Monthly Archives: June 2011

Sunday June 26, 2011

There is any number of things to love about Old Friends, at least for me.  The horses, of course, are the best.  The people I work with on Sundays—Bea and Roberta and Charlotte, are pretty terrific.  The fresh air and exercise work for both Marley and me.  And something happened today, as it occasionally does, that will be stuck in my memory for a very long time. But I’ll get to that…

Weather update:  cooler, low to mid 70s, cloudy, slight breeze but no rain.  The grass is very thick, lush and green.  With the exception of Awad who was lying down this morning, there was not a lot of napping today. There was, however, plenty of greedy grazing.  I think the horses know that the dry days of summer might not be too far off, because everyone was tearing at the grass like it was the best tasting stuff ever.  But nevertheless, all the horses wandered over for treats.  I guess they won’t pass up an opportunity for carrots (or mints) either. 

We were quite busy today, with an especially large group at 1 pm.  We had visitors from Canada, New York, North Carolina, Georgia, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and right here in Lexington.  A lot of them were returning for a second, third or fourth visit, but there were plenty of first timers as well.   We visited every horse in the front part of the farm at one point or another today.  I am still laughing at Delay of Game, who now meets us at the fence for treats.  You remember how I said he spent so much time this winter laying in his pile of hay, watching the cars go by?  Oh yeah, he meets us now, at least physically.  But he barely spares us a passing glance—he takes his carrots and still keeps one, or both, eyes on the passing traffic.  I’m not sure who or what he is looking for, but he sure seems like he is waiting for something.  And Ball Four is a treat gobbler—like a lot of new horses, he is so excited by all the free treats he just can’t eat them fast enough!

There were a lot of kids today—from barely-a-toddler up through high school.  This afternoon Clever completely gave up on the grown-ups in order to stand next to the three little kids lined up on the bottom fence rail.  He ate carrots, let the kids rub his ears, pat his forehead and kiss his nose.  Clever is definitely a kids’ kind of horse!  But every horse enjoyed the kids today—from Ogygian, who let the same threesome line up to pat his face, to Commentator who took his treats gently and with his ears pricked.

Which leads me to the best part of today: on the 1 pm tour, there was a quiet and shy little girl, maybe 8 or 9, who clearly was deathly afraid of the horses.  Her older brother, who was far more talkative, informed me that his sister had broken both her arms falling off a horse. He confided in me that he didn’t blame his sister for not liking horses.  Not sure I could disagree with that!  But here is the magical thing about Old Friends.  You think the horses didn’t understand the issue here?  We began with Gramps and Scotty, who are always kind and friendly.  Marquetry and Clever were next.  Silver Charm added his, well, charm.  Dan, Flick, Pops and Ring did their parts, behaving graciously to everyone while the little girl hung back and watched.  And then, all of a sudden and out of the blue, the little girl handed Awad a carrot.  I can’t imagine how much courage it took for her to do that, and Awad accepted it with dignity.  Next thing I know, the little girl is reaching through the fence to touch Sunshine’s shoulder.  Then, he sniffs her arm and she climbs on the fence to get closer to him.  Then we visit Patton, who stands so patiently while she reaches through the fence to pat his neck. He nuzzles her shoulder and she finally, finally pats his nose.  And at the end of it all, she gave me a little smile and said she had fun.  You can’t tell me the horses didn’t know, from beginning to end, that they had to be extra kind and gentle for her.  It kind of gives me chills, to tell you the truth.  I am around these horses all the time, and still they amaze me.

And after that, what else is there to say?  We hope you can visit us sometime soon.  In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends! 

-Val

Happy Birthday, Mom!

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Sunday June 19, 2011

For the first time in a while, we had a rainy, stormy, sunny, windy, cool, humid, warm day in Kentucky.  Really.  At one time or another, today’s weather covered the spectrum.  The only thing it didn’t do was snow, and I don’t even want to think about that.

The horses loved the weather today. A number of the stallion paddocks were mowed this week, so having a cool, rainy morning with tender, freshly mown grass?  Yeah, definitely happy horses.

The famous, or infamous,  mud puddle is back in the corner of Pops’ and Ring’s paddock.  I warned the afternoon group the boys would try to splash us and sure enough, they did.  Pops stood right in the middle of the puddle, which is plenty big and deep enough for him to paw, splash, splatter and generally make a mess.  He plops his front hoof flat onto the water and sends muddy water everywhere.  Even Marley backed off.

It rained pretty hard this morning, so most of the horses were nice and clean—until the rain stopped.  Then I watched one horse after another go down for a good roll.  And just like that, no more clean horses! Even though all our paddocks are plenty grassy, every horse manages to find, manufacture, dig, stomp or otherwise create a horse-sized spot of dirt/mud.  I saw Commentator at 12:30 and he was spotless.  By 1:10, he was covered in mud from head to tail.  We watched Fortunate Prospect roll and roll—in the wet grass, no mud for Gramps—and he must have scattered insects as he did so, because he was surrounded by birds.  Birds were darting all around him, in the grass, swooping over his head and landing right next to his rolling body.  It was not your normal bird and horse event, that’s for sure.

This morning’s group, in the worst of the rain, had visitors from Alaska, which is not among the places our visitors are more commonly from.  Unfortunately, we had to spend our tour in the big barn talking, visiting with Marquetry and watching the rain and lightning.  None of the people on this tour were horse people, so it was fun to go over some of the basics.  After our rain-abbreviated tour, they headed off to Churchill Downs for an afternoon of racing.  Mission accomplished!

The other horse in the big barn during the afternoon is a gelding named Spoon River Lew. Owned and supported by a friend of Old Friends, Lew is in residence for a short while as he transitions to a new, non-racing career.  A big, handsome, friendly chestnut horse, Lew is a direct male descendant of my first-ever favorite racehorse- 1969 Kentucky Derby winner Majestic Prince. So I have a built-in soft spot for Lew.  Although to tell you the truth, I don’t need even that much of a reason to have a soft spot…

This afternoon I gave a tour to two people from Alberta, Canada.  We get plenty of Canadian visitors, but this lady was a world champion cutting horse person.  That was more unusual, and quite an accomplishment. They especially wanted to visit our two Canadian champions so we went to the annex to visit Benburb and Thornfield.  I don’t mention those two horses often enough.  Thorny is beautiful, red and handsome. He loves attention and came over for kisses and treats.  Well, I should say he came over as soon as he saw the other horses in his paddock getting some attention.  Jealousy is quite the motivator!

 Bennie, our other Canadian champ, is very special.  You may know he has melanoma, as evidenced by a number of rather unsightly tumors.  But he is fat (very!) and happy, and probably flat-out the nicest horse on the farm.  We have plenty of kind, easy going, classy horses on the farm.  But the best word for Bennie is just plain “nice.” 

So after the morning folks who weren’t horse people, I had two visitors this afternoon who were accomplished horse people.  Two extremes, that’s for sure, and all were extremely enjoyable to talk with. One of the terrific things about Old Friends is just how many people we meet, from all over the world, with all different professions and interests.  Interesting people, great horses.  What more could you ask for on a Sunday afternoon?

We hope you can make plans to visit us sometime.  Until then, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends!  -Val

P.S.  Happy Father’s Day to my dad, and all the dads out there!

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Sunday June 12, 2011

While today wasn’t as hot as last weekend, it still was a day with all the attributes of a horse  farm summer:  sun, heat, and lazy horses.  There was plenty of tail-swishing, napping, and grazing, with small interludes of activity.  Some of the horses came over for treats at a canter—Pops, Ring, Commentator.  Swannie and Awad raced each other along their fences to get to us. There is more than a little competition between those two and I think it gets more intense all the time. 

Afternoon Deelites is wearing the “in” summer accessory—the grazing muzzle.  Our tour group this morning initially assumed it was to keep him from biting, but in fact it is a diet aid.  I guess coming from Louisiana to the grass of Kentucky has been somewhat disruptive to his waistline!   Anyway, he is handling the contraption well, and he has already learned to push his mouth all the way to the ground, forcing more grass up through the small hole and into his grasp.  AD is also sporting the other must-have Old Friends fashion accessory—comfort shoes, courtesy of Dr. Fraley.   All in all, he is well decked out for his life in Kentucky.  And I will say it again—he is a spectacularly handsome horse with the most beautiful, intelligent face.  I might have a crush, to tell you the truth.  Don’t tell Wallenda.

Ogygian refused to come out of his shed to see us today, and Bull was ankle deep in a nice patch of grass so he ignored us as well.  It was kind of funny.  Bull and Tator live across from one another, and were roughly the same distance from us as we walked over to their neighborhood.  I called Bull and barely got the flick of an ear in response.  I called Tator, and he flung up his head and came at a run.   That horse will not miss an opportunity for a peppermint.

One of the best things about this time of year is the horses’ coats are at their peak.  Shiny and smooth, the sun hasn’t yet bleached them and the colors are true.  Clever is beautifully dappled and Gulch is a rich deep mahogany.  Pops and Ring are bright rusty red, and Kiri’s Clown is black.  Even Gramps’ coat is as short and summery as it gets, given his age.  There is more gray hair on his face every time I see him. Still, he looks great for 30 and ate his share of carrots today.  By the way, Gramps had a grandson win a big race on the Belmont undercard yesterday. Mission Approved won wire-to-wire in the Manhattan Handicap.   And Kiri’s Clown’s grandson Get Stormy ran third in the Monmouth Stakes today.  It was a good racing weekend for Old Friends horses.

Special Ring is still working the crowd with his lip-flipping tattoo trick.  Since it never fails to elicit laughs and bring out the cameras, Ring is going to use this trick forever. The horses absolutely respond to people, and outside of treats not much makes an old racehorse happier than attention. I bet there were 20 photos taken of his lip today. 

There was no shortage of visitors today, including the usual smattering of kids visiting with their grandparents. But it was the oddest thing: every single visitor this morning and for the first part of the afternoon was from Columbus, Ohio.   They didn’t arrive together, they didn’t know one another, but they all were from the same area.  We get plenty of people visiting from neighboring states, but it was unusual that they all lived so close to one another. They were talking about mutual schools, restaurants, people they knew in common.  It made for an interesting tour, that’s for sure.  Part of the Columbus contingent on this morning’s tour was a group of Harley motorcyclists. The women of the group had a few laughs comparing stallion behavior to the behavior of their husbands. Perhaps not surprisingly, there are some similarities…and that’s all I’m sayin’!

I want to say congrats to Brandywine Farm in Paris, who co-bred yesterday’s Belmont winner Ruler on Ice.  The Brandywine folks are nice people and I’m happy to see them breed a classic winner.  If you breed racehorses, breeding a Belmont winner is a BIG deal.

It’s hard to believe half the year is nearly gone.  The stream of visitors has been steady and it’s been a lot of fun, as always, to meet new people and greet returning friends. We hope you can visit us soon. In the meantime, thanks for spending another Sunday with Old Friends!  

-Val

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Sunday June 5, 2011

Summer is here.  I know this because even as early as 10 am this morning, horses were dozing, dogs were panting, and cats were completely hidden in the cool recesses of the barn. Only the silly people were out walking around, somehow expecting activity.  All the horses looked at us like we were just being ridiculous. And frankly, we probably were.

If a horse wasn’t within 10 feet of the fence, he was not coming over for carrots.  The old timers—Kiri, Sunshine, Swannie, Awad—are smart. They know they can doze just as easily right next to the fence and get their treats, no walking required.  The new guys—Patton, Afternoon Deelites, Ball Four–they either had to walk over (Four did) or they just didn’t bother.  

Despite the heat, we had a full day of tours, with people from Indiana, Ohio, Missouri, Wisconsin and New York.  The folks from New York live near Saratoga, and my mission was to convince them to go to the track for some live racing this summer.  Because, if you come to Old Friends and you like horses, then you probably ought to go to a good track to see Thoroughbreds doing what they are best at.  I like doing two things when I give tours—making kids into horse fans, and turning adults into live racing fans!

One of the downsides of summer is the appearance of fly masks, those portable window screens that the horses can see though, but  keep us from seeing their faces.  Yes, I know the masks keep flies off their eyes, but I miss seeing faces!   Swannie already had managed to remove his mask, leaving it lying in the dirt. He really doesn’t like anything on his face.  We put it back on him, but I doubt it’ll last long.

Bluesthestandard is back in the big field with his pals Wallace Station and Mighty Mecke.  He seems very happy to be back outside after a long stint in the barn healing his bowed tendon. This afternoon he was the impetus for the only real activity we saw today—he got into mock fight with Wally and then the two of them cantered in circles to show off.  Mecke just stood and watched them, too sensible to expend that much energy in the heat.

This afternoon, we took a golf cart and rode up to the “back 40” to see the mares and geldings, not that many of them cared.  Too hot, too much grass to eat I guess.  Kudos came over, as did Regal Sanction and Siphonizer.  AP Slew and EscapedfromNewYork met us at the fence.  I guess I haven’t stood right next to Escaped for a long time—he seemed huge to me.  I still think of him as the scrawny, skinny, malnourished horse he was when he arrived. He must be 16 hands tall now, fat, shiny and pretty.  He sure lucked out, given what could have been…

But the real reason I took the tour up the hill was to see Cozy Miss.  I can’t even begin to describe how adorable she looks with her partly-shed buffalo hair.  He winter coat must have been a good 6 inches long, and it is as silky as a golden retriever’s.  But if you have ever seen buffalo in the spring, with the tan clumps of long winter hair interspersed with the dark brown summer coat, then you know exactly what Cozy looks like!  She met us at the fence, along with her friend and protector Hidden Lake.  Personalized and Miss Hooligan never showed their faces, preferring to hang out down over the hill.

It sure seems like the lazy days of summer are here, with lots of tail-swishing, fly-swatting, and napping around the farm.   Like every season, summer has its charm and if you like lazy horses who want nothing more than someone willing to scratch a back or chase some flies, this is the time to visit.  We are open for tours daily.  We hope you can come visit us soon!

-Val

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