Monthly Archives: August 2012

Sunday August 19, 2012

Summer is flying by.  In no time I’ll be complaining about cold and snow, or at least mud and rain!  But for now, the horses look pretty happy.  There is green grass, the weather has not been too blazing hot, and tours are plentiful enough that everyone gets their share of the attention and the carrots!

As the days get longer we will begin to see winter coats coming in, but we are not there quite yet.  Clever is beautifully dappled, as is Swannie.  Pops and Ring somehow didn’t seem to get as sun-bleached as they usually do, their bay coats remaining deep glossy red-brown.  I think I mentioned last week how You and I bleached out in kind of an abstract leopard pattern, and Williamstown is his usual summer purpley-brown-black dapply kind of hue. 

On the morning tour we took the golf cart up the hill to see Willie and Tinner.   Actually, much to their dismay, they were secondary attractions to Zippy Chippy, who lives in the paddock next door.   I might be off by a digit or two, but Zippy lost something like 102 consecutive races, including at least one race against a human.   Zippy became very famous along the way for that hapless record. In contrast, I doubt that millionaire Tinner’s Way has EVER been a secondary attraction, given that his dad was Secretariat!  But Tinner is learning to deal with it. 

Red Down South, Zippy’s buddy, comes right over for treats.  He is a really pretty chestnut horse with a white stripe down his face.  Very friendly and kind, Red is right in your face looking for attention.   Zippy, on the other hand, likes to toy with his audience.  He waits until he is sure we REALLY want to see him and have waited a proper amount of time for his grand appearance.  I don’t know Zippy well, but it has occurred to me his  “losingest racehorse” title perhaps wasn’t so much because he was slow.  I think it’s just as likely he planned it this way!  Think about it—he figured he could just one in a gazillion everyday  racehorses, or he could be the one and only ZIPPY CHIPPY!   

Our newest horse is newly–retired Lou Brissie.  Lou is a four year old, graded stakes winner by Limehouse.  His pedigree is here.  Lou is really cute; he’s a little guy with a pretty red coat.  He loves to pose—I brought a couple folks past his stall and up comes the head, the ears are pricked and he strikes his racehorse pose.  Right now he’s transitioning from being an athlete in training to a professional carrot hound, so it’ll take some time for him to settle down.  But he is a ham for sure.

I always tell my tour groups that for some reason, the men in the group are often the targets for nips from the stallions.  And quite often, the stallions prove me out.  But on the afternoon tour we had a couple of glaring exceptions.  First, Prized had his second visit in a week from a guy who has really taken a shine to him.  Prized, as you know, isn’t the most kissable stallion—he is very manly and wants you to respect his space.  But this guy was patting Prized, rubbing his neck, and everywhere he walked Prized followed.  At the same time, we had a big tall guy who kind of flipped for You and I.  Those two were chatting like, well, old friends!  While all this was going on, there was a young girl bonding with Sunshine.  Talk about a bunch of horses getting some love!  All of them would still be there if their respective families didn’t drag them away.  You know, a stallion manager for one of the big stud farms once said to me, “the horses just like who they like.”  And that is completely true. I should also add that I need to follow my own advice and not turn my back on the horses—thank you Danthebluegrassman, for that lovely black and blue bite mark on my arm!!

That’s about all from here for now.  We continue to offer tours daily—please call the office at 502-863-1775 for reservations.  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 August 5, 2012

Yes, it has been forever since I wrote a blog entry!  I am not really sure where the time went, and was rather surprised to see it has been nearly 2 months. Even while I was “deblogging,” I was at the farm, so there is a lot to catch up on.  It’s good to be back.

So much has happened in two months.  This summer of 2012 has been hot, considerably dry and very busy.  We’ve lost a few of our old horses and gained a few new ones.  In addition, Commentator is spending the summer at Saratoga.  In return for Tator, the winner of over 2 million dollars, we got…Zippy Chippy, the losingest horse ever!  Seriously, Zippy and Red Down South are spending the summer in Kentucky while Tator is up north.  I’m not sure who made out better—Tator in the (somewhat) cooler New York State summer, or Zippy and Red who are in a very large, grassy pasture that normally would accommodate 3 or 4 geldings!

I have enjoyed getting to know Rapid Redux this summer.  His trainer David Wells came to visit Rapid last month.  Nice guy, loves the horse, and I think maybe he was kind of surprised to see how well Rapid has settled into life as Old Friends.  The horse loves three things:  carrots, mints, and visitors.  And for those of you who wonder if he is bored after a racetrack life, I can tell you he most definitely is not.  He occupies a stall in the big barn during the day and goes outside at night.  The daytime stall is perfect because he gets lots of attention and carrots, from every tour that comes to the farm.  Like every successful racehorse, he is more than a little bit of a show-off—and he loves a camera!  Rapid likes his naptime, too.  This afternoon we walked into the barn only to see him stretched out on his side, sound asleep and dreaming. His legs were moving—I’m sure he was running the Derby in his dreams!  Just like a big dog, sleeping and dreaming…

Every year in July is also when the Horse Park holds its annual Breyerfest weekend.  I know I talk about this every summer, but I am still completely amazed at the sheer number of people who visit.  Minivans and SUVs with “Breyerfest or Bust” painted on the windows, full of moms, grandmoms, daughters and friends, all headed to Kentucky.  (Yes, and plenty of dads and brothers—all just along for the ride, of course!)  Someone described it to me as the horse version of ComicCon.  Someone else referred to the Breyerfest folks as “Horse Trekkies!”  You get the general idea, right?  Lots of horse-crazy families taking a summer road trip!  And most of them seem to find their way to Old Friends.  I think on my Breyerfest Sunday we probably had over 200 visitors.  Thankfully, we had a second tour guide on duty.  Laura took the adults without kids who wanted to take serious pictures.  I took the families with kids who wanted to be slobbered on!  It worked out perfectly.  I can’t take a decent picture but I am the queen of horse slobber…

Those of you who know me or who have followed the blog know that, like everyone at Old Friends, I have my favorite horses.  Some of them just glom on and I am done for—Sunshine, Patton, Marquetry.  The Wicked North, Academy Award, Jade Hunter and of course Gramps were like that, too. They get me with their charm, their kindness, or their winning personalities. There are the others who aren’t really warm and fuzzy, who demand respect, and even awe—Creator, Gulch, Williamstown.  And then there are others that are so bad, and I mean B-A-D, that I instantly adore their badness!  Afternoon Deelites and Commentator are like that; Wallenda is in a class all his own.  Beautiful, yes.   Not cute, not especially kind or easy, but loaded with that bad-boy gleam in their eye that says “pay attention to me, or else!”

Well, my newest favorite is Arson Squad.  He falls solidly into the cutie–pie category.  I know, I know.  The horse won a million bucks over 5 or 6 years of racing and is recovering from an injury that would have ended it for many horses—you’d think he has to be tough, right?   But this horse is so cute I could take him home and let him curl up in the corner next to the fireplace, like an extremely large puppy.  He not particularly flashy; you probably wouldn’t pick him out in a crowd of dark bay horses, but there is something about him.  He is still very limited in his outside time—a couple hours in the small round pen, no tours or treats.   I sneak into his barn whenever I can just to say hello and pat him.  Adorable. 

So much of the country is suffering through a serious drought this summer, and earlier in the summer central Kentucky was no exception. But I couldn’t help noticing today how green all the fields are becoming.  The past couple weeks have brought enough rain that the grass, which was pretty crispy by July 4, has turned around and begun growing again. All the horses are enjoying it—Patton, Gulch and Kiri especially. Afternoon Deelites isn’t wearing his grazing muzzle anymore, so he is enjoying the new growth.  Of course, he came over for tours at a run today.  Carrots still rule, the big show-off! Clever is fat, happy and sporting dapples any horse would be proud of.  You and I’s black coat has bleached quite a bit.  He kind of has a leopard-print look going on.  Very fashionable and trendy of him!

There are too many horses to update them all in one blog, so I will get to a few others next week.  But in general, they all are handling the hot summer weather just fine.  The grass is green, carrots are plentiful, and for the horses, tours are entertaining.  We hope you can visit us soon, but in the meantime, thanks for spending this Sunday with Old Friends!   -Val

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Thursday August 2, 2012

Benburb  1989-2012

As most of you may know, we lost our friend Bennie this week. By now, plenty has been written and said about Benburb, the Canadian champion and winner of over a million dollars.  He was victorious over AP Indy and any number of other terrific racehorses during his career, and has been at Old Friends for several years now. 

Bennie, like many gray horses, had melanoma and in the end the disease was too much for him.  But the melanomas never seemed to bother him, and I often told people that Bennie had no idea those lumps on his body were an issue. He just wanted to enjoy his life, and he did.   By the time I knew him Benburb the sleek racehorse had become a big, wide-bodied gelding; I always thought he would have made a terrific pleasure riding horse.  Or even better, put a fancy silver-laden western saddle on him and some sparkle on his hoofs–he would have been a great old-time TV cowboy’s horse.  Silver, Champ or Trigger would have had nothing on Bennie.

The thing about Benburb is it never mattered who was around him, what horses he was turned out with or what treatments he needed to receive.  He was the same to everyone—kind, sweet, unassuming.  I remember introducing him to some student farriers a year or so back. I told them a little about his racing career while his feet were trimmed.  The whole time, Bennie nuzzled the person holding his lead rope, and when his feet were done, the farrier took the time to introduce Bennie to all the other students.  That horse just had that kind of effect—once you knew Bennie, even a little, you wanted everyone else to know how special he was as well.   People often assume that Thoroughbreds are a high strung breed, and certainly some Thoroughbreds are, but Bennie was the complete opposite.  I have never known any horse, of any breed, that was calmer, gentler or less troublesome than our Bennie.   

Bennie was kind of a calm, wise old uncle with other horses–he was the one tapped to pair up with young horses just off the track, and he would show them the pasture ropes.  It didn’t matter if the youngster was aggressive, high-strung, or tightly wrapped.  Bennie just did his thing and calmed the situation down.   Bennie’s first young ward was Smokey Stover, and since then he has been paired with any number of bays and chestnuts. But I still think of him with Smokey–the white horse and the black one, contentedly grazing side by side.

During his time at Old Friends, Bennie lived in various stalls and paddocks all over the main farm and at the various annex farms nearby, depending on where his special skill set was needed.  Most recently, Bennie lived at the annex farm in Midway, a couple stalls down from my friend Wallenda.  While  Bennie thought carrots were great,  I always made a point to save a couple of Wallenda’s mints for him.    That Bennie did love his mints! 

You know, when some horses die, they leave a behind an empty space that no other horse can fill.  And I mean that literally—I will only ever think of Black Tie Affair in “his” stall.  Flying Pidgeon always occupies his paddock, no matter who else uses it. For me, Awad’s paddock will always be Awad’s, and Fortunate Prospect will forever be napping in the field behind the farm’s office.  In my mind, Bennie will always be the distinctive, big white horse in a misty paddock next to some barn, teaching his newest buddy how to just be a horse.

-Val

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