Monthly Archives: April 2011

Sunday April 17, 2011

I think Mother Nature, or whoever is in charge of stuff like this, must have decided a nice day is in order.  It’s been a difficult few weeks at Old Friends, especially given the passing of The Wicked North and Glitterman, and the past couple of days have been kind of dreary.  But today, the wind seemed to want to blow the sadness and gloom away, leaving us with bright sunshine, blue skies, and green grass.  Of course, this is springtime in Kentucky, so the wind is still whipping fiercely!   But overall, you’ll get no complaints about the weather here.

We’ve been busy at the farm, too.  There must have been 25 people on the morning tour today, including some long-time farm friends who travel from all over the country to meet in Kentucky at this time every year.   I guess Fortunate Prospect pretty much doesn’t do the 10 am tours anymore. Scheduling conflicts—he has a 10 am appointment for a nap.  But Gulch, who absolutely knows he is The King of the World, happily came over to greet his fans.  In fact, besides Gramps the only horse who couldn’t be bothered to visit was Leave Seattle.  He had found a particularly tasty patch of grass and the carrots just couldn’t compete.  

Awad and I are still having a “thing.”  You know, he bit both me and a visitor a month or so ago.  I had to yell at him, and you think he doesn’t remember?  He keeps looking at me out of the corner of his eye like he’s wondering if I’m still mad at him, before he comes over to take carrots.  But he also hasn’t tried to bite me again, so maybe the remembering is a good thing! 

A lot of the horses have really shed out their winter hair.  Swan’s Way looks terrific—all shiny and dappled.  Awad is pretty much shed out, as is Kiri’s Clown.  On the other hand, Marquetry is so covered in mud (we’ve had a LOT of rain) that his coat is all curly and sticky.  Let me put it like this:  imagine a large, red poodle. Then cover the dog with melted chocolate, let it dry and picture the way that curly poodle coat would look.  And that is our Marq.

After the 10 am tour this morning, I took a small group up the hill to see Tinner’s Way.  At first, Tinner didn’t seem to want to come over but as soon as he saw Williamstown getting treats you can bet he was on his way, in a hurry!  It’s interesting how different horses can be.  The late Academy Award, our first son of Secretariat, was a little red horse who was happiest cuddled up next to someone.  Tinner, also a Secretariat son, is larger, more rambunctious, and far less affectionate. They have two things in common though—both have dad’s bright red color, and both of them get pretty jealous if another horse is getting attention.

I have a serious soft spot for Williamstown, so while Tinner was soaking up the admiration and carrots, I stayed across the way with our other son of Seattle Slew.  And this is another example of differences in horses.  Leave Seattle is not really a people person.  Don’t get me wrong, he loves his treats and attention as much as the next guy, but he generally doesn’t care to be patted or fussed over.  Willie, on the other hand, enjoys some love if he is in the mood.  Today, he was happy to lay his head over my shoulder and get kisses.  And he looks fantastic too—black and dappled with his four white feet and white face.  No mud, either.   He looks like black and white velvet. Or maybe like he’s wearing a fancy tuxedo.

As I was winding up my morning tours, a group of three guys stopped by the farm to see two of their favorites, Commentator and Gulch.  Tator, who has an uncanny sense of just when his fans are visiting, came at a dead run and slid to a stop at the gate.  Such a ham!  He let the guys pat and fuss over him. He also posed, more or less, for pictures.  Then we went over to see Gulch, who graciously got up from his nap to visit.  He also knows when people are there specifically to see him.  The funny part was that one of the guys really wanted to pat Gulch.  But  Gulch obviously heard him tell us how he once bet against Gulch.  So of course Gulch wanted no part of the guy—not so much as a touch!  Once of the other guys, who hadn’t made the ill-advised betting comment, was able to pat Gulch as much as he wanted.  I’m telling you, these horses know what we are saying!

Thanks to Tim for taking over my afternoon tours today.  I am going to take a couple weekends off from blogging for some family visits, but I’ll be back online soon enough.  Our annual homecoming in scheduled for the day after the Kentucky Derby, May 8.   I hope to see a lot of you there. In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends.

-Val

P.S. Congrats to Get Stormy and Sullimar Stables on Get Stormy’s first Grade 1 win on Friday in the Maker’s Mark  Mile at Keeneland. Get Stormy’s maternal grandsire is Kiri’s Clown!

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Friday April 15, 2011

Glitterman   1985-2011 

Last weekend, as I introduced him to my sister and her husband, I knew Glitterman’s days were numbered.  I might even have suspected, in my heart, that his days were numbered in single digits.  And yet, despite bracing myself for this, I find it to be among the most difficult losses I have experienced at Old Friends. 

Glitterman was just a little bay horse, maybe 15 hands, and pretty sway backed. Time and the effects of gravity were apparent on his body.  His knees were large, misshapen, and of late, painful from arthritis. He had lost his front teeth and as a result his tongue was always hanging out.  If you saw him recently, sway-backed, with his tongue out and his shaggy coat I guess you’d have a hard time seeing him as a successful racehorse and the sire of millionaires Balto Star, Glitterwoman and Champali.  And here is the funny thing:  I always told people Glitterman was a millionaire on the track.  I am not sure why I thought that, because he wasn’t. But despite his swayed back and knobby knees, his demeanor and his attitude made me believe he must have been. 

Glitterman always had attitude.  He let you know what he wanted and how he wanted it. Back scratching?  He moved so you most easily reached exactly where he wanted you to scratch.  Peppermint?  Nope, he’d rather have a carrot.  Company?   Maybe not really, not today.   When he first came to Old Friends, Glitterman lived in a paddock on the hill, and I clearly remember how aggravated he was by having Makors Mark pastured across the way.  He hated that horse.  He’d prance back and forth at the fence, his neck arched and his tail in the air like a banner, glaring at the other, larger stallion and stating his case as to why he was the better man.  How could you NOT think he was all that and then some? 

As time passed Glitterman’s arthritic knees became more of an issue. Although initially he wasn’t too uncomfortable, his mobility became relatively limited.  He could walk from his stall to the small round pen outside his barn, where he’d survey the neighborhood, nap, and munch his hay.  His immediate neighbors—Dan, Flick, Ogygian and Clever–didn’t bother him, making his previous response to Makors Mark all the more extreme.  He loved carrots and enjoyed visitors.  Sometimes, if he felt particularly good, he’d show off a little bit.  He couldn’t really prance anymore, but he learned to plant his back feet and kind of do a little mini-bounce on his stiff front legs, with his neck arched and his ears pricked.  Not quite the same as before, but he got his message across.  He was still bad.

As is often the case with the stallions, Glitterman’s favorite visitors were kids.  But even there Glitterman was just a little different:  he preferred toddlers.  Show up with a 2 year old in diapers who was barely talking, and Glitterman dropped his head right to their level and took carrots as gently as can be.  I think, as he got older and less mobile, he preferred smaller folk, the ones he knew couldn’t hurt him or make him to move too quickly.

But what I remember most about Glitterman, the part that makes this so hard, were the times I visited him alone– no carrots, no other people. He’d limp over to the fence, lay his head on my shoulder and sigh, for just a moment allowing someone to take a little bit of the burden off his achy knees.  I always considered it a privilege to do that.

I am left with the question-is it better somehow to know the day is coming and prepare yourself as best you can, or is it easier to have the end come with no warning and no time for contemplation?  I don’t know the answer, but I can tell you this:  I will miss Glitterman.  I will look for him instinctively and always in that little round pen that will forever, in my mind, be his.

-Val

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Sunday April 3, 2011

There was no reason not to love a day like today in central Kentucky.  The temperature was in the mid-70s, the sun was shining, the mud is drying and even the ever-present Kentucky wind felt good blowing across your face.   The horses felt pretty good, too, whether they chose to nap or romp. 

It was a typical spring Sunday, as we were busy all day.  The morning began with a large bus of seniors.  Some of my favorite visitors are senior bus tours, I suppose because they are always so interested in what Old Friends is all about.   And of course, regardless of age every woman becomes a little girl again when horses are involved!  The group today was great, from Indiana and Michigan, and they enjoyed meeting the gang.    

This afternoon’s tours began at 1 and ran non-stop right through until 4:15 or so.  This is how busy we were—Special Ring was so full of carrots that he didn’t want to show his tattoo anymore by the time the last tour stopped at his fence. He just kind of looked at us and said, “nuh-uh, no more, I’m done for today.”   Not that he didn’t still eat his share of the carrots; he just didn’t want to perform to get them.

There were a number of kids today, all of whom were pretty terrific.  And it turns out that Patton will stand and take treats from little girls as gently as can be, all day long.  You know, we lose a Norty or a Jade Hunter, the kind of horses who always were kind and gentle.  You wonder who will step up to become that little girl’s new best friend, and along comes a Patton or a Free Spirit’s Joy.  It’s almost like the torch was passed.  But then, I’ve always suspected the horses talk amongst themselves.  Maybe they know their jobs far better than we know.

It seems lately that I’ve talked a lot about horses napping, but I had to laugh at Fortunate Prospect this afternoon.  He was down for the count, stretched out in the sunshine.  I called his name and he picked up his head, glanced over at us, grunted and back down he went.  About an hour later I saw him get up for his daily walk—he makes a complete circuit around his paddock before he goes back to grazing.  Today’s speed was a mid-pace amble, nothing too energetic but a nice pace just to get the blood flowing! Smart old guy.

Lots and lots of winter hair shedding, and I’m sure there are plenty of nicely-lined bird nests being constructed around the farm.  One of the tours discovered Bull’s love of a good back scratching, and we left large handfuls of gray hair on the ground.  Pops, as he does every spring, looks like a well-loved but slightly misused teddy bear.  His long winter coat is lighter than the summer coat coming in underneath, and it makes him look oddly ratty.  Not a good look for the former movie star, but it is a sign of spring so we won’t complain!  Wallenda, Creator, Sunshine, Leave Seattle and Awad look pretty good, and most of the horses have spots where they appear to have more summer coat than winter.   But there still are a few coats remaining that rival a buffalo—Cozy Miss, Spirit, Gramps, and Clever come to mind!

I was one of those days—some horse napped and others ran around.  This afternoon we watched WC Jones, over at the annex farm, running and bucking with his tail in the air.  We found out later he was trying to avoid being caught.  He sure looked pretty, though!  I saw Tinner take a lap around his field, while Williamstown did his best to ignore him. 

We are open for tours three times a day.  We greatly appreciate reservations, which can be made by calling the office at 502-863-1775.  We hope you can visit us soon. In the meantime, thanks for spending this spring Sunday with Old Friends!

-Val

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