January 31, 2023

Star Plus
(July 18, 2003 – January 28, 2023)

This is the saddest month I can remember. Winter can be hard on older horses, but we’ve never lost as many residents in one month as we have this January. There has been no one cause of death or any reason. We only ask with all our hearts that fate will be kinder to us for the rest of the winter.

Star Plus was a longtime favorite and loved by many visitors. Some met him a decade ago when he had the paddock where Birdstone now lives and played enthusiastic host to every tour. Some fell in love with him more recently on private tours to the south part of the farm, or very recently when, as companion to Eldaafer and Yahoo the goat, Star Plus again greeted walking tours. His looks stood out, and his extroverted personality made visitors into his instant fans.

He was bred in Argentina and raced in South America until he was brought north at age five. He won at Keeneland and Gulfstream and was graded stakes placed at Turfway. After a severe ankle injury, owner Earle Mack looked out for his safety and retired him from racing. When a small farm contacted him asking to buy Star Plus for stud duty, Mr. Mack stipulated in the contract that he would not race again, and if the buyers ever did not want him, Mr. Mack would be notified so he could find him a safe retirement spot. But new owners turned right around and put the horse back on the track. Even now, the legal aspects of the path to safety in such circumstances need to be more clearly defined. When Earle Mack learned Star Plus was racing, he began a hard-fought battle until he reacquired Star Plus, who had finished last in all four of these starts with stewards’ comments such as “labored throughout” (Mountaineer, Nov. 28, 2011).

Mr. Mack enabled Star Plus’ retirement to Old Friends. When he arrived in July 2012, we had some impressive horses on the farm, but frankly, this new guy’s presence blew us away. It wasn’t just his strong, handsome looks, or that supernova of a star (plus some) on his face. It was his irrepressible energy and joy in life, and his nonstop mischievous friendliness. If a horse ever had a sense of humor (and some definitely do), Star Plus did. He kept that sense of play and total confidence throughout his life.

In his first role as a meeter and greeter of tours, Star Plus gave us a chance to familiarize visitors with the story of this willing athlete who’d given his best and the owner who’d overcome difficulties to do the right thing for the horse. We’ve had others since with similar stories, and awareness of such situations can help other horses. The memorable personality of Star Plus made him perfect for the role, but he didn’t stop at that. To him, tours were invented specially so that he could get treats, show off, and have fun. Even with champions on the tour, it’s Star Plus who many fell in love with, and no wonder. Michael wasn’t immune to his charm either. Star Plus was one of his favorites.

Eventually, it was a new stallion’s turn to have that front paddock, and Star Plus moved to a bigger paddock on the path up the hill. He couldn’t join a herd until he was gelded, and then a horse’s hormones need time to settle. Star Plus remained a starburst of energy. Woe to those of us who de-iced his waterer in the snow and slick mud. I never knew Star Plus to have a mean intention in all his years with us, but he’d play chicken or nip your butt as you tried to work. Or, in the days before we could afford to lay gravel on the paths and the farm vehicles made some serious mud puddles, if you skirted the one between his paddock and Commentator’s steadying yourself with a hand on the fence, to Star Plus this was a wonderful game invented purely for his amusement. Fingers offered, just for him to nip! Whee! Yet he was always a gentleman when he accepted a carrot from a visitor. To him, it was all good, and all fun.

Star Plus (R) with his buddy, Kharafa

When he joined a herd, it meant moving farther from the main tour route, but he had big shade trees, more room to run, and he liked his new friends, Kharafa (his favorite buddy), King Kreesa, and He Loves Me Not. Soon they were joined by Windy Land. When folks came along, it was Windy Land who played boss, but it was Star Plus who was Mr. Personality, always friendly, always on the case, always getting the most carrots. Did I mention that this horse was smart?

Star Plus (L) with Eldaafer

When Eldaafer needed stall rest for awhile, his old buddy, Boule d’Or, joined other horses, so when Eldaafer rejoined Yahoo the goat, he also wanted horse companionship. Not everybody has an ego to match Eldaafer’s. Star Plus was selected as a good match. He, Eldaafer and Yahoo got along well, and Star Plus got more tour action, which suited him just fine.

We hoped he and Eldaafer might grow old together, and that we would have the pleasure of having Star Plus in our lives for many years to come. His passing was an unexpected shock. His going has torn a hole in our hearts. A hole as big and deep as his big presence. All of us, staff, volunteers and friends, will always remember him with love.

photos by Laura

Remembering Star Plus






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4 responses to “January 31, 2023

  1. Jane and/or Dick Gerber

    What a wonderful fellow he was. I think of all of you; staff, volunteers and the horses, and will keep my fingers crossed that the worst is over with your losses this year. Take care. Jane

  2. Kathie Balfour

    I am so sorry about your loss of handsome wonderful Star Plus .He was truly a wonderful friend and loved by all. May he Rest In Peace and your broken hearts heal knowing he finally had a beautiful life there
    at Old Friends and he loved the attention
    he got from his admirers as well as his paddock mates!

  3. Gillian

    Such a Beautiful Memorial For Such a Beautiful Horse, Thank You Beth For Sharing Star Plus With Us.

    Please Know That Yourself & All The Staff, Volunteers & All The Horses Are In My Special Thoughts & Prayers & I Too, Hope No More Losses This Winter!!

    Sending Heaps Of Gentle Hugs & Also Love To You All & Give All The Lovely, Wonderful Horses & Goat, Lots of Gentle Hugs & Loves From Me Too.

    Take Ever Such Special Care, Gillian xoxoxoxxx

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