Monthly Archives: September 2011

Sunday September 25, 2011

Sometimes, you have to cram a whole lot of fun into one too-short weekend.  This weekend was one of those, as I spent yesterday at the Secretariat Festival in Paris, Kentucky. And today, of course, was my usual Sunday at the farm.  The weather cooperated, people were fun and the horses all feel terrific.  It was just about perfect, really!

Old Friends took our grandson of Secretariat, Riva Way, to the Secretariat Festival yesterday and a couple of us went along as escorts.   Not that Riva really needed us.  He got off the van, walked to his spot and after about 20 minutes of intently checking everything out, he settled in and happily greeted everyone.  

I’m not sure what I expected, having never been to this particular event, but I can tell you it was packed and it had a really cheerful, happy vibe.  Everyone was smiling, I think because everyone there was kind of following a dream.  Even though Secretariat has been gone for a long time, everyone I talked with was thrilled to be so close to the horse they idolized.   At one point I bet there were 300 people in line for Penny Chenery’s autograph. (Ms. Chenery owned Secretariat and his stablemate Riva Ridge.)  And people came from everywhere—California, Washington, South Dakota, Alabama, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Canada are just some that I remember.   

As you can probably imagine, Riva Way is a bit of a celebrity at an event honoring Secretariat.  People lined up for his photo, and when he was paraded along the grandstand he loved stopping every few feet to allow for camera time.  He posed like a runway model, over and over again.   Or at least he did until he got a load of the miniature pony decked out as Secretariat—silks, saddle and blanket of roses.  Riva wasn’t at all sure what to make of that.  In fact, he wasn’t sure about any of the minis; the fancy carts some of them were pulling might as well have been alien invaders to him.  He was very happy to get far away from them.

There were a number of different breed of horses (in addition to Riva’s dreaded minis), horse demonstrations, a memorabilia auction and autographs from jockeys, Secretariat’s exercise rider, Ms. Chenery and her daughter Kate.   Old Friends tour guide Nick, his wife Jackie and Old Friend’s horse guy Mundo came along for the day.  We talked with people about Old Friends and answered a million questions, it seemed.  One of the things that really struck me was the age range of the Secretariat fans.  We met people old enough to have seen him race, others who only saw the recent Disney movie, adults, kids, it was amazing.  And how many people told me yesterday they never touched a horse until that very minute?  Oh, and Riva is missing a few strands of hair, given to fans as a keepsake.   I’ll happily volunteer for this event again next year.

Many of the people we talked with yesterday showed up at Old Friends for one of today’s tours.  In fact, there were a lot of Secretariat Festival 2011 t-shirts on display today.  In addition, Charlie Davis, Secretariat’s exercise rider visited Old Friends this morning.    The whole festival atmosphere kind of carried over to the farm, making for an especially fun day.  Roberta, Bea, and I were even asked for autographs–talk about basking in reflected glory!  That was just too funny…

The horses must have picked up on the mood too, because there was plenty of activity to see.  Clever cantered over for carrots, as did Prized and Gulch.  The big shocker was Ogygian, who cantered over not once, but twice.  He is so beautiful when he runs, and he does it rarely enough that it’s a treat to see.   We also saw Afternoon Deelites, Kiri and Falcon Scott run, and I mean RUN over to get their dinners. 

Speaking of Scotty, he and Stormy Passage are now geldings.  It will allow them to eventually have paddock mates.  Nevertheless, I am glad I wasn’t there on gelding day.  Last year I was “involved” in Dupars’ little surgery, and I firmly believe that horse never forgave me.  Thus, I plan to be far away when Gasconade’s day comes here in the near future:  I like him, he likes me, and I’d like to keep it that way! 

We had a couple of kids on one of the tours today. The little girl, Kennedy, was maybe 4 and she liked the horses ok.  But she really liked Marley and followed the dog everywhere.  After a couple of dashes by mom and dad to round her up, we got smart and just called Marley.  As the dog wandered back toward us Kennedy followed right alongside, sometimes with her arm draped across Marley’s back.  Eventually, the two of them–little blonde girl with a bow in her hair, and boxer dog–had pretty much covered the front yard, back yard, side yard and cemetery.  They were a perfect pair, and Marley was an excellent baby sitter.  I think Kennedy will remember her visit to Old Friends, and probably not because of the horses. She’ll remember her new friend Marley.

It really was an exceptional weekend.  I sincerely hope that events like the Secretariat Festival bring new fans to racing, and reinvigorate the fun for people who maybe forgot.  I know that meeting so many fans this weekend made me appreciate even more the time I get to spend with the horses.   We are open for tours daily and you can make a reservation by calling our office at 502-863-1775.  We hope you can visit us soon.  In the meantime, thank you for spending this Sunday with Old Friends!   

 -Val

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Sunday September 18, 2011

Autumn, fall, beginning of winter, whatever you call it, it is pretty much here.  The color of the grass changes—it’s still green but with an undertone of gold.   The trees are starting to show hints of yellow, red and caramel.  And the horses are beginning to grow winter coats.  Some are getting fuzzier faster than others—Clever, Commentator, Swannie, and Sunshine—but everyone is showing the signs.  Summer’s sun-bleached colors are returning to winter’s deep blacks, reds, and browns.  Williamstown is back to his velvety black, Kiri’s Clown to dark chocolate, and Danthebluegrassman is vibrant carrot-top orange.   

We had some terrific tours today, beginning with the morning group.  We had three people lined up next to Bull for the requisite back-scratching.  As much as Bull loves treats, I believe if he had to choose, he would give up treats to have three people scratching his itches!  The thing with Bull is that it’s an either/or proposition: either he snacks, or he accepts a back scratch.  Now, on the other hand, Prized is a multi-tasker.  He can eat carrots, get scratched, quiver his lip and drool all at once!  As new stallions acclimate to Old Friends, you start to get a sense of what kind of horse they are.  Prized seems to be a very nice horse—trotting over to the fence for every tour, greeting people and generally behaving like a gentleman.  I am always fascinated by pedigrees, and Prized has an interesting one.  He is the son of Kris S. and grandson of Roberto, and thus related to Sunshine and Kudos.  But he also is a great-grandson of Kentucky Derby winner Dark Star, the only horse to beat the famous Native Dancer.  You can check out Prized’s pedigree here.

The afternoon began with a number of young girls on the 1 o’clock tour.  Girls of that age group—8, 10, 12 or thereabouts—are most often the horses’ favorite visitors.  There is something about that age that makes every horse act just a little bit more gentlemanly.  Afternoon Deelites, who is a stallion you have to be on your toes around, takes treats nice as can be from 8 year olds.  But grown up men–you better pay attention!  And forget about Clever—no horse enjoys that age group more than he does.  The same is true for Sunshine and Kiri as well.  Patton is plain nice.  He pushed his nose into a lady’s neck today and just snuggled with her.

I mentioned a couple weeks ago how nice it is to see I’m Charismatic outside in a paddock every day.  He loves it and is (literally!) gobbling up the attention on tours.  This afternoon he felt good enough to try to run away when it was time to go inside for the day.  He broke into a canter, albeit a somewhat awkward one, but a canter nonetheless. It lasted for a few strides and then good sense took over and he waited calmly to be caught.  A couple of people lamented the hitch in his stride today, but to tell you the truth he doesn’t know there is anything different for him.  He gets to go outside next door to his new friend WC Jones, eats grass, gets visitors and munches carrots. Then, when he’s had enough, he goes back into his nice, clean stall for dinner and a nap.  There’s nothing wrong with that life!

The other really good news was seeing Stormy Passage outside in the round pen for a short while today.  Stormy has been stall-bound, recovering from a bowed tendon, and today was the first time I’ve seen him outside since he came to Old Friends last winter.  A 6 year old, he has filled out—he’s not in racing shape anymore–and is a very handsome horse.  It’s nice to see him progressing in his recovery, knowing that he is getting better and will eventually be outside for longer and longer periods.  Janet, Kent and Dr. Fraley deserve loads of credit for getting both I’m Charismatic and Stormy Passage to this point in their recoveries.  In fact, we should probably count all the horses who are, or have been, lucky to have Dr. Fraley take care of their feet—Wallenda, Bull, Afternoon Deelites, Williamstown, Kiri, Black Tie Affair, Academy Award, and the list goes on…

Next weekend Paris (Bourbon County) Kentucky has its annual Secretariat Festival.  Our own Riva Way, a grandson of both Secretariat and his stablemate Riva Ridge, will be in attendance for visitors to meet.  If you are in the area, stop and say hello. For more information on the Festival, go to http://www.secretariat.com/

That’s the news from here in central Kentucky this week.  Tours continue daily at the farm throughout the fall.  We hope you can visit us soon.  In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends!  -Val

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Sunday September 4, 2011

Labor Day weekend—can you believe it?  Where did the summer go?  It seems like just yesterday that Afternoon Deelites and Patton arrived at Old Friends, but it was actually several months ago.  

Today started out warm and humid, even though it cooled off some by the 3 pm tour.  It’s raining now, so the horses I’m sure are happy about that.  Still, hot weather equals lazy horses, and several people commented today they wished they could see the horses run.  The only ones who complied were Swannie, who broke into a slow, lazy canter, and Silver Charm whose little hooves churned as he ran over to get his carrots.

Yesterday, however, was over 100 degrees and today most of the horses were pretty sticky with dried sweat. As a result, they all especially appreciated a good back scratching.  This morning I had a couple kids standing on Kiri’s fence to reach his back.  He loved it, lifting his muzzle straight up in the air and sighing in bliss.  The kids’ mom remarked that it was just like when you get the perfect spot on a dog and the dog’s leg starts kicking, and it is!

It occurred to me today that I think some of our stallions are mellowing a considerable amount.  First, Creator actually tried to play today—licking my hand and curling his lips into my palm, then tossing his head and coming back for more.  If that isn’t shocking enough, and it is, I stood and watched an older woman pat Leave Seattle–on the face, over and over—like he lets just anyone do that.  If I didn’t know them so well, I’d think someone moved different horses into those paddocks.  I’m still not sure what was going on. 

In fact, a good number of the horses were either quite playful or just more accommodating today.  Commentator wanted to play, but that’s normal. Ogygian actually stood motionless while everyone patted his face, and he’s normally a horse who prefers not to have people’s hands near his eyes. Afternoon Deelites was feeling a little playful, tossing his head and slobbering on my arm.   WC Jones let anyone kiss him who wanted to do so.

On the other hand, Prized is a nice horse who loves to be fussed over, but don’t try to pat his face if he doesn’t know you. He’ll back right off.  And High Emperor Gulch has royal expectations of how people will behave when they approach him.  I suppose he’d prefer if we’d curtsey, but he’ll make due with an adequate perimeter of personal space. 

On the last tour this afternoon we had a little girl—tiny, maybe three years old—who was pretty intimidated by the big horses. We tried and tried to get her to feed or pat one.  It was a no go, until she decided there was one horse she trusted. First, she patted Swannie–several times.  Then, she took a liking to Special Ring.  Finally, she asked to pat, of all horses, Gasconade.  Not that he isn’t a nice horse, because certainly he is.  But he is a big boy, and perhaps more intimidating than some of the others.  It didn’t matter, though. She decided he was pretty and she wanted to pat him.  He stood like a champ while she stroked his nose.  I often wonder what the horses think when they interact with all the people who visit, but in the end they always behave best for the little ones. 

That’s about all from here for today.  Here’s wishing everyone a lovely Labor Day weekend.  We hope you can visit us soon, but in the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends! 

(Happy Birthday, Mikaela Rose!)

 -Val

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