Polish Navy 1984-2011
Over the years at Old Friends, we have been fortunate to know so many wonderful horses. Today we lost an especially wonderful one. Polish Navy was euthanized this afternoon, after injuring his hip earlier this winter. He never bounced back from that injury. He was clearly uncomfortable, and it was his time. For me it’s another hard loss, because Navy’s charm and personality made him quietly unforgettable.
As I wrote this, I went online and refreshed my memory of Navy’s accomplishments. He was a very good racehorse, the winner of $1.1 million. He sired Kentucky Derby and Travers winner Sea Hero, undoubtedly his most famous offspring. If you look at Polish Navy’s pedigree, you’ll see he is a son of the great stallion Danzig, a grandson of Northern Dancer, and a great-grandson of War Admiral. One generation more takes him back to Man o’ War. That’s some serious pedigree, and yet if you met Navy, your first impression would probably have been how unassuming he was. He wasn’t a big, flashy personality, nor was he a show-off. When you met him you felt as though he was just as happy to meet you as he was to get carrots. His paddock, directly across from Williamstown, was toward the back of the farm where it was peaceful, but still had enough activity to be interesting.
It seems like just yesterday that I wrote how great he looked–this past spring his bay coat was a gorgeous, rich, cocoa color with dapples highlighted by black and gold. He wasn’t a large horse, but he was handsome and kind. He didn’t have tricks to work the crowd, nor was he a ham who pranced and danced. But he would stand right next to me, his good eye half closed while I patted his neck and kissed his nose. And if I gently rubbed his missing eye, he was blissfully happy.
I have known for a little while this day was going to arrive sooner rather than later. Navy has been in the barn for several weeks now, off limits to tours. He mostly stood where he could look outside, quietly watching any activity at the farm. Last Sunday, after our tours, I stuffed my pockets with carrots and slipped into his stall. He turned his head toward me, knowing I had treats. I fed him his carrots and gently stoked his neck. When the carrots were gone, Navy pushed his face into my arm. I knew what he wanted and I rubbed his eye for what turned out to be the last time.
It’s hard to describe the allure of retired Thoroughbred racehorses, especially the stallions, at Old Friends. I suspect it’s partly the Thoroughbred itself, having been bred for so long to one aim. I believe the more successful the individual horse was at racing, the smarter he or she is. I am also sure there is some indefinable “something” the horses at Old Friends just have in spades. Suffice it to say, Polish Navy was beyond special in all those ways.
I’ll miss you, Navy. You were a classy, kind horse and I didn’t know you for nearly long enough.