Yesterday was the winter solstice. A busy and eventful summer and fall have passed at Old Friends, and the quiet of winter is settling over the farm. So far, the weather has been mild. For horses, temperatures in the 40s are about as perfect as it gets. Hay has taken the place of grass in their diet (in addition to their daily breakfast, dinner, and for some horses, lunch and/or supplements), but the ground is warm enough for comfortable naps, a lazy way to enjoy the peaceful days with just one daily tour.
Well…who’d want to be lazy all the time? Quiet days are also fun times for showing off, soap operas with your paddock mates, and companionship.
The humans at Old Friends are having a busier time. Farm work changes somewhat with the seasons, but not its demands. And ’tis the time of year when Michael and the office staff work extra hard to ensure the financial support that will carry us through the next productive year of the best possible care to keep the horses happy.
Learn some fun ways to help here. (For instance, would you like to be part owner of a son or daughter of California Chrome and benefit Old Friends?)
About all that hard work. As someone who’s been through a lot of years at Old Friends, and who stands, so to speak, with one foot in the office and one foot in the barn, I’m proud and grateful for the first class professionalism and devotion I see all around the farm every day, both up the hill from the barn staff and down the hill at the office. Words can’t describe the feeling. Things have never been better.
There are powerful reasons to be proud of Old Friends’ supporters, too. Burt Bacharach (generous to OF on behalf of his multiple graded stakes winner Afternoon Deelites) and Elvis Costello will play a concert on January 17 to raise funds for the horses and people impacted by the fire that swept through the San Luis Rey Training Center in California. Read about the event here.
Speaking of Afternoon Deelites, if you’ve met this stallion, you know how impressive he is. Never mind that he’s about to turn 26 years old, he’s gorgeous, and he’s still a whole lotta horse. He’s good natured, friendly, and so full of himself that you’d think about ten horses lived in that one muscular bod of his. Ten playful, rambunctious horses. His favorite winter holiday sport is playing “I’m bad” when he’s taken to his stall in the morning and turned out at night, and he’s been having a great time.
And then, there’s our newest friendship, which is still going strong. You know Alphabet Soup. At least, I hope you do. He and Chris McCarron won the 1996 Breeders’ Cup Classic, beating the great Cigar, and he’s also one of our most beautiful and nicest retirees.
But you may not know his now-inseparable buddy, Gorgeous George the miniature donkey.
When George came to live with us, who’d have thought it’d be love at first sight?
We’re over the moon about this relationship. Donkeys make great companions for horses. Not all stallions would accept a donkey gelding in their space, but Alphabet Soup, extraordinarily kind horse that he is, has found a new level of contentment with his companion. Like Eldaafer and Boule d’Or with the goats, Google and Yahoo, Soup has proved once again that horses are often wiser than people, seeing past others’ differences from themselves and forming bonds that overcome any challenges those differences may offer.
Call the holiday season by whatever name you call it, isn’t peace, brother- and sister-hood, and love for others what its spirit is all about?
And all of us. May your holidays be filled with joy.
Photos by World Traveling Laura