Monthly Archives: January 2018

January 21, 2018

Hay Winter

We’re having a spell of warmer weather, all the way up into the 50s today and the same is expected tomorrow, with this milder trend predicted to last for the week. The snow in these pictures is, for the time being, a thing of the past.

Instead of icy ground the horses are picking their way through mud. Obviously some of them don’t mind. (If only I had a photo of Johannesburg Smile today. Imagine a horse completely made out of mud wearing a blanket completely brown with mud, with that long forelock of his in mud-dreads—and with a complete, saucy obliviousness to our head-shakings and sighs.)

Even with the mud, this warmer spell lets the horses rest. It may surprise many to learn how comfortable horses are in cold weather if their weight is healthy and they’re allowed to grow the full, fuzzy winter coats nature intended. In fact, a horse’s body is adapted to deal with cold more easily than with heat. In the coldest weather a good, waterproof blanket is beneficial for some. Those who need one get one, and they all have shelter, but the mechanism powering a horse’s internal “heating system” is their metabolism. And what powers their metabolism in cold weather is hay.

Hay Binty

Bint Marscay enjoyed her hay during last week’s cold and snow.

Their grain feed is important too, of course. That’s what keeps their weight up so that their metabolism stays robust. But it’s the forage—in places like Kentucky where the grass dies in winter, HAY—the that’s a horse’s “internal heater’s” real fuel. So in winter the OF residents get plenty of hay.

Hay Popcorn

Popcorn Deelites, too.


Little Silver Charm

And more hay.

Hay Duck

And our new mare, Hard Luck Duck.

In the smaller paddocks at the front of the farm the hay is delivered by being pitched over the fence by a human on a Kubota—their favorite kind of farm vehicle since it also brings their meals (their regular feed). In the big pastures, like the one we call “Area 51,” a monster brings the hay. The horses don’t mind. This monster has also become a favorite sight to the inhabitants of Area 51: Rail Trip, Cherono, Johannesbourbon, Photon, Z Dager, W. C. Jones, Lion Hunter… have I forgotten anybody in that pasture? I hope not.

Hay 51

The benign monster delivers hay to Area 51.

Hay also provides opportunities for socializing. By day, Alphabet Soup and miniature donkey Gorgeous George share the paddock that for many years was Ogygian’s. But at night Alphabet Soup comes into the barn and sleeps in a stall. Ide, who’s spent the day in the barn and whose metabolism is younger and so still more efficient, gets his turn-out time from late afternoon until morning. George’s favorite company is Alphabet Soup, but he and Ide get along nicely too. Here they are sharing their hay.

hay Ide George

Ide and Gorgeous George

hay Ide 2


hay Ide 3

…yum, yum, yum!

Another thing all that good hay does is provide the energy to frisk and play, which also helps keep a horse warm.

hay Gem

Awesome Gem

Eating snow is also fun.

Hay WE snow

War Emblem’s snowy nose.

hay snownose Sun King

And Sun King’s

And of course, Special Ring and Popcorn have their own game. It doesn’t change with the seasons or the passing years.  It’s their signature, patented, original, one-of-a-kind shtick. I guess you could say it’s having a long run because it’s such a hit.

hay pops and ring

The Pops and Ring show.

If you’ve been to the Georgetown farm, no doubt you’ve seen the Pops and Ring show for yourself. Special Ring want us to know that though his buddy impersonated 1930s champion Seabiscuit in the movie of that name, he – Ringy – is not an impersonator. He is the real, honest to goodness, multiple G1 winner, Special Ring, and he proves it by showing his i.d., the official Jockey Club identification number tattooed on the inside of a race horse’s upper lip.  Popcorn never shows his. He hopes that if he charms his visitors with his most appealing faces, they’ll believe he’s Seabiscuit. And if he’s not, then at least he must be a great actor to be such a talented comedian.

They wrote the script, they perform it with zest time after time, and better yet, they give this their performance their all. And for mere carrots.

… So what in the world was this sight that met Laura’s and my eyes a few days ago? This isn’t one photo, but these photos were taken within seconds of each other. Rapid and Amazombie really were doing this in unison exactly like…

Hay Rapid and Amazombie do Pops and Ring

Rapid Redux and Amazombie steal Pops and Ring’s act.

Go figure!


photos by Laura


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January 15, 2018

20180114 round pen

Early Pioneer

When a horse passes who’s been with us a long time, his or her going takes away part of who we are. Yet, Early Pioneer left behind a gift, a plentiful store of good memories. In his quiet way, “Earl” was an unforgettable character. Here are a few of my favorite memories of him.

The 2000 Hollywood Gold Cup on TV. Early Pioneer, the longest shot in a strong field, biding his time patiently until the stretch, putting on a strong run and passing them all, holding off General Challenge to win one of the most prestigious races in the country.

Nine years later, his arrival at Old Friends. Though retired by racing owners Holly and David Wilson, sometimes things don’t go as expected and some years later Early Pioneer ended up in a string of $1000 horses purchased by fair circuit horseman Shawn Davis. His feet were in no condition for racing, and Davis did right by the old campaigner. Cass Dewey fostered him and facilitated his retirement to Old Friends (Here’s Jay Hovdey’s article about it in the Daily Racing Form).

Early Pioneer began life at OF in one of the new pastures in the back 40 acres of the main farm. That herd had some strong personalities, but he swiftly and peacefully made himself accepted among them. Here’s Michael’s description of that social scene at the time. “Futural runs things in that paddock. Siphonizer made a takeover play a couple weeks ago, but Futural took care of that in a hurry. Affirmed Success puts up with all of it with kind of a knowing sigh. As for Early Pioneer, he doesn’t have a mean bone in his body. As long as he stays out of Futural’s way, everything’s fine” (Hovdey, above).

20180114 new pasture w Rocky

Early Pioneer in the newly fenced pasture, May 2009. I think that’s Northern Stone on his left.

Early Pioneer did stay out of the way of that Terrible Two. Futural bossed the herd as he pleased, and his inseparable buddy Affirmed Success wasn’t exactly un-implicated (Affirmed Success now shares a bond with Kudos, both of them pretty mellow these days). Being a horse of admirable good sense, Early Pioneer didn’t contend for leadership. He was too nice. But his feet also weren’t up to the hustle-tussle required of a herd leader. Those feet caused concern and we kept an eye on them, bringing him down to the barn with turn-out in the round pen when he needed extra care.

Early Pioneer 100319-03

In the round pen, October 2010

You’ll have read in the press that Early Pioneer had chronic laminitis. In his last days he also developed symptoms that may point to cancer. We’re awaiting test results about that. But since most people think of laminitis as the acute form that took Barbaro’s life, a few words about chronic (as opposed to acute) laminitis. It’s not that uncommon, and with proper care horses who have some rotation can enjoy good quality of life for years. Laminitis is a condition caused by weakening of the connective tissue (laminae) holding the foot bones in proper position. Its degree varies. Early Pioneer soldiered through sore spells, but he also let us know he enjoyed his life. If there was ever a horse who was always up for friendly doings, it was Early Pioneer.

20180114 Early Pioneer and Rocky

With Northern Stone

Never one to call attention to himself, he was quietly quite the character. To Tammy, John and me, he gave one memory that will always bring a smile. When the winter temperatures go below freezing (as now), the horses don’t mind. They have an internal mechanism that keeps them warm, as long as they get plenty of hay in their diet, and plenty of water. Access to plenty of water means going into each paddock twice a day and busting the ice that forms on the waterers. Most of the horses just stand there complacently watching the humans serve their needs. A few stand right at your shoulder, ready to guzzle as soon as you’re done. Not Earl. Climb the fence into his paddock, encumbered by your layers of winter wear, your hammer to bust ice and your strainer to clear it out, and when you’d clambered atop the fence you’d find your way blocked by Earl’s back. He’d put himself alongside the fence as if to say, “Get on me and ride, please!” Maybe at some time in his younger days he’d been fence-mounted. We wish we knew more about that because someone climbing a fence to mount him and their rides seem to have been happy associations to him.

Another happy memory Early Pioneer gave us: our amazing podiatrists, along with Carole’s and Antonio’s tireless care, licked a troublesome abscess, and Early Pioneer got wonderful new glue-on shoes. Thanks to improved technology lighter glue-ons now fit the form of the horse’s hoof more closely. It’s almost like “Look ma, no shoes!” while problem feet get comfy cushioning. Earl loved his “new feet!” He bounced around his paddock, ran races with his paddock mate, Dinard, and threw his weight around a bit as the boss of that two-horse herd.

20180114 Early Pioneer bounces around new shoes

In 2016. Photo by Laura.

20180114 Early Pioneer and Dinard play

Playing with Dinard. Photo by Laura.

He was a kind boss. He and Dinard were so cozy together that at feeding time, when most horses each hog a feed tub, defending it from the others, Early Pioneer and Dinard would eat together out of one tub, then both move to the other tub and eat together there.

20180114 sharing feed tub

Dinner time. Photo by Laura.


Nothing lasts forever, but that doesn’t make the good times any less real.

Reluctantly, as the spring of 2017 came around, we all realized Earl didn’t feel as well. He had better days and less good days, but his feet were sore again, and his energy was declining. Archie’s Echo joined Dinard and him because the three were well suited in temperament and age, and Earl let Archie become the new paddock boss. The three of them formed a peaceable relationship. These three lovely old guys, being among those who benefited from an extra meal, got daily lunch and supplements.

It was Carole who took expert, tireless daily care of Early Pioneer, along with Antonio and all the staff. But on a personal note, I want to thank Earl. When Ogygian died, for weeks I wandered around the farm stunned, looking for even a fraction of the love he and I shared for the years I helped care for him. Nobody got it. All the horses just wanted carrots, a back scratch, business as usual. But Early Pioneer got right in my face and gave me the comfort he sensed I needed.

20180114 Early Pioneer conversation

A conversation with Earl. Photo by Jay Westbrook.

As this year set in, Early Pioneer’s health declined. Moved into the barn for constant attention, care, and shelter. In his last days, Earl had the best of vet care and tending, and companionship from everyone on the farm. When his time came, Carole and others that he loved best were with him.

Early Pioneer, thank you for the gift of your presence. The memories you’ve left with us will be lasting.


20180114 Early Pioneer



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January 10, 2018

Are you out of the starting gate on the right lead this year? Do you have the 2018 Old Friends Calendar yet? What about your 2018 Old Friends membership? An Old Friends membership doesn’t just give you free admission to tours of our farms, it also gets you free general admission to the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs in Louisville and the National Museum of Racing and the Hall of Fame in Saratoga Springs, New York. Call us for details.

Finally, have you voted yet for Old Friends in USA Today’s 10 Best Readers’ Choice Travel Award Contest? If you think we’re the most amazing travel destination in Kentucky, help us take those daily votes by storm.

20180109 Catlaunch


“Am I not the very most-est coolest cat-est in all Kentucky?”


Another thing we have in Kentucky is an apt saying. “If you don’t like the weather, stick around for a day or two.” Winter here is a season of quick temperature ups and downs, which is why we get snow but it usually doesn’t stay on the ground long. But so far this year, until two days ago, we had a l-o-n-n-g-g, c-c-c-o-l-d exception, a frigid spell that nobody at the farm, human or horse, liked. How wonderful yesterday when the temperature rose into an overcast 40s. Today we’ve had sunny 60s! Of course it’ll change again in a few more days, but for now the horses are loving it. To give you an idea of how tired the horses got of those 9 days of deep freeze, here are photos Laura took during that time.

20180109 Dinard

Dinard gives a big yawn.

“Cold weather is b-o-r-r-r-r-i-n-n-n-n-g-g-g!”

20180109 AD

It looks like sunshine, but… Afternoon Deelites

20180109 Ide

Ide. “When’s spring coming?”

20180109 LSC

Little Silver Charm. “Where are my adoring summer crowds?”

20180109 George

But George likes his winter togs.

Sooner or later every cold spell ends. Yesterday the milder weather so overjoyed Sun King that he galloped when he could have walked, raced anyone who came alongside his paddock, and when he could have galloped he kicked up his heels and bucked for sheer delight. In the ten months he’s been with us, Sun King has made himself a huge favorite on the farm. He’s kind of tough, but he’s full of enthusiasm and affection, too.

20180109 Sun King

Sun King. This pic’s from last summer, obviously, but no camera was around to catch his frolicking yesterday.

Personally, though I loved cheering Sun King on when he was racing, I love him ten times more now that I know him. It would have been great if his fertility hadn’t failed and he’d sired some special horse to carry on Charismatic’s sire line, but I trust that the daughters he sired, as well as his sire’s daughters, will keep Charismatic’s genes in the pool (all best luck to young sire Wicked Strong!). I admit, we’ve lucked out to have Sun King with us. We’re grateful to Tracy Farmer for donating him to Old Friends when his fertility declined. Mr. Farmer also enabled the retirement of Old Friends favorites Albert the Great and top racehorse and wonderful character, Commentator, who now holds court at our Bobby Frankel Division and Cabin Creek Farm, New York.

Yes, there’s still a lot of winter to go, but there’ll be warm spells along the way, so come on out and visit us. We’re like Venice (Oh really? How’s that?). No, seriously, we are. We’re great to visit in the winter because the tours are smaller and you get more chance for up close and personal visiting with the horses. Since there’s only one tour a day in the winters (11 am) the horses look forward enthusiastically to their winter visits with their fans and friends, old and new.

20180109 AS

“Come on out soon and give me a carrot.” Alphabet Soup


Photos by Laura

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January 4, 2018

Happy New Year to you all!

20180102 Elusive Honey Hidden Dark

Elusive Honey and Hidden Dark

For Thoroughbred horses, it’s also happy birthday. No matter what day of the year they were foaled, all Thoroughbreds officially turn one year older on January 1. Since the conditions for entry into most any race include being at, or above, a specified age, keeping track of individual birthdays would drive racing stewards even crazier. This way, knowing the year is enough.

That’s why breeders aim for late winter or spring foals. Two and three year olds, who are maturing physically and mentally each month, would be at a real disadvantage racing against youngsters who were actually nearly a year older than themselves, so most are foaled by the end of May. At least, in the northern hemisphere. In Australia and New Zealand where the hot and cold seasons are the reverse of ours, race conditions are figured differently; hence Aussies Bint Marscay and Interwin having their actual birthdays only a few months ago.

20180102 Game On Dude got hay

Winter hay! Game on Dude.

20180102 Hay nap Rapid Amazombie

Amazombie: “Hey! Rapid Redux, what are you doing napping on our hay?”

While the Georgetown farm throws no birthday bash for the horses on January 1, the tour guides stretch their brains making mental adjustments. No more can we throw out on automatic pilot, “Game On Dude and Little Mike are both 10 years old,” or “Popcorn’s in his teens.” Visitors often ask how old a horse is, and each horse’s age needs to be scooted up by one year. Our Kentucky Derby winners, for instance, are now 24—Silver Charm, and 19—War Emblem. Same for the Belmont winners. Touch Gold has turned 24, Sarava 19. And our Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Alphabet Soup, is now a venerable 27 years old.

Eleven of our Georgetown residents have especially noteworthy rites of passage. They have now moved into a new decade by attaining ages 30 (one horse), 20 (several), and 10 (still kids!). So, here are the horses celebrating these rite of passage this year.

20180104 Dinard

Dinard. Our old man is now 30. Real birthday April 6, 1988.

Since our much-loved old generation passed in 2015 and 2016—Creator, Ogygian, Gulch, Francis—the oldest horses on the farm (except for he of the mysterious agelessness, Little Silver Charm) have been in their late 20s. Dinard leads the way, now officially turning 30 years old. Just behind him are Archie’s Echo, Highland Ack (a.k.a. Landy), and Silver Ray, all of whom now reach 29.

20180104 Cappuchino Kid Discreet Hero

Cappucino Kid (L) and Discreet Hero, 20. Cappy was foaled on Feb. 22, Hero on March 13, 1998.

Our former teens who now hit the big two-oh, not old yet but dignified (hear that, Popcorn?) are Medaglia d’Oro’s half-brother Cappucino Kid, and graded stakes winner Discreet Hero.

20180104 Interwin

Interwin, 20 years old, but really not till Nov. 2, 1998.

20180104 Popcorn Deelites

Popcorn Deelites. Our movie star is now 20. Actual birthday April 19, 1998.

Also turning 20 are 2002 Breeders’ Cup Sprint participant Disturbingthepeace, sometime Australian racehorse and later four star eventer Interwin, Popcorn Deelites (…ahem, the name’s Seabiscuit…), and here’s the one I can’t believe. Riva Way, who so short a while ago was a new 6 year old resident, is now 20 and our longest time resident. Amazing. Well, at least, our longest time resident who isn’t Little Silver Charm.

20180104 Riva Way Disturbingthepeace

Riva Way (L) and Disturbingthepeace are both officially 20. Tinners Way’s son Riva was foaled April 24 and Disturbingthepeace March 29, 1998.

And then there are our kids-no-more, those who’ve moved from one digit to two. Though some of them are still kids at heart, and we love the fun their play brings. The newly-turned-10s are Euronfire, Litigate, Maybesomaybenot, and the eternally spunky kid, Starspangled Heat.

20180104 Maybesomaybenot

Sanford Stakes winner Maybesomaybenot is now 10 (you charmer!). Foaled Jan. 27, 2008.

20180104 Litigate

Litigate is 10. Real birthday April 21, 2008.

20180104 Euronfire

Euronfire’s birthday is also April 21, 2008.

20180104 Starspangled Heat

Starspangled Heat, unusually, was foaled Nov. 22, 2008 in California.

To all of them as they begin a new decade, happy birthday, and to all of you a good, hopeful and satisfying new year. And many happy returns.


Photos by Laura


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