The horses are well. They seem mighty pleased with the spell of cooler weather we’ve been having. In fact, so far Kentucky has had a beautiful June for horses, mostly temperate with alternating sunshine and rain for good grass. Clever Allemont, who’s 31 now, goes in the barn if the day gets hot. When he comes out for the evening he’s ready for his “gossip with the guys,” his current neighbors, Sunshine Forever and Sean Avery. I don’t know what our stallions communicate to each other when they hang out peacefully across the fences from each other, often for hours. Maybe they’re just silently enjoying their companionship. Stallions don’t share paddocks, of course. Stallions are territorial and would fight if one trespassed into another’s space (Gulch isn’t even fond of humans resting their elbows on his fence), but with each the master of his own territory and secure in the knowledge that the fences keep it that way, our stallions are as social in their way as the geldings or mares.
Just watch them when a new resident arrives. When the van comes up the drive and they scent an unfamiliar horse, they signal the intruder alert. They’re as protective as a herd. In fact, watching the ones with paddocks on the edges of the farm keep an eye on the world beyond, while those whose paddocks are in the farm’s interior graze unconcernedly, it’s clear they do consider themselves a herd.
Ogygian, Gulch, Creator and Williamstown are especially serious about their responsibilities as herd guards. Not long ago some sirens made a racket along Paynes Depot Road, not that common a sound in the country. Bull Inthe Heather, Sarava and Mixed Pleasure galloped to whichever corner of their paddocks was farthest from the commotion. Ogygian trotted toward the unknown. Standing where his fence makes one of the farm’s boundaries, he arched his neck, making himself as scary as he could. He kept a fierce, one-eyed watch in the direction of the siren-monsters until he was sure they’d gone and posed no more threat to the herd. Ogygian loves his paddock where he’s lived for nearly 7 years. I think its perimeter position is one reason why.
And if the sirens really had been monsters, who would you rather have guarding you?
Michael’s blog entry for last week recounted a remarkable Belmont weekend. This Saturday a few of us got to bask in some reflected glory when Charlie Pigg arrived to show us the blanket of carnations worn in the Belmont Stakes winner’s circle by Palace Malice. Charlie, one of Old Friends’ most valued supporters, is a partner in the 2013 Belmont winner, who races in the colors of Dogwood Stable. He spread the carnation blanket, a little wilted but still awesome, on one of the picnic tables by the barn and let us oooh, ahhh and gently touch it. Palace Malice, a 3 year old colt, has many thrilling races and big wins ahead of him, we hope, and after that, a long, successful stud career, but Charlie told us that some day, when it’s time for Palace Malice to retire, he hopes his partners will agree with him that Old Friends should be his retirement home. We hope so, too! Meanwhile, it sounds as if an exciting summer campaign is mapped out for Palace Malice. We wish him success!
So, if you visit the Kentucky farm this summer and decide to rest with some cool water at one of our picnic tables in the shade, remember that you may be sitting at a table that was draped with Palace Malice’s 2013 Belmont blanket!
Coming soon: unsung equine heroes of the track.