January 9, 2014

The Old Friends blog returns at a moment of contradictions. On the threshold of what may be our brightest and best year yet, we are plunged into sadness. This week we have lost two of our most loved residents. On Sunday, January 5, Patton had to be euthanized because a combination of conditions were rapidly deteriorating his quality of life. Before dawn on Tuesday, January 7, Sunshine Forever died in his paddock. Autopsy results suggest he was standing on his feet and died instantaneously of a heart attack.


Patton. Photo by Laura Battles.

Patton. Photo by Laura Battles.

Patton was a graded stakes winner and the sire of millionaire Kelly’s Landing, accomplishments that place him in a select elite, but all who met him in retirement will remember him for his calm, quiet gentleness. When visitors wanted to pet a horse, it was Patton who offered his soft nose. Stallions tend to get prickly when people take liberties, but not Patton. He made it his particular job to show children and adults who weren’t sure what to make of such big animals how nice a horse can be.

Yet, still waters run deep. Like the time Patton broke his fence and trotted up the hill to visit our mares. Or when he was the guest of honor at the governor’s Derby party and displayed his opinion of the police horses. Patton was very much his own horse. But whatever he did he was always the gentleman.

Patton was a fortunate horse. When his value as an earner decreased, Governor Brereton Jones retired him to Old Friends where he enjoyed a secure, happy old age. At the end, thanks to Michael Blowen’s watchfulness Patton’s debilitation was diagnosed in time to prevent the suffering that would otherwise have come. Patton passed from his life as he’d lived it, peacefully. He will never pass from our memories and hearts.

Patton. Photo by Laura Battles.

Patton. Photo by Laura Battles.

Patton’s page and the news release of Jan. 6.


Sunshine Forever's wise eye. Photo by Laura Battles.

Sunshine Forever’s wise eye. Photo by Laura Battles.

What to say about Sunshine Forever’s unexpected going? It is unimaginable. Though all living beings die, I think that without realizing it, we felt Sunshine really would be with us forever.

He was a phenomenal race horse, winner of three Grade 1 stakes in a single summer, and the 1988 Eclipse Award Turf Champion. His robustness and dauntless courage stood out even from the champions of his day, recalling the sound resilience of the old time champions.

Breeding farms have a foundation stallion on which they build their success. Though our retirees don’t breed, Sunshine Forever was, in several ways, our foundation. In 2004 he was our first stallion Old Friends retired, and the first we returned home from overseas. Human vision and caring created Old Friends, but our equine population has also shaped us. Sunshine set the tone for the tours. He was the first resident to allow visitors to feed him carrots. From his middle age through his old age, Sunshine Forever was at the very center of the farm, welcoming his fans graciously, winning people’s admiration and affection. He was right at the heart of all OF aspired to be and all it has become.

Through it all, he was our founder and president Michael’s best friend. Other favorites came and went, but it was Sunshine who was always there for him, steady as a rock.

Sunshine Forever was the most dignified horse I have ever known, yet to his friends and visitors he gave generously out of his abundant wisdom. To say Old Friends won’t be the same without him doesn’t begin to touch what his passing has taken from us. Sunshine Forever will always be our foundation stallion, a benefactor to all the retirees to follow. May some part of his greatness of spirit always remain with us.

My favorite of all photo of Sunshine, by Equisport Photos.

My favorite of all photo of Sunshine, by Equisport Photos.

Sunshine Forever’s page and the news release of Jan. 7.

I’d planned to post about some of the good things now happening, our TAA accreditation and grant, the care it will enable us to provide our residents, also the new paddocks and some of the horses who’ll come live in them. There’s much positive news to share, and I promise to post about it before long. Tonight, the losses are too fresh for enthusiasm. But as we move forward remembering Sunshine Forever and Patton, we have good reasons to hope that 2014 will be the best year yet for the horses at Old Friends.

Ferocious Won, Bonapaw & Kudos enjoy a mild winter day. Photo by Laura Battles.

Ferocious Won, Bonapaw & Kudos. Photo by Laura Battles.



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9 responses to “January 9, 2014

  1. These gallant souls leave such big holes when they move on to greener pastures, but lovely eulogies such as this one help fill our hearts with memories. Thank you.

  2. Donna Lampen Smith, docent

    I can’t even begin to comprehend what you are feeling with the loss of these two magnificent creatures. I can only hope in time the pain will be less apparent and that what made them so special and so loved, will be evident to those who come to Old Friends. sweet sleep Patton and Sunshine Forever until you see your human friends again.

  3. SusanA

    Beth, I’m assuming this is you who wrote…thank you. I needed to hear it from you. Thinking of you all.

    • oldfriendsblog

      Hi Susan – yes, it’s me. Didn’t realize I forgot to sign the post. Thank you, and thanks to all who have reached out to us with their caring. – Beth

  4. Marlaine Meeker

    As sad as I am I cannot imagine your grief, and so sorry for your pain. I am just so grateful that these 2 old warriors died in your loving and respected care. I am going to believe that they left knowing their time had come and they made room for 2 new warriors,not ever to replace them but to carry on the grand legacy of Patton and Sunshine Forever and the noble place called Old Friends.

  5. Every time I think about Sunshine, I get a huge lump in my throat. He was such a special individual. I wrote about him in my blog a long time ago (and will in a soon-to-be-published post. He was my mentor’s favorite. He became one of mine. I’m so glad I got to visit and pull his tongue on my birthday. It was my BEST present.

  6. Pat

    Beth, Thank you for these remembrances. I will always smile when I remember Patton’s unanticipated tour of the farm. I was there the morning after that, and he was a bit stiff but nevertheless had almost a smile. And Sunshine, what else can we say about Sunshine? I was shocked and so sad to read about his death. It makes me want another visit sooner than I can manage it! But I will be there in April, to feed carrots, pet noses, and remember…

  7. Beth this was a great blog.. I just loved it. I am very excited about all of the new horses, especially Geronimo. And of course the pictures that Laura Battles takes are always the very best! All of my love to everyone there at Old Friends. See you soon!

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