, Part Two (Part One was published yesterday) 

My ultimate destination yesterday was the back of the farm and one of my favorite geldings, Kudos.  As I parked the golf cart at the top of the hill, I called his name and he threw his head up and came right over.  Fat and sassy, Kudos got his share of the attention, especially since not one of his pasture mates came over.  Bonapaw stood a little way off and glared at me out of the corner of his eye. I’m not sure if he thought I was going to try to catch him, if he was jealous, or if he just likes to glare!  Across the way, Regal Sanction pawed at the fence until I went over to see him.  Siphonizer has his own paddock, because the minute he goes into a paddock with buddies we can’t catch him for anything.  Alone, he is a friendly, nice horse.  But give Siphonizer a gang to lead and his alter ego shows up.  Doppelganger Siphonizer is half wild and impossible to catch.  The difference is amazing. 

The other horse I specifically drove up the hill to see was Cozy Miss. Cozy is the elder of the mare group, and she is probably the most shy.  But Hidden Lake has appointed herself as Cozy’s protector, making sure neither of the other mares interrupted Cozy’s attention.  You’d think it is because Hidden Lake wants the attention herself, but that’s not it at all.  It’s just hard to believe that a horse can be smart enough to understand that her friend needs someone to stand for her.  Hidden Lake stood a few feet away from us, keeping one eye kindly on Cozy and one glaring at the other mares, going so far as to chase them off if they got too close.  Because of her age, Cozy’s coat remains longer and shaggier than the younger horses.  But she is soft as silk.  I could have patted her all day just because she feels like the plushest of teddy bears. And there are not enough treats to thank Hidden Lake for her kindness to an old mare. 

On my very first visit to Old Friends, before I was a volunteer tour guide, Kiri’s Clown decided he liked me.  On the days when I have time to visit him by myself, he reminds me why we fell for each other in the first place.  Kiri loves to rub his face on me.  And lick my arm, tug on my shirt, knock my hat off, nuzzle my hair and otherwise treat me like another horse.  In return, I scratch his back, pull knots out of his mane, rub his nose, and tell him he is more handsome and faster than Awad.  Seems like a fair trade. 

Our other new horse is a gelding named Bonfante. He is a slender bay horse with a crooked white blaze that kind of meanders off the left side of his face. I heard when he arrived he had no interest in showing off—he took a look around his paddock, dropped his head and started to graze.  I think, sometimes, the sigh of relief from some of the horses when they arrive at Old Friends is just as clear as day.   Bonfante, who has already been re-named Jack, came right over when he saw me, but he wasn’t too sure how to behave once he got to the fence.  He wanted to be friendly but he was a little intimidated by Kiri across the way, and since he didn’t know me he accepted a pat on the nose and left it at that.  He’ll settle in, and in no time he’ll be fat and happy.  And speaking of fat and happy, I did not recognize Falcon Scott this week.  His trim athlete’s body has blossomed.  He sure grew a chubby belly in a hurry. 

After Sunshine sniffed and snorted to see what other horses I had been patting, I stopped by Marquetry’s paddock to say hello.  Marq was another example of how different horses are without a carrot bucket in hand.  Oh, Marq is still kind and gentle, no change there. But without carrots to munch, he preferred to chew on me.  Now, as you know, Marq has no front teeth, top or bottom.  Chewing on me was actually all about lipping and slobbering all over my hand, my arm and my shirt.  He had some fun chewing on me—he was as gentle as can be, but boy, can he slobber!  

I guess I got a little carried away this week—horses only, no people stories.  Still, the horses are the best part of Old Friends, the reason the farm exists, and the lure that keeps us all coming back. We hope you can visit us soon.  In the meantime, thanks for sharing this weekend with Old Friends!

 -Val

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Saturday September 18, 2010

For something a little different, Part One of this week’s Sunday Old Friends blog is posting on Saturday.  I decided to take Sunday off from tour guiding, but I had a free day today and thought I’d spend it with the horses. You know, visiting the horses without a carrot bucket is a completely different experience than leading tours.  I’ve always thought the horses have a gossip line—one finds out there are no carrots and they pass it on, and down the row the news is spread.  You’d think that without carrots no one would bother to visit, but the opposite is true.  Mostly everyone lined up to meet me at the fence. It was great fun. 

We have a couple of new horses, and I began by stopping to meet Tinner’s Way.  Tinner is a red son of Secretariat, and there is no denying the resemblance.  Larger than our late sweetheart Academy Award, my initial impression of Tinner is that he is a manly man.  He spent the afternoon in his stall yelling at everything.  He yelled at people, he yelled at Silver Charm, he yelled for no apparent reason. He finally quieted down, sort of, at about 3 pm when he went outside for the evening.  Although, he probably was quieter only because he was next door to Danthebluegrassman, and the two of them were posturing to see who was badder.  Now, truthfully, Dan is not bad and I don’t know who he thought he was kidding.  But he is Tinner’s great-great-great nephew, in a manner of speaking, so it might have been a family thing. 

After Tinner, I went over to the annex.  I brushed Wallenda, who was a mess.  And of course, every bit of the dirt on Wallenda transferred to my gray t-shirt.  You’ve probably heard that saying, “there’s something about the outside of a horse that’s good for the inside of man?” Personally, I think it should be, “there’s something about the dirt on the outside of a horse that clings to the outside of man!”   

While I was in Wallenda’s stall, I heard what I thought was someone firing up the weed whacker.  It just didn’t sound right, though, and I thought maybe it needed a tune-up.  But as it sputtered, I realized it wasn’t the weed whacker I was hearing.   It was Benburb…and let’s just say he was making a nice, long, loud contribution to global warming…

 Back at the main farm, I took a golf cart and headed off up toward the back forty.  I was out of mints and when I got to Commentator I expected him to be miffed, but he gave me his usual sloppy kiss and was happy to be patted. His fly mask was off and I loved seeing his face again.   Bull inthe Heather, in the paddock across from Tator, wanted his share of attention as well.  You couldn’t ask for two more physically opposite horses. Bull–large and almost white with a long nose and loppy ears, versus Tator—small and red with mischief in his eye.  And both of them are giant-sized characters.

 I worked my way up the hill, stopping to say hi to The Name’s Jimmy, Renegade, Bluesthestandard, Mighty Mecke and Wallace Station.  Remember a couple weeks ago when I mentioned how the sun had bleached Mecke to a near buckskin? No more—sadly, winter coats are growing in and Mecke has returned to his normal almost-black.  As soon as I realized it, I turned to look at Williamstown.   Sure enough, he is back to black as well.  Here comes winter. 

 Willy isn’t the most affectionate of horses, and he doesn’t always want visit.  You get the sense he has resigned himself to having company, as opposed to actually enjoying it.  Today he got a back scratch, a nose rub and a quick kiss or two, which is about all he will stand for.  By the time Willy lost interest, Polish Navy was at the fence, waiting for his turn.  Navy is as friendly as Willy is standoffish.  He leaned his head right over onto my shoulder as I scratched his chest.  It’s a close to a hug as a big, old stallion can give, I guess.  

Back tomorrow for Part Two of today’s blog  -Val

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Sunday September 12, 2010

What an absolutely gorgeous day in Kentucky: dry, no humidity, bright sunshine and about 80 degrees.  It was a perfect day for a walk around Old Friends, visiting horses and enjoying the late days of summer.  Added to that, the people who visited today were as nice a group as you would ever want to meet.  And last but not least, I saw something today that I don’t think I have seen in nearly four years at the farm.  But more on that later… 

This morning’s group featured seven-year-old Brooklyn, who has a marvelous personality but maybe was a tiny bit unsure of the horses.  She hesitantly gave Norty a carrot, and cautiously patted Clever.  She got a little braver and reached through the fence to pat Glitterman.  By the time we ended our tour, at Marquetry’s paddock, she was standing on the bottom rail of the fence, scratching Marq’s back.  He stood like a champ, gazing at her as if to say, “I like this kid, she should stay longer.”  After she tried to get her mom to leave her at the farm for the afternoon, Brooklyn’s final words to me as she left were, “I’ll try to come back on another Sunday!”  I surely hope she does. Because, you know, my secret mission is to create more horse-crazy kids who drive their parents nuts! 

This morning was one of those sparkling mornings where the air seemed especially crisp and clear—a sure sign of impending fall, but very enjoyable nonetheless.  It was cool and slightly breezy, and as a result I saw more equine activity that I’ve seen in months. We watched Creator canter across his paddock, which I haven’t seen him do since spring.  But most surprising to me, I saw Leave Seattle run, and I mean fly, across his paddock. He made a graceful sweep around the corner and started another loop.  If he had run that fast when he started in his three races…well, who knows? But I was thinking about it on my way home and I am sure I have never seen him run. Canter, once or twice, maybe.  Jog, certainly.  But never a flat-out romp, like I saw him today.  He must be feeling fantastic. Of course, by this afternoon’s tour he was back to his usual self:  give me carrots and leave me alone. 

We didn’t have anyone scheduled for the 1 pm tour so I took some time to go visit Wallenda.  Dinard and Early Pioneer came over for some treats, and I passed out mints to Benburb, Gasconade, and Buzzy. I told Klassy that her last baby was supposed to make his second start on Friday but was scratched.  Smokey Stover got all worked up because Bennie got a mint, but it was mostly the idea of the mint—he rarely eats them. So I patted him for a bit and he was happy.  

This afternoon’s tour featured toddler Harrison.  Harrison began the tour in his stroller, but he soon had enough of that and pretty much led the rest of the tour. At Glitterman’s stall, I told everyone that G-man would happily drop his head to say hi on Harrison’s level.  Glitterman is fascinated by little kids—babies, toddlers, the smaller the better.  And as it turns out, Harrison is a horse guy—he’d grab a carrot and reach and reach up as far as his little arms and legs would let him so he could give the carrot to the horses, with a little help from his dad. Thankfully slobber made him giggle, and as usual the stallions are kind, gentle and dignified when they take carrots from little fingers.  Harrison is just learning his sentences and his mom said “horse” was among his first words. Not surprising then when he called out, “bye-bye big horsey” as we left each paddock.  My kind of guy, that Harrison! 

I also have to mention another visitor today—the lady who loved horses but was scared to death of them.  She got better at feeding carrots as the tour went on, but they definitely have some photos of her holding out her hand, with a nearly painful grimace on her face.  I’m not sure if she was more afraid of being bitten or being slobbered on, but I do know she had a lot of fun when all was said and done.  I hope she comes back for another visit, too. 

All in all, it was a terrific day at the farm.  With weather like this, it is easy to take some extra time to linger– with the horses, at the cemetery, or even under the trees at the picnic tables.  Given the upcoming busy season—the World Equestrian games, Keeneland’s fall race meet, and the generally nice autumn weather, tour reservations are greatly appreciated.   We hope you can visit us soon. In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends! 

-Val

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Sunday September 5, 2010

September!  I can’t believe it—it seems like just last week that we were watching for the first green grass of spring.  Now, paddocks are dry and the grass is parched and brown.  Horses are dusty rather than muddy and springtime dapples have been replaced with sun-bleached coats.  Can winter coats be far behind?  Ugh, I don’t even want to think about it.

We had a nice group of visitors this morning and the first thing I noticed as I took them over to see Commentator was that the chestnut horse in Tator’s paddock wasn’t Tator.   It took me as a second to figure it out; as I talked I was thinking, “this isn’t Tator.”   I realized this just about the time one of the visitors informed me that the halter said “Jade Hunter.”  So, I quickly deduced that Tator and Jade traded spaces.  Yep, I am that quick!  (In my own defense, it isn’t unusual for our horses to wear someone else’s halter, so the nameplate is not always the final word. And in this case, they are both chestnut horses…) But Jade seems to really like his new space.  More people see him, as he is now in the prime greeting paddock of the entire farm.  Plus, he is next door to Gulch and since they both were sired by Mr. Prospector, it’s kind of interesting to compare their looks.  Or maybe that is something that just interests me! 

One of our visitors today was a new shareholder in Marquetry.  It’s always fun to let shareholders meet and greet their favorites.  And Marq is just the friendliest horse—he loves meeting everyone.  The other shareholder in the group wanted to see his horse, Bluesthestandard.  So we took a trip up the hill to see Blue, Mighty Mecke, and Wallace Station.  Mecke, normally a nearly black horse, is so faded from the sun you would think he is a buckskin.  It is quite a transformation: Mighty Mecke, incognito. 

I was more than happy to go see Blue and company, and even though they needed some coaxing to come over, they are always fun to interact with.  The three of them are in a large paddock next door to a couple horses I haven’t seen in a few weeks, Williamstown and Polish Navy.   I have a real soft spot for semi-cranky Williamstown.  Willie isn’t much of a people horse, but he grudgingly visits anyway, probably since he knows I’m good for a couple peppermints.  He always, always acts like he is going to bite me—baring his teeth and chomping.  But in the end, all he does is kind of slide his teeth against my hand.  We have an agreement.  I don’t rub it in that he is all bark and no bite, and he doesn’t actually bite.  It works for us. 

The other horse I was glad to see was Polish Navy.  Unlike Mecke, he has barely faded this summer.  I don’t really know why this is, but he remains a rich cocoa color with hints of gold and black.  Beautiful.  Navy has only one eye, and some time ago I discovered he likes to have his empty eye socket lightly rubbed. I know that sounds kind of gross, but he enjoys it as much as a good back rub.  I tell people this and I can see their cringing response—no one really believes me.  But it is true.  

As a stallion-friendly retirement home, we have only a handful of mares on site.  But as of this weekend, we are home to a new mare, Buzzovertomyhouse.  Buzzy is a full sister to the dam of Kentucky Derby winner Grindstone.  So Auntie Buzz is Grindstone’s aunt, and relation to both 2004 Belmont winner Birdstone and 2009 Derby winner Mine That Bird.  Buzzy has moved in with Klassy Briefcase, and the two mares are already inseparable. After one night grazing together, they tried hard to avoid coming inside this morning, staying one step ahead of Kent as he tried to catch them.  As he said, they aren’t very fast anymore, but they are still faster than him! 

September.  It’s a short month to the opening of Keeneland’s fall meet.  The Alltech-FEI World Equestrian Games begin later this month in Lexington.  The Keeneland September Yearling sale begins next week.  Next thing you know, it’ll officially be autumn and we’ll be heading into the season-that-must-not-be-named!  But fall is a great time to visit some Old Friends. We appreciate reservations, and offer tours at 10, 1, 3 and 7 each day.  We hope you can visit us soon, but in the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends! 

-Val

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