October 28, 2014

I try not to blog about myself. It’s the horses who matter and they are the reason anybody follows this blog. But winter is coming, and Ogygian is 31. He’s happy and comfortable, his appetite is great and he enjoys the things he likes. But since 31 for a Thoroughbred is something like 100 for a human, there are some words I want to say now, while all is well. They’ve personal, but I think they also go to the core of what Old Friends is for, and what goes on behind the scenes when a particular volunteer and a particular horse form a bond. Ogygian and I are only one bond among several strong human-and-horse bonds at Old Friends’ Kentucky and New York locations.

I met Ogygian not long after he arrived in 2005. I’d been a fan of his sire, Damascus, and I’d visited Damascus’ sire, Sword Dancer when he was at stud in Kentucky (though in the ’59 Derby I favored A. P. Slew’s great-grandmother-to-be, Silver Spoon). More recently I’d fallen in love with the exceptional juvenile champion Johannesburg, so I was eager to meet Damascus’ son, Johannesburg’s damsire, Ogygian. He’d been through hard times and was having ups and downs in health and wasn’t yet the strong, muscular, entitled, manipulative, bossy “herd stallion” we’ve known and loved for so long now. But his dignity and presence touched me deeply and I began falling in love.

Ogygian April 2010, photo by Connie Bush

Ogygian April 2010, photo by Connie Bush

At the end of my first day volunteering in July 2006, I hung out by Ogygian’s paddock just to enjoy the sight of him grazing, but he came over and made it clear he was interested in interaction. We began our friendship that day. It’s been a long, eventful one, and I hope there’s still plenty more to come. I’ve been fortunate to become a regular companion, to groom him, play with him, help take care of him. We have as many routines, games and private references as two people would come to share in nearly a decade. He’s so smart it’s scary. And wise, which is a different thing. I’ve learned a lot from him over the years. He’s good at pushing people’s buttons and I admit he pushes mine. And vice versa. Now, as we approach winter, I admit here (as I don’t admit to him) that though vet checks show he’s healthy, at his age, winter is scary. For me, that is. Ogygian is, as he’s always been, fearless. So, here is what it’s like in the evening when I bring Ogygian the special second dinner Dr. Waldridge and our barn management recommends.

Ogygian often meets me at the gate, and as we have long done, we race each other to his feed tub. It’s a trot these days, but Ogygian makes sure he wins. As he eats I feel his body-scoring points through the winter coat he’s growing, hoping for the weight gain that I’m gradually noticing happening. More padding against the cold, please, sir! But the checking dissolves into the enjoyment of a massage, and my enjoyment of the plush fuzziness of the healthy, thick winter coat he’s growing. He enjoys the alfalfa and beet pulp mash I’ve “cooked” him, and we enjoy being together. I lean on him, he leans into me. I scratch his neck, he moves until I’m where he wants me.

It’s often the most gorgeous time of sunset. The sky and landscape stretch wide and beautiful from the vantage of Ogygian’s paddock. Sunsets tend to be spectacular there. It may sound like a cliche to say each day is a gift, but I’m always aware how true it is. Having Ogygian in my life, and being able to make his life happier, is a bigger gift than I ever imagined all those years I followed favorite race horses at the track and visited favorite stallions at the farms. I can’t afford a graded stakes winner and thought admiring them from a distance was the closest I’d ever get to any horse I’ve followed and admired. Ogygian is one of the great ones. On the track, as a broodmare sire, and just in himself. For me he has become the sum of all that’s magnificent about the Thoroughbred. I tell him so. Often.

Ogygian September 2014, by Laura

Ogygian September 2014, by Laura

Ogygian's eye, photo by Beth

Ogygian’s eye, photo by Beth

Ogygian and me. By Laura?

Ogygian and me. By Laura?

Ogygian mugs on his 29th birthday. Photo by Beth

Ogygian mugs on his 29th birthday. Photo by Beth

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12 Comments

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12 responses to “October 28, 2014

  1. Carol Ayers

    Beth — Beautiful tribute for a magnificent champion.

  2. Anne

    I am so glad you posted your story of Ogygian. He was my first betting BC horse. So I have had a fondness for him for a long time. I am so glad he has you and that the two of you are such good friends. Horses tend to know who actually loves them and understand their souls. You obviously showed him that and it formed this bond that you two now share. Yes, I too, hope he has more seasons at Old Friends with his “old trusty friend” who makes his life complete with games, rubbing, and love.
    Thanks for sharing your heart warming story.

  3. Marlaine Meeker

    What lovely thoughts. It would seem all are blessed at Old Friends. It brings me great comfort to know all these old warriors had some time of respect,dignity,and grace before they leave. Thank You.

  4. Judy Stock

    Lovely blog, and well said. Ogygian really is his own man and how lucky we are to know him…….even a bit. Give him an extra scratch just for great good luck, and let’s hope for a mild winter.

  5. Tupster

    I Truly Enjoyed This One About Ogygian & How Much You Care For Him, It Was Ever So Wonderful To Read, Plus I Love Seeing All The Different Photos Of Him Too! 🙂 The Way You Have Written This Truly Brings Out The Absolute Love You Have For Ogygian & I Do Hope He Gets Through Another Few Winters With You By His Side!!! Gentle Hugs To Ogygian & To You Too xoxox

  6. Beautifully written, a great love story. You and Oxygian are a great match!

  7. colmel

    My eyes are welling up. Hard to type. This is so lovely. Just proves – once again – why Old Friends is a blessing to all of us who love our old champions (and non-champions) who are lucky enough for someone to care enough to allow them to become residents. This was a true testament to the love a human can have for an old horse and how it is returned. Thank you for this and for the care all of y’all give to all our Old Friends.

  8. oldfriendsblog

    I just want to thank all of you who left such kind comments. I’m more touched than I can say by your caring, understanding responses. And how right you are that Ogygian is his own man. He’s one of a kind. Each and every one of them is.

  9. That’s Shakespeare, boys, that’s Shakespeare.

  10. Beth I love this, every word. Your impressions of the horses of Old Friends have inspired me to create the “Hats Off” chapeaux each season. I couldn’t do it without your insight and enthusiasm! And the connection you and Ogygian share is exactly as I imagined it to be. So full of respect, love and tenderness. I count you both to be very lucky friends and partners indeed…

  11. Bravo! Thanks for writing about a truly wonderful horse.

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