Monthly Archives: October 2011

Sunday October 30, 2011

On the final Sunday of October (can you even believe it?) we had another terrific autumn day at Old Friends.  The weather was sunny but cool, making for horses that either napped in the sunshine or ran around.  Some of them, like Patton, couldn’t make up their minds and opted for both—nap a little, run a little, nap a little more!

 This morning I met our newest stallion for the first time.  His name is You and I, and he is perhaps best known for his good racehorse daughter You, who won the Kentucky Oaks.  Like Prized, You and I is a son of Kris S., and there is a clear family resemblance.  Both Prized and You and I are dark, nearly black horses.  Prized is a little larger, You and I is a little blacker.  Prized met us at every corner of his paddock for carrots—a record, all four corners on one tour.  You and I is a little more hesitant (probably only because he hasn’t quite gotten the hang of the carrot bucket) but he seems very sweet.  He could turn out to be another one of those kind-hearted, easy-to-get-along-with stallions that we love on tours.  Time will tell, I suppose. You can see You and I’s pedigree here.

 In all the time I’ve been giving tours at the farm, I don’t believe I have ever had a visitor who came because they actually knew Swan’s Way when he was racing.  Because you know Swannie, while he had a long career, was not the most famous of racehorses!  So it was quite a shocker today when a woman came on the tour whose sister trained Swannie when he raced.  She was so excited to see him, and took picture after picture to show her sister.  Her first response when she saw him this morning was that Swannie sure has put on some pounds since his racing days!  I think Swannie, who by the way has moved to the paddock right behind the office, was thrilled to get his own personal visitor.  This is a horse who loves to be fussed over, so it suited him just fine.

Old Friends is leasing a new property a few miles down the road that will house a number of our overflow horses, some of which either were boarded out elsewhere or we living at the annex farm next door. This weekend has been moving weekend, so Viv kindly took over my 1 pm tour while I “helped” Kent catch and trailer horses to the new farm.  I use the term “help” very loosely, since I mostly opened and closed the door to the horse trailer.  The moves went quickly for the most part—racehorses know how to lead onto a trailer easily enough.  But it nothing goes totally smoothly, and there is always one horse who wants to be bad!  Today it was Thornfield and Hussonfirst who didn’t want to be caught, so we had to use some strategy—divide and conquer works best. Once their buddies are caught, they pretty much give up.  And then Hussonfirst did not particularly want to get onto the trailer.  I’d like to say we won him over because we are smarter than he is, but in truth I think he just got bored with being stubborn. After a few minutes, he gave up and walked onto the trailer like he should have from the beginning.  The new farm has large fields, and the horses loved their new space to run.  When I left them, Seek Gold, Early Pioneer, Thorny and Husson were showing off, tails in the air and heads tossing as they explored their new home. 

The cool weather really encourages more active horses—even Sunshine came over at a canter for carrots this afternoon.  I saw Wallenda acting bad this morning, trotting over to the fence and then kind of bouncing into a half-rear a couple times.  I told him to knock it off—those back legs cannot handle that kind of activity!  At one time or another today, we saw Gulch, Patton, Prized, You and I, and Afternoon Deelites run.  But the champ was Stormy Passage, who ran, bucked and kicked during his outside time this morning. The most fun was watching Stormy and Marley mirror each other’s actions, the dog and the horse playing together with the fence between them.  Stormy sure feels good, and it’s pretty cool to see his personality develop more all the time.  

I haven’t mentioned Marquetry today, because he went to the clinic for surgery  after a bout with colic this weekend.  Marq, being the smart horse that he is, made sure Kent knew he was hurting by banging on his fence in the very early, still-dark hours Saturday morning.   The surgery went well, and  today he was doing well enough to eat dinner.   He should be back home within a few days.   Colic is a very dangerous thing in horses, as they are animals with seemingly endless amounts of intestine to twist and knot.  We were fortunate to catch it early enough that Marq could be treated.  As any horse owner knows, sometimes you aren’t so lucky.

Now that Keeneland’s fall meet is over, next weekend is Breeder’s Cup weekend.  This coming Sunday we’ll have our Breeder’s Cup event, and then we head into the “quiet season” for tours.  The next few months are a great time to tour the farm—cooler weather, more active horses, and fewer visitors make for the best opportunities to interact with the horses and get to know their personalities.  We are open for tours throughout the fall and winter, so if you are in the area, please come see us!  In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends. 

-Val

P.S.  Congrats to OF volunteers Nick and Jackie on the birth this weekend of baby Ace.  The next generation of tour guides has arrived!

P.P.S.  Happy Birthday, Cam!

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Sunday October 23, 2011

Weekends are just too short sometimes, and this one was especially so. Went to Keeneland for the races yesterday, where the 7 year old niece cheered home more winners than the rest of us combined.  (Her method?  Pick horses with pretty names.  I know.  But it worked!)

One of the benefits of Keeneland for the community is that the meet attracts people from all over. Those folks often make a stop at Old Friends, and I enjoy having race fans on tours.  Of course we also had people who were in town for a wedding, and some others who brought their own out of town visitors for a tour.  All in all, it was pretty busy.

The day was kind of cool and overcast, and we even had a raindrop or two this afternoon.  The horses are all getting pretty fuzzy, some more so than others.  Afternoon Deelites still looks relatively sleek, as does Creator.  Gulch’s coat is not real long, but it is thick and it’s going to be very wooly. It’s the same for Clever.  Kiri’s Clown and Patton are pretty velvety.  Someone asked me this afternoon what color you would call Prized.  I guess his registered color is dark bay or brown, but really…he’s black right now.

Stormy Passage has graduated to a small paddock down by the pond each morning.  Probably the best part of that move, to him, is he has access to carrots!  He is really enjoying himself and is such a pretty little bay horse—everyone loves him. 

This afternoon, we had a group of people (ok, women) who were beyond entertained by Special Ring’s tattoo trick.  We spent 20 minutes listening to the ladies sing-song the word “tattoo” in an effort to get Ring to pose with his lip flipped up so they could photograph and video the trick. I believe the entire effort is going to be posted somewhere online, so I will be watching for it and will share the link.  You’ll probably hear me in the background, laughing…

I don’t often get to take visitors over to see my buddy Wallenda, partly because he lives next door at the annex farm, and also because regular visitors, with their corresponding treats, are not really a good thing for him.  But there was a special request to see him today, so we trotted over to the annex.  Wallenda raced for Dogwood Stable, and it is nice to see the Dogwood fans remember the big horse.  Wallenda certainly enjoyed the fussing and the carrots.  He posed nicely for photos, too.

By the time we got around to the late afternoon tour, some of the horses were more interested in their impending dinner than in getting carrots.  Dan was cranky, and so was Leave Seattle.  I kind of think we interrupted Sunshine’s afternoon nap.  Patton didn’t let us down, and neither did Kiri.  Both horses ambled right over for treats, even if they did meet us conveniently close to their feeders.  Afternoon Deelites, however, is arrogant enough to know that he can greet us at each corner of his paddock, gobble treats, pose for photos, and still zoom right back across the paddock to get his dinner when it’s ready! 

One visitor told me today that there was a time, back in the day, when Shetland ponies were all the rage and a little stallion like Silver Charm could have been worth ten or twenty thousand dollars.  I don’t know what Charmie would do if he were “rich,” but you would can bet he’d be flashing some bling, trying to impress the girls!

On a sad note, we are mourning the loss of Personalized last weekend, after she broke her hip.  I think it caught all of us by surprise, since she was comparitively young and in good health.  But, she had a fine life in a large, grassy paddock with her girlfriends, and that is something good.  Still, we will all miss her very much.

That wraps up another weekend in Kentucky.  We hope you can visit us soon, but in the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends!    -Val

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Sunday October 9, 2011

No doubt at all in my mind that today was the busiest day I have had all year, and that includes our usual busy weekends of Derby, Breeder’s Cup and Breyerfest.  I bet we had 30 or more people on the 10 am tour this morning alone, and from start to end today’s tours were filled with really nice people.  With that many people, I tried to take extra time to make sure everyone gets some quality “horse time.”  As a result, this morning’s tour lasted over two hours. I hope everyone got a chance to feel connected to at least one horse.  I know this:  the bigger the tour, the more carrots for Marquetry. And doesn’t he just know it!

I think the main reason we were so busy, of course, is this was opening weekend of the Keeneland Fall Meet. Most of the morning people came to the farm before heading over to the races.  You know, a lot of the tours I give are to people who like horses but who aren’t necessarily racing fans.  Today it was the opposite—some of the people knew far more about our horses’ race records than I do.  So I stuck with my strengths—overseeing the dispensation of horse kisses and slobber!

For a cool morning, there wasn’t a whole lot of activity.  In fact, we only saw three–make that four–horses run today.  Stormy Passage cantered and bucked around his small pen this morning.  He was racing the tractor, of all the reasons to run and buck.  He looks terrific and is moving really well.  I have high hopes that he is ultimately going to be a sound, happy horse.  Gasconade cantered along his fence after he was turned out for the evening and Pops burst out from behind his shed to impress the visitors.  He knows how to make that dramatic entrance! And not to be forgotten, Silver Charm cantered over for treats every time we passed by him.

On the other hand, I had to walk into Kiri’s paddock to roust him from napping in his shed.  We had a little girl on the tour who really wanted to see him, so we obliged.   Speaking of Kiri’s Clown, I brag on his racehorse grandson Get Stormy fairly often.  Stormy (who I heard today is called Clyde around his barn because of his flashy Clydesdale-like coloring) ran a terrific second to Gio Ponti at Keeneland yesterday.  There is no shame in running second to a horse of Gio Ponti’s caliber, so I was pretty happy. I suppose Kiri was impressed too, but you know, mostly he just wanted carrots. 

This afternoon a couple of ladies visited who have been horse people all their lives.  One of them had worked as an exercise rider and then as a stallion groom.  Among the horses she knew during her career was the great Dr. Fager.  She also knew In Reality and a couple other old-time horse names you don’t hear much anymore.  One of the great things about giving tours at Old Friends is meeting all the different people, some famous, most not, but nearly everyone interesting and genuinely nice. 

When the tours are as full as they were today, the questions come fast and furious.  Among the most common is, “why the double fences in Kentucky?”  My answer—the space in between provides a handy pathway for paddock access.   They also work like a demilitarized zone, to keep horses from sparring across the fences.  Another question is always “What are the blindfolds for?”  Answer:  fly masks, and the horses can see right through them.  They will be put away once fly season winds down.  In the case of Pops and Ring, fly masks and halters become toys to chew on, tug on, pull off and otherwise destroy!   People often ask why Pops and Ring are “naked” and that is why! 

Another frequent question today was, “Are the horses fed during the summer when the grass is green?”  Yes, they get a special mix of grain made for senior horses, twice a day.  If they need to watch their waistlines they get the diet version, which is much like eating plain shredded wheat instead of Captain Crunch.  When the grass is not green and growing, the horses get hay in addition to their grain.

Today I was also asked how to interpret the breeding information displayed on the horses’ markers in the cemetery.  It goes like this: 

Black Tie Affair (name of the horse)

Miswaki (sire) x Hat Tab Girl (dam) by Al Hattab (dam’s sire)

There were so many more questions—about horseshoes (most of ours are barefoot unless they have special foot needs), cold weather (horses do fine with cold, more so than blazing heat, as long as they have plenty of food and water), and do the horses freak out in thunderstorms (not at all).   

Before I end today, I want to say a special hello to a couple of regular blog readers, Lin and Shelby.  I met a very excited Lin this morning; her friend Shelby lives in Minnesota and unfortunately wasn’t here for this visit…So, hi ladies!  

The final question of the day was this:  “Do you offer tours all year long?”  Yes we do, and we’d love to have you visit sometime.  In the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends! 

-Val

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Sunday October 2, 2011

I cannot believe summer has morphed into October.  It’s no longer possible for me to pretend it’s not fall, although I gave it a good try.  When the horses get fuzzier by the day and you wake up to the first frost of the season, it’s hard to delude yourself any longer!  But the grass is still green, and after that cool start, today was a bright, sunny day with temperatures in the mid-60s.

Cooler mornings make for more active horses, except when they aren’t.  So while any number of horses trotted and cantered today, just as many took long naps in the sunshine.  Pops and Ring, I’m Charismatic, Afternoon Deelites, Gulch and Falcon Scott ran around.  Fortunate Prospect, WC Jones, Kiri’s Clown, Marquetry and Creator found comfortable, sunny spots and curled up for a snooze. Bull raced the lawn mower (I know, not that fast!) and Silver Charm went in the house to watch Goldikova’s race on TVG this morning.  Charmie loves watching the ladies run!

I’ve had some people asking, and yes, I’m Charismatic is most definitely outside in the morning, and available for visits.  Today he must have felt particularly good as he trotted and cantered back and forth for a good while, until our morning group came along. Then, as always, carrots rule and he enjoyed every bit of the attention. In fact, I think he is making up for lost time with the treats.  I can’t really blame him, since he was inside for so very long with that bad ankle.  The same is true for Stormy Passage—he is outside in the round pen in the morning, and morning tours have had the pleasure of seeing him enjoy the sunshine as well.

My first tour this afternoon featured folks who weren’t really horse racing people, but who were looking to entertain out-of-town visitors.  They picked a great day to visit the farm. The best part, I think, was how many pictures they took—I bet they have a picture of both couples with every single horse we met.  I actually suspect the horses were pretty amused by all the camera action.  There sure was a lot of posing. Ring must have shown his tattoo 30 times.

My last tour this afternoon was great fun as well, because it was the kid’s tour of the day.  One of the boys was really into the farm, spending 20 minutes talking horses with Roberta even before the tour began.  He was my carrot bucket carrier. The other boy on the tour (the one with the bright green sneakers!) was a great young horseman as well.  The four kids on the tour climbed on fences to scratch backs, fed carrots, gave kisses and generally enjoyed the horses as much as any visitor I’ve had, ever.  And the horses loved all the kids—even Leave Seattle stood for pats on his face.  Prized nuzzled, Swannie drooled, and Sunshine ignored his dinner in favor of the attention. Patton ate part of his dinner before we got to his paddock, and he gave out sticky, slobbery, molasses-scented kisses to all.  Poor Patton—even non-horse people notice just how, shall we say, well-rounded he is?  He’s pretty darn happy though, and he sure loves the attention.  And the treats!

I hate to drop some sadness into such a pleasant day, but Old Friends lost one of our great supporters and fans this week, with the premature passing of Tim Reynolds.   Tim will be remembered for his passion for all things horse racing.  We send out condolences to his family; we hate to lose our Old Friends, human or equine.

Which leads me to another loss:  I read today the terrific racehorse Fleet Indian died this weekend, from complications of colic. Fleet Indian lived across the road at Summerwind Farm, and I had the pleasure of meeting her a time or two.  She was one of those horses who had so much presence, she just stuck with you.  I’m so sorry for her loss, and I know her family at Summerwind is reeling.

Next week is opening weekend of Keeneland’s October race meet, another inevitable sign of fall. Autumn is a great time to visit Old Friends, and we continue to be open for three tours daily.  November brings the Breeders Cup and the Old Friends’ Breeders Cup Celebration on November 6. Call the office for more information.

We hope you can visit us soon, but in the meantime thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends. 

-Val

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