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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.

Hay LSC

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

Yum!

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!

Beth

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.

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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.

Beth

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

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

Beth

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.

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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.

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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.

Beth

Photos by Laura

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December 22, 2017

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.

20171222 Yankee Fourtune woo

Yankee Fourtune – whoo!

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.

20171222 Yankee Fourtune Saratoga Episode

Yankee Fourtune and Saratoga Episode

20171222 Fabulous Strike Sokitumi Samurai play

Fabulous Strike and Sokitume Samurai

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Sokitume Samurai and Fabulous Strike, just afterwards. That’s Marshall Rooster in the background.

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.

20171222 AD likes to play Zack

AD messes around a little with Zack during his walk out to his paddock. (AD’s face says it all.)

20171222 AD likes to play John

AD gets ready to mess around some with John during another evening turnout (John’s face says it all.)

20171222 AD shakes off

The most fun of all. Rolling in the paddock, then shaking off the dust.

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.

20171222 AS

Alphabet Soup

But you may not know his now-inseparable buddy, Gorgeous George the miniature donkey.

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Gorgeous George

When George came to live with us, who’d have thought it’d be love at first sight?

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Note George behind Alphabet Soup’s tail.

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.

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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?

20171222 Binty and DeeDee enjoy a little exercise

Bint Marscay and Hidden Dark enjoy a little exercise together.

20171222 Im Charismatic Arson Squad

Season’s greetings from I’m Charismatic and Arson Squad.

20171222 Mike and Dude

And Game On Dude (R) & Little Mike

20171222 Johannesburg Smile

And Johannesburg Smile, settling into happy retirement. Does he ever love tours!

20171222 Beau and Bow

And Beau & Bo aka Beau Cashin In (L) & Tuneintobow

20171222 Silver Charm in a quiet moment

And Silver Charm.

And all of us. May your holidays be filled with joy.

Beth

Photos by World Traveling Laura

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November 13, 2017

20171114 Drive

With the grey cold of November settling in and the last leaves falling from the trees, Laura’s latest batch of photos make for wonderful memories of October.

The horses loved the mild weather and almost unseasonably green grass. It was a month for frisking, playing, and of course, saying hello to the many racing fans who came to Lexington for the Keeneland Fall Meet.

20171114 Ide

Ide

20171114 Geri and the Heron

Geri naps in the warm sun with one of the pair of great blue herons for company.

20171114 Albert the Great

Albert the Great

By the way, Albert the Great and Nobiz Like Shobiz, who have paddocks next to each other, are father and son (Albert is the best son of 1994 Kentucky Derby winner Go For Gin).

20171114 Nobiz Like Shobiz

Nobiz Like Shobiz goofs around – something he’s very good at.

New residents Smooth Air and Palmer’s Approach spent October settling in and getting to know what Old Friends is all about. Smooth Air already has some fans among our barn and tour guide staff. He’s not especially flashy looking, but is he ever a beautiful horse.

20171114 Smooth Air

Smooth Air

Smooth Air, who’s 12 years old, earned more than a million on the track as a homebred for Mount Joy Stables. He won the Hutcheson Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream Park, the Ohio Derby (G2), the Needles Stakes at Calder, and the Gulfstream Park Handicap (G2), as well as finishing second in the 2008 Florida Derby and 2009 Met Mile. He ran in the 2008 Kentucky Derby and Breeders’ Cup Classic. Be sure to say hello to him next time you visit us.

20171114 Palmers Approach

Palmer’s Approach

Palmer’s Approach, also 12 years old, is a son of Najran (remember that amazing 2003 Westchester Handicap?). Palmer overcame physical issues thanks to the dedication of trainer Nick Zito and his wife Kim Zito, and Dr. Scott Palmer, for whom he was named. Their care and belief in him enabled him not only to become a racehorse, but a two-times winner. Palmer’s second career, launched by Lorita Lindemann, was as as hunter/jumper.

And we even had a birthday party. Rare as it is for a Thoroughbred in the northern hemisphere to be born in the fall, on October 15, 1990, Bint Marscay was foaled in Australia, where she was the 1992 Champion Juvenile Filly. At Old Friends, she is the queen of Laura Battles’ love and the lucky recipient of Laura’s special friendship. She’s pretty special to all of us, and deservedly so. Laura held a 27th birthday party for Binty.

20171114 Binty Birthday Girl 1

Bint Marscay enjoys a special birthday treat prepared and served with love by Laura.

20171114 Binty Birthday Girl 3

20171114 Binty Birthday Girl 2

Being a most generous birthday girl, Binty was also in a giving mood. She gave Dagmar a good, long back scratch.

If you’re not familiar with the beautiful portraits Dagmar Galleithner Steiner has made of a number of Old Friends retirees and other great horses, I’m sure you’ll be as in awe of her ability to capture not just how they look, but who they are.

Go to equestrianpastelartist.com

 

 

 

 

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November 1, 2017

Awesome Gem plays peekaboo

A peek-a-boo from Awesome Gem.

Yesterday Dr. Emma Adam, one of the wonderful vets who donate their care to Old Friends’ residents, visited the Georgetown farm for fun, bringing her mother, Chris Adam, who is a tour guide at the National Stud in Newmarket, England. As we golf carted around the farm Chris told me about guiding visitors around this Jockey Club facility that stands stallions, boards broodmares, and provides sales consignment services (Zenyatta’s half-sister Eblouissante is among their graduates). I’d thought maybe visits to the National Stud were limited to prospective clients and others with racing connections, but not at all. The National Stud does group tours for the general public most days by reservation just as we do. Their visitors see stallions, mares with foals in the spring and summer, and yearlings. Chris told me many of the tours she gives are to school groups and senior groups. She enjoys educating people about the phases of the horses’ lives that race goers don’t see, their early life and preparation to begin their racing careers, and the care and breeding of mares and stallions.

Marshall Rooster

“I’m from England, too.” Marshall Rooster

She loves those wonderful moments, also familiar at OF, when the sight of the horses brings light to the eyes of a visitor who’s battling cognitive issues connected with aging, and a smile to their face. The beauty of a horse is a powerful source of joy.

So, though the National Stud is larger and more elegant than Dream Chase Farm, Chris’ priorities and experiences there struck chords. I very much hope some day to take one of her tours.

Here’s the National Stud’s site. Beautiful, eh?

GR in his new paddock

“Tours? That’s my middle name. Genuine Reward in his new paddock

Speaking of tours, a reminder: on Nov. 7 Old Friends in Georgetown goes on its winter tour schedule. We’ll be offering one tour a day at 11:00 am. So come see us this fall or winter!

Amazombie

Amazombie in his same paddock (which he shares with Rapid Redux).

Mirroring

Little Mike (L) and Game On Dude, new friends at Old Friends.

And speaking of out on the farm, I want to share with you some of Laura’s recent photos and a nice partnership that’s growing up. It’s between Game On Dude and Little Mike. “The Dude” liked sharing his paddock with Catlaunch, but “the Cat” currently needs TLC in the barn because of recent dental surgery and, unrelated to that, coordination issues due to EPM. Catlaunch still greets the tours along with some other residents who spend the day in the barn, but he takes his turn-out time in the paddock area connected to his stall, so Game On Dude wanted a new paddockmate.

revving up for a race

Revving up for a play session

What could be more fun for the three-times winner of the Santa Anita Handicap than a buddy who can run with him however fast he wants to go? And what play could be more exciting for the winner of the Arlington Million and Breeders’ Cup Turf than racing a horse as (comparatively) young, (completely) sound, and (still impressively) fast as he is?

Dude and Little Mike race

They start to get their run going.

Dude runs

Dude ain’t kiddin’ around anymore.

These two are having a great time enjoying several impromptu races a day. In their youth both excelled at a mile and a quarter, but since the Dude raced on the dirt and Mike on the turf, who’d have thought to ever see these two champions racing each other? It could only happen at Old Friends!

Little Mike rolling

Mike luxuriates in a nice roll.

Mirroring 2

After play, it’s great just to relax together. Or, “I can do anything you can do, and I can do it just like you.”

Beth

photos by Laura

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September 12, 2017

How are they settling in? A little update on new resident Johannesburg Smile and old favorite Archie’s Echo.

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Johannesburg Smile

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Archie’s Echo with his new paddock mates, Early Pioneer and Dinard

Johannesburg Smile, who arrived at the farm in August, completed the standard quarantine for new arrivals with flying colors. Until last week he had morning turn-out in the paddock connected to his stall and in the barn he learned how to meet and greet the afternoon tours–which is to say, he quickly learned how to work the crowds for the maximum carrots. From the beginning he had all the best qualities of a host in the making. He’s beautiful, he’s curious, he’s very nice, and he adores attention.

This week things got even better. Johannesburg Smile has graduated to turn-out all day long. He loves the freedom and running room of his new lifestyle. And I have to admit I’m thrilled too. After his many years on the track, the paddock where he’s learning to be a happy retiree is the paddock that belonged to his great-grandpa, Ogygian. (Johannesburg Smile’s sire, international juvenile champion Johannesburg, is the son of Myth, a daughter of Ogygian.)

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Johannesburg Smile noodling around in the paddock his great-grandpa Ogygian loved.

Here are the best of the snapshots I took of him this afternoon. Outdoors he’s an even better host than he was in the barn. His expression says it all. He’s easing beautifully into the laid-back life that all his hard work has more than earned.

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…Enjoying the breeze in his mane…

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And the trees. And knowing that the photographer thinks he’s special.

It’s the perfect place to learn retirement. At night he goes into the barn and Alphabet Soup, who greets visitors in the barn by day, gets to enjoy that paddock during his 12 hours of turn-out each evening and night.

For Johannesburg Smile, these digs are temporary. When the weather gets cool he’ll be gelded and will probably continue his current lifestyle, where he can have plenty of attention and extra T. L. C. until he settles into gelding-hood and can begin his life as part of a herd, a lifestyle that comes naturally since it’s how horses live in the wild, and it’s how race horses remember their early, playful years, first in their mom’s mare and foal herd, then as yearlings in their own herds. When a young male horse doesn’t have a prospect of a breeding career, gelding him makes the safest and kindest future for him.

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Early Pioneer (L) and Dinard look across the way at their neighbors, Affirmed Success and Kudos, while Archie grazes.

Archie’s Echo had been splitting his own time between the barn by night and that paddock by day. He’s one of our oldest horses at 28, but he’s doing so well that he, too, has graduated to a lifestyle of more freedom and more company. Archie has moved in with Early Pioneer and Dinard who at 29 is the Georgetown farm’s oldest Thorougbred resident.

Early Pioneer and Dinard have been close companions for a good while, so it’s wonderful how peacefully and kindly they’ve accepted Archie. The new threesome all seem contented with their new property, the paddock that was Tinners Way’s. This paddock is next to the tree line at the back, with plenty of shade in the afternoon. When winter comes, the trees make a good windbreak. The only disadvantage is from the perspective of visitors since this paddock isn’t on the regular tour routes. It’s too far up at the back for that.

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Archie’s Echo and Dinard – already good friends.

So if you’ve fallen in love with Archie on a visit–and if you’ve met Archie you probably have fallen in love with him–I just wanted you to know he’s doing great, he still enjoys plenty of attention from all of us on the farm (and plenty of carrot shreds). He’s pleased as punch to have paddock mates. Though not on regular tours, Archie, “Earl” and Dinard can be visited by appointment, as long as any staff is available to take you up to the back. We’ll do our best.

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A love bite.

Speaking of visits, the weather is gorgeous in Kentucky right now, mostly sunny and cool for September. The big tour crowds of summer vacation time have eased into smaller groups with more chance for one-on-one moments with the horses. If it’s been awhile since you’ve visited with us, this is an absolutely ideal time.

Beth

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September 5, 2017

We’re sad to have lost Come On Flip, who succumbed last week to chronic laminitis. The 1996 Hawthorne Cup (G2) winner came to the Georgetown Farm a several years ago along with Do One Dance (“Francis”). After Francis passed, Flip spent his turn-out time with Kudos and Affirmed Success.

201705 Come on Flip winter coat

As Flip coped with heat intolerance and other Cushing’s Syndrome (a pituitary gland dysfunction) issues, he was befriended by Old Friends supporters Dr. Val Nicholson and her husband Dr. Brent Haskell. “He had a tough last two years since the death of Francis,” Val recounted. During the daytime he was sheltered from the weather in the upper barn, on the back rise beneath the shade trees and “was really very good about being there. He loved the company of Hidden Lake and Binti who came to their paddock fence to visit him.” After Hidden Lake passed and Bint Marscay moved to another paddock, Flip’s daytime neighbors were Hussonfirst and Lusty Latin. “He was so happy when we took him for a ‘walkabout’ during midday and he could visit the other horses in the ‘back 40.’ He particularly liked Jimbo Fallon.”

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Flip spent his evenings with companions Affirmed Success and Kudos in the paddock the three of them shared on the near side of the upper barn, enjoying the summer night breezes and grazing together.

Val wants to express her heartfelt thanks to Carole and Antonio who provided most of Come On Flip’s hands-on care, and to James, Tammy, Snowden, Zach and Marissa, all of whom contributed to his day to day wellbeing, and to Drs. Waldridge, Fleming, Tanner and Smith for their tireless vet care.

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Come On Flip (R) during his evening turn-out time with Kudos.

We’ll miss Flip. As Brent said, “He was a perpetual five-year-old boy, sometimes stubborn, always loving, who enjoyed his clover until the very end.”

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Photos by Laura

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August 21, 2017

95% Solar Eclipse at Old Friends in Georgetown

What the Big Event was like at the farm!

Today the long awaited event finally arrived. An almost full solar eclipse. Unless an eclipse is total there’s no corona, but the moon covering all but a little sliver of the sun would be pretty dramatic, we figured. The light would get dim and strange, the angles of shadows would be weird. With eclipse glasses we’d see the sun shrink to a narrow crescent, and the world would look like a slightly unfamiliar planet under an alien sun.

2017 08 21 - LSC Ready for the show

We all prepared for the show.

Michael led a special Eclipse Tour, while some of us gathered near the barn, next to War Emblem’s paddock, where there was a clear view of the sky. Some of the barn crew had supplied themselves with eclipse glasses, and Dr. Waldridge had some super-duper-quality ones which he kindly let us pass around.

2017 08 21 - Humans enjoy the show

Gradually the silhouette of the moon began crossing the sun (Dr. Waldridge: “Now it looks like Pac-man.”). We wondered what the horses and other animals would do when the light got strange and dim. Would it excite them? Puzzle them? We hoped it wouldn’t scare them. Here are some of their reactions, in photos taken during the eclipse.

2017 08 21 - Rapid Redux unconcerned

Rapid Redux found the event thrilling. (That’s just his summer see-through fly mask, not eclipse gear.)

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Alphabet Soup. “What eclipse?”

2017 08 21 - Eldaafer and Boule dOr

It got dark enough that some of the photos are underexposed. See how impressed Eldaafer and Boule d’Or are. And Photon, at the left.

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Not to mention Google, who was more interested in posing. Mountain Goat!

2017 08 21 - Timmy unconcerned

Or Timmy.

Suddenly, at the height of the eclipse, we saw every single horse over in paddock 51 raise their heads in unison, on total alert. What made them do that? we asked each other. What mysterious thing did they, and only they, sense?

2017 08 21 - 51 - 1 Whats That

On the alert

All at once, they took off running. By then it was so dark the camera’s shutter speed had probably slowed down. Any motion came out as a blur. Only a few of them are in the photo, but they were all sweeping across the pasture at a fast gallop.

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Sorry about the focus. It was darker than the photo looks.

As I moved to try to get more of the geldings in the frame, the reason for their dash came into view. A car had parked by the roadside so the people in it could enjoy the nearly full coverage of the sun. A car! Woo, what’s a car doing there? Hey guys, look, a car, wow! Let’s run over and investigate!

2017 08 21 - 51 - 3 So what

Well, but after all, it was just a car.

The paddock 51 herd soon got bored and went back to where they’d been grazing before (as Amazombie, left foreground, wondered what was up).

2017 08 21 - Dude and Cat aftermath

I don’t think Game On Dude (foreground) and Catlaunch looked up once.

Soon the moon passed on over the sun and it began to get light again. Shadows returned to their usual sizes and colors brightened. The birds, the only ones besides the humans who seemed to notice anything strange was going on, stopped their roosting behavior and began singing again.

2017 08 21 - War Emblem - Big so what

War Emblem: “Ho hum.”

War Emblem seemed to have the final word. “I knew the sun wouldn’t get eaten up. Speaking of eating, when are you-all going to stop gawking at the sky and deliver my dinner?”

Beth

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