This year’s Memorial Day ceremony was a particularly wrenching one, as we lost some of the horses who bound us the most closely to Old Friends’ history, our “foundation stallions” Creator (1986-2015), Ogygian (1983-2015), and our long-time residents Kiri’s Clown (1989-2014) and Williamstown (1990-2015). And the much-loved Clever Allemont (1982-2014), Prized (1986-2014), Ava Lotta Hope (1987-2014), and those who died all too young, A. P. Slew (1999-2014), Bluesthestandard (1997-2014), Max a Million (2000-2014), and Escapedfromnewyork (2005-2015).
Though the forecast threatened rain, the grey clouds passed over without letting loose on the good-sized gathering who came to bid our much-missed friends goodbye.
Bill Mooney, Old Friends’ official eulogist, delivered his knowledgeable and caring tribute to all of the horses who passed in the last year, collectively and one by one.
Then, following what has by now become an Old Friends tradition, each horse’s life was honored in words by those who had helped care for them, or knew them well, or remembered them with special admiration. Volunteer John Bradley, a particular friend of Ava Lotta Hope in her last months, paid a tribute to Assistant Barn Manager Carole Oates’ loving care of Hope by presenting her with a halter he’d ordered that the mare never had the chance to wear. When Michael had spoken about the speedy and dignified Williamstown and asked if anyone had any words they wanted to add, none other than Peter Wilmott, Williamstown’s racing owner, stood from where he’d been sitting quietly in the gathering, and reminisced about the brilliant son of Seattle Slew.
Volunteer Bea Snyder read a celebration of Creator’s greatness written by his pal Vivien Morrison, who was unable to attend due to a broken leg (and who was missed!). Several people had memories to share of Ogygian’s magnificence.
I won’t say it was an easy day. But being among friends who understood the losses and feeling their support made it endurable. My only regret was that facilitating a request to see a living horse from a past connection of his prevented me from telling Mr. Wilmott what a good friend Williamstown was to me in so many ways over the years, and how much I miss him. Though he was a self-sufficient horse and a tough one, he had his kind side and knew how to make and keep a bond.
For me, the pain of losing Ogygian, and A. P. Slew who I’d always thought would be there to help me through losing Ogygian, is still too deep to express. My gratitude to Michael for his worthy tribute to Ogygian when I couldn’t have gotten through giving him one he deserved, and Old Friends’ warm thanks go out to each and every one of you who have sent us comfort in so many ways for these losses. When sometimes we feel they are too deep to go on, it’s your caring that picks us up and puts us back on our feet–your kindness, and the kindness of the horses who grazed around us as we remembered those who’d passed, the living horses enjoying their retirement, all of them continually, every day, inspiring.