Monthly Archives: July 2011

Sunday July 31, 2011

As you all know, it has been a difficult week at Old Friends.  Last Saturday Awad suffered a heart attack in his paddock, and on Sunday Cozy Miss passed from complications due to Cushing’s Disease.  Both horses lived long and full lives, and were deeply loved by many people. We received so many condolences this week from so many people, and we appreciate every single one.

But as is always the case, it’s now a week later and the horses make it abundantly clear just how life goes on.  The horses do not let you linger in grief—they want their attention now, please.

This morning, I convinced one of our tourists to scratch Bull’s back.  After some initial hesitation, the man really put some muscle into it, and Bull was happy as can be.  But when the man’s wife began scratching her husband’s back at the same time, it was one of those wish-for-a-camera moments. Kind of a chain of back scratching, pass it on…

On the subject of back scratches, everyone always gets a kick out of the horses that make funny faces when you find a particularly good itchy spot.  Bull makes a great face:  kind of a scrunched-up, just-ate-something-really-sour-but-it’s-so-good expression.  Kiri’s Clown is another one who gets all blissful and Wallenda, next door at the annex, is the same.  We can add Patton to that list, as well.   When we found that really itchy spot today, he drooled, swayed and just about climbed the fence to get closer.  When you add to that just how much he loves to be patted, hugged, and otherwise fussed over, you have one great horse to introduce to people.  Between Patton and Sunshine Forever next door, there was a lot of fussing being done at that part of the farm this afternoon.

Given as hot as it was today, and it was plenty hot and humid, people seemed to want to shorten the tour time by a few minutes.  Marquetry made out like a bandit—since he is inside the barn and out of the hot sun during the day, everyone was more than happy to spend extra time with him.  He got his share and then some of love and carrots. (Love and Carrots—probably should be the Old Friends’ motto!) The afternoon tour had a big handful of kids, ranging in age from maybe 10 on down to 18 months.  As is true for so many of the stallions, kids–especially little girls—are the visitor of choice for Marq.  He dropped his head right down to toddler level and took extra care with little hands.  He is quite the gentleman.

Danthebluegrassman likes kids as well, and for some reason, he really likes to nuzzle his lips in the hair of small blonde kids.  The kids inevitably giggle, and I suspect the giggles are what Dan really likes. This afternoon: blonde girl, Dan’s lips, lots of giggles, everyone’s happy!

We had some intense rain last night, with mixed results.  Bull and Commentator, for example, were relatively clean.  The rain washed away the week’s sweat and surface dirt, leaving softer, cleaner coats.  But then again, there was Pops.  He was covered in mud head to toe, including some especially large, dried clumps on his forehead.  He did not look particularly like a movie star today, more like a little boy out playing in the mud.  

With the long stretch of heat we’ve been having, people ask me all the time how the horses handle the weather.  Given a choice, of course the horses much prefer cooler temperatures.  But they all have plenty of water and the grass is green, so they manage just fine.  Gramps took his normal stroll around his field this morning, albeit at a slower pace.  Special Ring splashed in his mud puddle this afternoon. Ogygian and Clever Allemont hung out under their respective trees, in the shade.  Delay of Game used his automatic waterer as a splash pool, plunging his head into the water and splashing all over his face, neck and chest.  Some of the horses use their run-in sheds for shade.  Kiri’s Clown, for example, rarely ventures out of his shed during the day, unless it’s approaching dinner time.  He is more than content under cover, napping and swishing flies.  There is a tall, weedy plant that has escaped the mower right in front of his shed, giving him some additional camouflage.  If you didn’t know he was in there, you might never see him. 

It’s hot, that’s for sure, but we continue to offer tours daily.  Call the office at 502-863-1775 to make a reservation.  We hope you can visit us soon.  In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends!  

 -Val

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Saturday July 23, 2011

Awad   1990-2011 

We lost Awad this morning, in his paddock, peacefully, on a summer morning.  There are few horses at Old Friends who could top Awad for career accomplishment, beauty, and over-the-top personality.  We will all miss him tremendously, including his trainer David Donk and family, who visited Awad and loved him dearly.

I have been asked many times which Old Friends horse receives the most passionate visitors.  Perhaps surprisingly, Awad is the horse that comes to my mind.  I can’t tell you how often people asked to see him.  The other horses absolutely have their fans, but the people who came to see Awad always had some special, personal connection with him.  I once gave a tour to a couple who were on their honeymoon when he won the Arlington Million and celebrated their anniversary by visiting him at Old Friends.  People often came to the farm with memories of his Saratoga Sword Dancer having a special place in their lives.   A lot of racing fans think of horses like Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed as being defining stars.  I can tell you that Awad, for many people, was every bit as definitive. 

Awad ran 70 times, finishing first, second or third half the time.  He wasn’t a particularly large horse, but he was tough.  He raced until he was seven and he retired with winnings of 3.2 million dollars.  He set two course records, for 1 ¼ miles in 1:58.69 at Arlington Park and 1 ½ miles in 2:23.2 at Saratoga.  Awad still holds both records.   He had a Hall of Fame caliber career, missing only perhaps, to some, a Breeder’s Cup win.  That is some racehorse.  And along with those statistics, Awad was a major personality.  He was a huge ham, intelligent, slightly neurotic, and loved a good joke.  He was competitive, athletic, and sometimes moody.  Everyone who knew him has stories illustrating all these traits.

Awad was a carrot horse. He was not a big fan of apples.  He didn’t particularly care for mints and took horse cookies while letting you know it was all about the carrots.  One time I was giving a tour to a rather obnoxious, slightly inebriated man.  I had apples and carrots in the treat bucket, and the tourist ignored my comment that Awad preferred carrots, telling me that all horses like apples better.  I shrugged and Awad took care of the rest.  He chewed the apple until it was good and sloppy, and then spit slobbery pieces of apple all over the guy who gave it to him.  Yes, Awad surely loved a good joke. 

Or there were the times when Awad saw the tour group across the paddock, came at a dead run and slid to a rearing stop on his hind legs, right in front of everyone.  He once caused a grown man to back up so quickly that he fell on his butt and slid backwards.  Earlier this spring, Awad and Swannie entered into a mock battle, both horses up in the air on their back legs, with the people caught right between them in the pathway between their paddocks.  We ducked and ran.  Both horses laughed at us that time.

Awad knew what, and who, he liked and disliked.  A couple years ago he took a dislike to someone on the tour.  First he nipped at the man.  Then as we walked away he ran alongside us, kicked out with his back leg and banged the top fence board right next to the man he didn’t like.  More people scurrying away, more satisfaction for Awad.

Popcorn Deelites and Special Ring lived in the paddock across from Awad.  Both those geldings, but especially Ring, loved to aggravate Awad.  If Ring was bored, his entertainment of choice was to stand across from Awad and engage him in a game of “who’s the better horse.”  Nickering, neck arching, posing, stomping, running and bucking, Ring knew he could get Awad’s goat.  And Awad, being the competitive horse he was, could never just let it go.  

Awad was most settled when his familiar pals were in their neighboring paddocks—Sunshine Forever, Swan’s Way and of course, Kiri’s Clown.  When Kiri had to go to the barn to get new shoes, Awad fretted until his buddy returned and all was back to normal.  If there was a new horse on the farm, most particularly a new stallion, it never escaped Awad’s notice.  If that new stallion happened to move into a nearby paddock it rocked Awad’s world, and not in a good way.  When Patton moved nearby, Awad was grumpy for weeks. I learned that the hard way, when normally non-threatening Awad bit me.  My fault, because we were standing within Awad’s reach while openly admiring Patton. 

But my very favorite memory of Awad is the time a family brought their wheelchair-bound daughter to Old Friends. 

The girl, maybe in her early 20s, was not able to move or communicate beyond some very basic expressions.  Mom, dad, brother and sister-in-law pushed her along the paths between paddocks. She clearly enjoyed seeing the horses.  And Awad–the jokester, the show-off, that smart, smart horse–stretched his nose between the lower boards of his fence to gently nuzzle the hand of the girl in the wheelchair. 

As I think about these stories, it is clear to me that Awad was, first and foremost, his own horse.  He knew who and what he was, and expected people to recognize it as well.  He was kind when he should be, demanding when it was his due, and always, always a memorable personality.  I think it is just like Awad to choose how he died—in his paddock on a summer morning, on his own terms—no trip to the clinic, no poking and prodding, and no difficult decisions to be made.  Awad was among the now-diminished group of stallions in residence at Old Friends when I first visited the farm, and I kind of thought he was like the sun or the wind—always been there, always would be.  There are many, many people who will never forget Awad, myself among them.  Knowing him was, without a doubt, our honor and privilege.  But it won’t be nearly the same without him.

-Val

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Sunday July 17, 2011

It seems to me that by the middle of July in Kentucky we are usually experiencing hot and dusty days, watching as the grass turns brown and crispy.  This year we have had the hot days all right, but there is no dust to be found.  The grass is thick, green and amazingly lush because we’ve had a lot of rain.  Today was no different– at times this afternoon it rained so hard that you couldn’t see the big barn from the office.   Horses love that weather—a break from the heat, refreshing rain, juicy grass and, oh yeah.  Fresh mud!

This was Breyerfest weekend at the Horse Park, which for Old Friends means plenty of family tours. Tim Ford took over the morning tour for me, and I wandered into the office just in time to see his group of nearly 20 people finish up.  Add three or four van tours to our regular afternoon schedule, and we were definitely busy. 

Of course, fate granted Tim the dry tour—this afternoon we weren’t so lucky.  But with people here from as far away as California and Oregon, we carried on.  Among our visitors this afternoon was a woman writing an article for a touring magazine.  She had a photographer along, so of course the skies opened up and nearly every horse was covered in fresh goopy mud.  Well, I think Creator was clean except for a large tangle of grass and sticks in his mane.  Flick was clean.  Pops and Ring were too busy performing to roll right away so they weren’t too bad.  But Patton, Sunshine, Commentator and Clever were covered, and I mean covered.  Sunshine even had mud in his left ear.  

I told a few people today that this was Bull’s last quiet Breyerfest, since next year there will be a Bull inthe Heather Breyer model. Bull will enter his second phase of fame—from racehorse to collectable horse. Today he was practicing being Cute and Adorable (and mind you, Bull isn’t really the Cute and Adorable type).  He presented his left side to be scratched, and then his right side, then his butt.  Through it all he grinned as only a happy horse can:  with his eyes closed, his lip quivering and with a nice stream of drippy drool. 

After tours this afternoon, Tim, Charlotte, Greg, Marley and I took a ride up to the back 40 to see the gang in the back of the farm.  As we drove up the hill the horses watched us, wondering if we were bringing dinner.  As soon as they saw we weren’t bearing grain, back to grazing they went.  Mighty Mecke has transitioned to his summer color—he’s black in winter, dusty mouse-colored in summer.  The Name’s Jimmy and Royal Orage barely spared us a glance.  Williamstown was hiding off in the back of his field and all you could see was his top half.  He loves that field, where he can more or less hide if he doesn’t want to be found.   Tinner met us at the fence, but with no dinner in sight he didn’t much care either.

Cherono and Ball Four have moved in with Kudos and Bonapaw, so I was curious to see how the four of them were doing together.  I’m happy to say they seem just fine—Cherono and Ball Four bucked and kicked their way over to say hi, while Bonapaw stood off to the side looking regal.  Kudos was too busy eating to care at all.  I suspect Ball Four and Cherono are thrilled to be one another’s best buddy. After all, it’s no doubt been awhile since either horse was in a large field with other horses—Cherono because he was a racehorse and a stallion, (now he’s a gelding) and Ball Four because he was racing until fairly recently.

The other two horses that looked pretty adorable were the duo of EscapedfromNewYork and AP Slew.  They are also best pals, and Escaped has grown to be one chubby, happy, not-so-little horse.  Every time I see him I am so glad he is with us.  If you don’t know his story, Escaped was given his name after “escaping” from a farm where nearly 200 horses were found starving.  Escaped had no name, no registration, and a previously broken ankle that had fused itself. He has grown significantly, both in height and width, since he came to Old Friends. All our horses are happy, but to me, Escaped looks especially content.

As I am writing this tonight, another summer thunderstorm is rolling in and it looks like more rain is on the horizon.  Breyerfest is over for another year, and we are headed into the height of summer.  At Old Friends, tours head out several times a day.  We hope you can visit us soon.  In the meantime, enjoy your summer, wherever you are! 

-Val

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Sunday July 10, 2011 Part 2

The morning started out pretty hot, and as the afternoon wore on it arguably got only hotter. I was thankful for the six-passenger golf cart, as we had a number of folks who really needed the ride.  Marley the tour dog also enjoys the free ride, and she claims shotgun every time. There was a little girl today who was more interested in Marley than the horses, and the two of them shared the front navigator spot for the entire tour.  And we had a little boy who discovered he was perfect fit for the cradle of the tree between Pops and Ring and the cemetery.  He pretty much hid himself in the branches, 4 or 5 feet off the ground, and enjoyed the shade. 

Afternoon Deelites continues to be encumbered with his grazing muzzle–and just try telling him it’s for his own good—but he is willing to come over to visit us anyway.  He enjoys having someone to chase flies, rub his face and scratch his back.  But he doesn’t stay long, preferring to go back to his diet grazing.  Still, he is a lovely horse and along with Patton and Marquetry has become a go-to visit for people who are just a little intimidated by horses. 

One lady today remarked on Marq’s eyes.  Each horse’s individual personality clearly shines out of their very expressive eyes.  Commentator, for example, has a look of Trouble with a Capital T—mischievous for sure.  Sunshine looks smart and calm, Patton patient and gentle.  Gulch looks at you like you might just be interrupting His Majesty’s day (and you probably are) and Bull’s gleam with the knowledge treats are in the offing.   AD just looks intelligent and aware.  But Marq looks like a little boy—curious, happy and enthralled with everything he sees.  Even people who have never been near a  horse pick that up about him right away.

Last weekend we went to Pittsburgh to see family, where our young nieces are shareholders in several of the Old Friends horses.  The horses–Dan, Pops and Sunshine–sent along some Old Friends swag to their girls.  Niece Kayla, who is the proud owner of a Danthebluegrassman share, (after initially bonding with Black Tie Affair—she has excellent taste in horses!) especially enjoyed her gift and trotted right off to craft a thank-you note to her horse.  Thought I’d share it here…I know she is my niece, but I ‘m allowed to think its pretty cute!  But I think it also gives an inkling of how special a visit to Old Friends can be for anyone,  and especially for a little girl. 

We hope you can visit us soon. We are open for tours daily.  For a reservation, call the office at 502-863-1775. Until then, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends!

-Val

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Sunday July 10, 2011

We are smack in the midst of summer, and I think today was probably the warmest Sunday of the year.  Hot, humid, sunny and still, the day was best suited for finding some shade and taking a nap. There was very little activity outside of swishing flies and sweating!

Nevertheless, we had a full day of tours.  Kids, parents, grandparents; ages ranged from a three year old to a 93 year old, and a lot in between.  We began all our tours today with Marquetry, who spends the hot daytime in his stall.  He greets every tour with a nicker, and stands graciously for kisses, carrots and plenty of mints.  This afternoon, when we had a couple of older gentlemen in the golf cart, we pulled right up next to his stall door, and Marq happily stuck his nose right into the golf cart to say hello. 

The horse who was most unhappy with the heat was Clever Allemont, and by the middle of this afternoon he was happily headed into his stall.  It’s funny, we’ve tried putting Gramps inside when it gets really hot and he hates it, much preferring to be outside no matter what the weather is.  But Clever wants his stall when he wants his stall!  Kiri’s Clown spent the whole day in his run-in shed, with no interest being out from under this shade.  But he’s a nearly black horse, so I can’t blame him for wanting to stay out of the sun.

Ball Four has moved into a large paddock at the back of the farm, with some new friends.  He is in with Kudos, Bonapaw and Cherono.  The four of them will no doubt have a fine old time raising a ruckus.  WC Jones has moved from the annex to a paddock next to the pond, and Delay of Game moved over one paddock.  It was all enough to confuse the tour guide (me) today, and I initially introduced Delay as Ball Four.  By the time I figured that out, I was then momentarily stymied trying to figure out who Jonesy was.  Through it all, I could feel Sunshine looking at me and probably laughing!

(PART TWO coming tomorrow…. –Val)

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