April 7, 2014


Bull Inthe Heather. Equisport Photos.

Bull Inthe Heather, Ferdinand’s greatest son, was an original in his own right. Readers who visited him recently know that Bully was fighting an infection, besides his tendency to abscesses, which worsened with old age. For years Bull benefitted from the best of long-term foot care from Dr. Bryan Fraley, In his final illness he also had everyday treatment from Dr. Bryan Waldridge and others of our new vet team, along with the knowledgeable, devoted care of the barn staff. During the bad weather he had the best stall in the barn, and plenty of attention and company from staff and volunteers alike. We hoped his strong spirit could prevail as it had in the past. But “old age” are the operative words in why that didn’t happen. Bull Inthe Heather was 24, equivalent to almost 80 years old for a human. Even the strongest will can’t prevail forever. Because wasn’t Bull’s first battle. He did prevail. He did live to fight other days—but what matters is that he lived to enjoy most of them.

That’s the other operative word. Bully enjoyed many good times at Old Friends, much love, many treats, back scratches, and the races he liked to stage against Commentator or whoever else happened to be in the nearest paddock. During his middle age, when he lived in the paddock behind the office where Sarava now holds court, more than once we’d look out a back window to see Bull leaping in mid-air, performing a beautifully executed capriole, the air above the ground when horse lifts up and at the apex of the leap kicks out with the hind legs and then lands gracefully on all fours. This is considered one of the most athletic moves a Lipizzaner makes, and Bull’s beautiful silver coat made him look like one of that amazing breed when he did this feat, but Bully wasn’t doing dressage, or performing for anyone at all, he was just enjoying himself. (Or, sometimes, making it clear that it was dinner time.)

Bull rolls and smiles.  March 2010. B. Shannon.

Bull rolls and smiles. March 2010. B. Shannon.

For his years of security and enjoyment, Bull had his dad to thank. Without the response of racing fans, and other animal lovers, to 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand’s tragic demise in an overseas slaughterhouse, Bull Inthe Heather would not have had Old Friends to retire to in 2006. Among the great things Ferdinand achieved, inspiring the support that provided his best son with eight years of security and love was not the least.

I know that many people who have the Breyer model of Bull, or gave the real Bull a back scratch, or admired his tall, silver-grey good looks, will feel something missing from the farm when you visit. Without Bull, something definitely is missing. But he had the best of care and everyone’s love. We did our best to help him fight for his life until the point came when the only loving thing to do was allow him to go.

If you’d like to join us in honoring Bull and live near Lexington, gather with us this Thursday, April 10, for the “Hops and Horses” fundraiser 6-9 pm at West Sixth Brewing on the corner of West Sixth and Jefferson. The event features a glass commemorating Bull with artwork by Anjelica Huston. We intended to celebrate Bull Inthe Heather, Florida Derby winner and Kentucky Derby contender. Now we will remember and miss him. But we will still celebrate Bull’s accomplishments, his strong spirit, and no doubt his quirks. He truly was one of a kind. If you can’t come to “Hops and Horses,” you’re warmly invited to join us in honoring the horses who have passed on this year on our annual Memorial Day commemoration at Dream Chase Farm.


Bull on a breezy summer day.

Bull on a breezy summer day.


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10 responses to “April 7, 2014

  1. Jean Nolan

    Tears all over the keyboard, but not for the loss! Instead, tears of joy at the smilin’, rollin’ guy who was loved and escorted, with dignity, on his journey. Thank you.

  2. Anne

    Lucky Bull to have a great group of caring individuals who made sure he was well taken care of during his stay at the “Country Club” for Retired Racehorses. We fans are so gratefull to all of you in trying to help him recover from the joys of old age but yet knowing when the pain was going to be too much for him to handle. You all know you did what you could and he knew, as well. A lucky boy to be so loved and adored by you and all those that visited him. Bravo,Old Friends for keeping Bull In a Heather with us to a ripe old age of 24.

  3. SusanA

    I didn’t hear of his passing until today and really wanted to believe that it was a mistake….but I then I got the blog post notification, and knew it was true. He was the first horse I met on my first visit to OF in 2007….and the first “white” horse I had ever seen or touched in person. It won’t be the same without him there. I was glad to get the message from you Beth, you make it a little easier to understand.

  4. Debbie

    I was lucky enough to visit Old Friends this past September. Bully wasn’t out that day as he wasn’t feeling well and so I didn’t get to tell him how much I loved him. When I got the email today I cried. RIP, Bully, now you can race against your dad and all the other greats that went before you. To all of you at Old Friends thank you for doing such a great job with Bully and all of the other great horses in your care. I truly felt honored to have been able to visit.

  5. wparrish1@cox.net

    Rest in Peace sweet boy. And thank you all at Old Friends for your on-going care for these magnficent horses.

  6. Bert

    Thank you Beth for your words and photos, and thanks again to Michael and everyone at Old Friends for caring so well for Bull and Forty and all our favorite old friends.

  7. colmel

    Run free and happy, Bully! You will be sorely missed, but you’ve more than earned your rest.

  8. colmel

    Reblogged this on Colmel's Blog and commented:
    My dear friends at Old Friends had to say good-bye to another of their wonderful residents. Bull Inthe Heather was a great favorite of many. He was a tremendous ambassador for Old Friends. Now he runs in the permanently green grass of Heaven with his father, Ferdinand. A place where grazing, running, playing and sleeping are non-stop and there is no such thing as pain.

  9. LeAnn

    Sure will miss Bull. He was my favorite and I always loved to feed him carrots. So long sweet friend.

  10. sandra jakowpck

    Sandra , So Beautiful, always looked forward seeing him on old friends. Run with the best Beautiful Boy, you deserve the best and you had it at old friends. Will see you again someday, Blessings to all.

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