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.




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19 responses to “Friday April 15, 2011

  1. Nikki

    Glitter was my favorite horse there, he was a very beautiful horse and he always brought a smile on ur face. i was introduced to him about a year after i got my first horse who is his son. My horse, Rise Ball, was the spitting image of him. I have pictures of Glitterman just laying his head on my lap. I first saw him about 2 years before he moved from Richland Hills to Old Friends. He will always be in my heart and i hope he will be proud of his granddaughter Codecho when she wins her reaces for him

  2. KLB

    I don’t think there is a better way to lose one of our old friends, there is just no easy way to say, ” good-bye,” to these special family members.

  3. Curt

    There is no real answer other to know one appreciated the time with them be it short or long.
    And yes, I will always remember the round pen.

  4. victoria racimo

    Oh, my goodness, the tears just don’t stop… heart is torn up and I just don’t know how you all do it — bear the loss and the sorrow — is it better to have loved and lost than never to have known these great creatures? Just know that with each new resident, you are helping to make a dear horse’s life bettter and longer.

  5. Viv from Ivytree

    Glitter’s spirit sings in your tribute to him…He always amused me with his Mighty Mouse attitude. How he was absolutely intolerant of the other stallions on the hill, but so kind he would let his visitors to feed him carrots and offer pets on that dear nose without turning a hair. He was a character and I am glad I got to say goodbye a few weeks ago. I don’t know that I have an answer to your question…all I know is that I miss them terribly when they go, and I look for their ghosts on the hill at Old Friends. As I have written recently, Old Friends is hallowed ground. Run in the Light, Glitter.

  6. Elizabeth Thompson

    Thank you for sharing your feelings about this amazing horse. I lost my six-year-old in March 2010 when the pain in his navicular-ravaged hooves could no longer be controlled. I was with him at the end, and the loss has been immeasurable. I feel so glad to know Glitterman had you to share his burden.

    • oldfriendsblog

      Elizabeth, I’ve been through the navicular disease thing with my own horse. To my mind, it needs as much research and attention as laminitis does…it is a horrible thing. You have my sympathy. -Val

  7. Pat

    You made me cry, again, with your remembrance of Glitterman. I saw him just last weekend, but it never occurred to me that that would be the last time. Grief is indeed the price we pay for love. Glitterman must have loved you, and that will be a comfort, eventually, if not now.

  8. Laura

    My sympathies on the loss of Glitterman. We must appreciate these fine animals while they are with us. Tomorrow (4/16) is Gulch’s 27th birthday, please give him extra love and whatever treats he likes best for me. Also, please tell him that his granddaughter, Shotgun Gulch, won a Grade 1 race Thursday, I know he’ll be proud.

  9. MRO

    Once again, so sorry to hear about a significant loss at OF. I immediately pulled up my Glitterman photos taken last fall. He looked absolutely adorable with a huge mouthful of hay & his little head stretched up as high as he could get it to reach over the round pen fence. He will be missed!

    Since it was mentioned, I was lucky enough to be at Keeneland yesterday for Shotgun Gulch’s win. I picked her because I have always loved Gulch & enjoyed visiting with him at OF. She is a cutie, & it was a great race.

  10. What a beautiful horse…. He will be missed, his legacy will live on. Thank you, Old Friends, for giving him a loving home and taking such good care of him.

  11. Anne

    It is never easy no matter how our precious pets leave us. I was a big fan of Glitterman and his daughter who died way too early, Glitterwoman. I have her saddle cloth here in my livingroom from one of her victories. I also named one of my puppies after her. She too, was very pleasant to be around during her racing career. She had her moments but she also would show her pleasant side. A friend even laid down next to her in her stall during her racing days. She enjoyed the company. Glitterwoman was just that kind of gal…and after reading about her famous sire, I can see where they were very similiar.
    I know the only time they break our hearts is when they die. We live on their memories which tug at our heart strings daily. I don’t think there is ever an easy way in losing them. I have had to put most of my dogs down from old age related issues and one of mine just passed away in the backyard while I was running errands. It hurt just as much except I didn’t have to sign any forms to have them put down which in itself is heartbreaking. No easy solution other than not being involved with any form of animal. Then there would never be such great places as Old Friends or such loving people as yourself.
    My heart goes out to you Val and all the wonderful caregivers at Old Friends. At least Glitterman had some very good years after his career where many do not even have a chance of a retirement. You made his days happy and safe ones. He respected you for that.
    RIP Glitterman.

  12. Colmel

    Oh, no, Glitterman. I know what a hard time he had with his arthritis, but didn’t realize his time was so short. Of course, it was a lot longer and happier thanks to Old Friends and the love of all of you. My thoughts, prayers, and thanks go to all of you for caring for the nicest part of our past. The horses who have done so much to make us happy. RIP, Glitterman! Run pain free.

  13. Tom

    When I saw Glitterman on my Wednesday tours, I knew his days were numbered. I’ll never get comfortable with that feeling. He was a great horse who had a big impact, not only on Old Friends, but on the racing world as well. I will miss him.

  14. Teri H.

    I discovered something wonderful about Glitterman while giving tours at Old Friends. The more I knew him, the more I liked him. He just kind of grew on you. It’s a great memory. I will miss him.

  15. nikki

    are you going to do a press release on his death?

  16. TBDancer

    Well, THIS is embarrassing, tears rolling down my cheeks and I’m at work. Thank goodness my desk faces the wall. When these Old Friends (no pun intended) leave us, it doesn’t matter if the end is sudden or we know in advance. They will leave a huge hole in our hearts, but we will remember our time with them. Every day comes the opportunity to make a memory. I have never met any of the horses at Old Friends in person, but your blog makes memories for me. Thank you, Val.

  17. Gia

    Its amazing really how the stars of our sport and even the ones who never got a chance to prove who they were or what they can do impact our lives. Old Friends is a wonderful asset to our industry, giving homes to what would probably be our forgotten champions. Those champions who gave us such great thrills, but who are no longer suited for breeding or riding purposes, would be cast aside for other more glamorous stars. Thank you to the Old Friends community and thanks to Glitter for the memories. I have a 35 year old gelding who’s in the beginning stages of renal failure. I hope I can exhibit your courage when its Apache’s time

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