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!