Sunday October 10, 2010

So much has been happening in central Kentucky over the past couple of weeks.  We have been inundated with visitors from all over the world for the World Equestrian Games; today at Old Friends we met people from Australia, Canada, Germany and closer to home from Colorado, Washington State, Chicago, New York and more.  Keeneland opened for its Fall Meet this weekend, too.  It’s been quite a whirlwind of activity all over the area.

Old Friends has been very busy, as you can probably imagine.  The horses  have enjoyed  the extra attention, not to mention the extra carrots.  One result of the higher level of activity is the newer horses have had a crash course in greeting visitors.  Falcon Scott worked the crowd like an old pro—cuddling up like a big teddy bear to anyone who got close. You’d be hard-pressed to find any young stallion enjoying his new life more than Falcon. He must think he won the horse lottery, and you know, maybe he did.

Bonfante, who came to us a few weeks ago in heavy need of some extra groceries, loved every bit and bite of the attention and treats he received.  This afternoon, a 14 year old girl became his new best friend.  He literally took one look at her, laid his head right on her shoulder, and that was that.  I asked her if she wanted to take him home, and dad gave me “the look.”  You know…the look?  The one that says, “Oh no, you are not doing this to me!”  We had to go back for a second visit after the rest of the tour left.  It was definitely love at first sight, for both horse and girl. 

It has been a lot of fun, meeting people from all over the world and introducing them to our Old Friends.  The horses have been great ambassadors, for themselves, for racing and for the Thoroughbred breed. After the past couple of weeks, I am more convinced than ever the horses understand everything we say.  Let me share some examples…

Tinner’s Way, who is the kind of horse that expects admiration rather than loving, struck poses for every person who came by today.  Since the movie about his dad came out Friday, plenty of folks are coming by just to meet Tinner.  (Go see “Secretariat.”  We loved it!)  Tinner takes the attention as his due, standing by his fence with his ears pricked, gazing off into the distance with the nameplate on his halter facing the camera.  He knows exactly what’s going on because I bet nearly every photo taken today clearly shows his nameplate. No photos of his “bad” side for Tinner!

Another example of a horse who understands what we say:  after  gobbling carrots too fast and subsequently needing the horse equivalent of the Heimlich maneuver, Jade Hunter is on a treat-free regimen for the time being.  At first he pouted pretty hard when he saw Gulch getting carrots.  But now he has figured out how to work the sympathy vote. He strolls over to the group and waits for me to tell everyone why he can’t have treats. Then he looks all pathetic and sad, sticks his head over the fence and soaks up the love.  Everyone stops feeding Gulch and turns toward Jade.  He ends up with enough pats, kisses, and hugs to last him for a month, and I am pretty sure he sticks his tongue out at Gulch as we walk away.

But all that is minor league, compared to this next example.  I swear it is 100% true, and there are witnesses out there to back me up.  Last week, someone asked me why Pops and Ring don’t have halters on.  I explained that they pull them off each other, and went on to say there could be a half dozen halters hidden in the grass of their paddock.  Pops listened carefully to what I was saying, turned around and jogged off to the middle of his paddock.  He put his head down and came up with…a halter dangling from his mouth!  And then, just in case I didn’t understand and thought it was a cosmic coincidence, he walked over and dropped the mangled Special Ring halter at my feet.  All I had to do was reach down to pick it up.  You will never, ever convince me he didn’t understand EXACTLY what I was saying.  I still barely believe it.

And really, after that, what else is there to say?  We continue to offer tours every day, and we hope you can visit us soon.  In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends!

-Val

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7 Comments

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7 responses to “Sunday October 10, 2010

  1. Susan Allen

    Hi Val,
    I believe every word about Pops….this may be his “new” trick for attention since Ring has the “tatoo” thing going on!!!
    I just wanted to tell someone there that I received my Old Friends calendar yesterday (thanks!) and it is wonderful! I sat outside and looked at the pictures for probably 45 minutes! It was bittersweet seeing the pictures of Proper Reality, Black Tie Affair and Appygolucky…I’m so glad they were in the calendar. All the others look awesome (Ogygian..wow!) and Little SC..the cute award of course! I’m counting the days till I get to see Commentator….I’ll be there on Nov 5th and can’t wait. I’m not sure if you’ll be there on a Friday, but hope so. Anyway, just wanted to say I hope everyone that reads this will buy a calendar because it is worth the $! Thanks for the update!

  2. Debbie Pofelski

    I too, believe every word of your stories. I have seen it numerous times and believe that all animals that are treated with love and respect fully understand our words. One of my favorite stories that I witnessed was a low level claimer that a trainer was attempting to sell one morning at Arlington Park in Illinois. When the buyer came to the barn and they brought Westy out, he was limping like you wouldn’t believe. The buyer said he couldn’t buy him due to his “condition” and left. 10 minutes later they brought him out again to walk the shed row, and he was “fit as a fiddle” with absolutely no limp and went on to win a race a few days later.

    He knew where he was loved and had no intentions of leaving….

  3. Mary Matthews

    Val,
    I soooo believe you. He understood exactly what you said and to me even more amazing is that he knew exactly where a halter was laying in that big paddock.

    I sit and talk to the horses and I know many that might hear me will think I am crazy but I figure if they understand me at all, then who cares, I will take the title of crazy lol

  4. Gae

    We enjoyed watching the televised Games from Kentucky Horse Park.

    Oh, Pops and Ring — always enjoy reading about them. My husband took a nice picture of Ring three years ago (with halter) and the picture is hangin in our living room – a rare collector’s item LOL.

  5. Your blog is the very best way to start the week. Oh that Pops, any word on the picture from last week? I eagerly await…..Thank you Val, and everyone at Old Friends…

  6. Laura

    I believe animals know a whole lot more than they let on.

    Poor Gulch! Meany Jade Hunter playing the sympathy card!

  7. Colmel

    I do ADORE Pops and my “Special” Ring. I’m absolutely certain, too, that horses that are around people enough (and thoroughbreds throughout their lives are around people more than just about any other breed), DO understand the language. They also really know how to work us. Funny thing, we love being worked.

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