New Friends

I arrived at Old Friends equine retirement home near Georgetown, Ky.,  on a cold and windy morning in early February. Michael Blowen, the enthusiastic president of Old Friends, said his favorite time of day is early morning when he makes the rounds feeding the horses.
 
“It’s a quiet time of day before the phones start ringing and email alerts pop up,” said Blowen. “I can check on each horse and spend time with them.”
 
Each horse has a story and personality to go with it. “I love horse racing and to have some of these great horses retired here where I can look after them is wonderful,” said Blowen.
 
Here are a few of the retirees followed by a more in-depth slideshow of my Old Friends experience. Look for Esther Marr’s feature story on Old Friends in the Feb. 19, 2011, issue of The Blood-Horse magazine.
 
Sunshine Forever
“Sunshine Forever is one of my favorites,” said Blowen. “I say to him, Are you the greatest horse? And he shakes his head up and down.” And sure enough, Sunshine Forever walked over to the fence line when Blowen arrived and shook his head “yes” when asked. Then he ate his carrots and feed.

Commentator
Known as Tator, Commentator loves visitors. “His groom Gus comes to see him all the time,” said Blowen.

Wicked North
The Wicked North, also used to the cameras and winners circle, runs over when visitors arrive. “His regular rider Kent Desormeaux comes to see him often,” said Blowen. “He’ll give him a bath and he rode him bareback once.”

Hidden Lake
Blowen has a special bond with Hidden Lake. “She’s a sweet one,” said Blowen. Hidden Lake, one of several retired mares, shares a paddock with Personalized and Cozy Miss.
 
Marquetry
Blowen gets into Marquetry’s paddock and they race each other! The flashy chestnut seems to give Blowen a head start before catching up and passing him.
 
Even on this overcast and cold day visitors arrived and took a tour to see the horses. Check out the Old Friends website where you can set up a tour on your next visit to the area.
 
Want to see more?  View the entire slideshow.

73 Comments

Leave a Comment:

Blue Blue Sea

Nice! Love Old Friends

15 Feb 2011 10:30 AM
Chris

Love the slideshow!

We have a 30 year old quarter horse at our place "China Star Jones", love to see him in the pasture, he makes me happy!

15 Feb 2011 11:18 AM
Boxwood

Michael Blowen- you're the best!!! Love the farm and care you give our "rock star" retired racehorses!! Wish we could have an Old Friends in every state! Our horses are so deserving..I will never forget what happened to Ferdinand...

15 Feb 2011 11:28 AM
anna

i wonder how gulch is getting along there, since he was penisoned and sent straight there a few days later from lane's end.

15 Feb 2011 11:40 AM
Jean in VA.

I loved all of the pictures.

Thank you for sharing them.

I look forward to the blog evey week and the only place that I want to visit is Old Friends.  

15 Feb 2011 1:51 PM
Anja

I loved the "race" in the paddock! How sweet. Thank you for the wonderful photos!

15 Feb 2011 2:19 PM
Teresa F

Thank you for the great photos.

15 Feb 2011 2:20 PM
Love 'em all

Bet early morning is the horses' favorite time of day, too, seeing Michael.  This has made my day!

Slideshow is wonderful.  Thank you for sharing.

15 Feb 2011 2:55 PM
Marty

My fiance and I went to Old Friends to visit and it is such a wonderful place. I took pictures of all the horses. But I must say my favorite was Little Silver Charm, he's adorable.

We had a great time and if we are ever in Ketucky we will visit again.

15 Feb 2011 3:45 PM
Darla Burton

How is Cappacino Kid doing? Any pictures of him you could share. He is Medaglia d' Oro's half brother!

15 Feb 2011 4:53 PM
kurt

i went to OF after the breeders cup.michael was the best!!. gave us a very personal tour of some of the things that everyone might not get to see. I wish i lived closer to kentucky so i could visit more often. thanks for the great article!!

15 Feb 2011 5:17 PM
victoria

Visiting OLD FRIENDS for the first time last Feb. 2010 changed my life. I have since gone 5 times and driving from NY each time ain't no small feat.

It's heavenly there and giving to the horses doesn't equal what they give back -- they give of themselves. they're at last in open pastures, free and of easy spirit.

15 Feb 2011 5:25 PM
txhorsefan

Thank you so much for sharing your visit to Old Friends with us through your words and photos.  It seems like they are all so happy in their retirement home and that is so beautiful to see it simply makes the heart happy.  Thank you!

15 Feb 2011 6:00 PM
Mike Relva

God Bless You,Michael. Sorry we didn't get to see you last fall when we were there. Hope to be visiting in the next month or so.

15 Feb 2011 7:09 PM
backside sweetie

Thanks again for the photos,Anne.Your work always brightens my day.God bless Michael,for the love he shares with these old friends.Many of us would so love to be able to do as he does.I wish there were more Old Friends farms around.

15 Feb 2011 7:41 PM
Linda in Texas

Michael Blowen, great photos.

And i know you feel truly blessed doing just what you want to be doing to continue to bring the respect that these lovely, beautiful and handsome creatures all deserve. They all know your heart and give you theirs right back. You can see it in their eyes.

And Thank You Anne for catching the moments so perfectly.

Marquetry still looks as regal as he ever did as do all of them. They are all special where ever and who ever they are.

15 Feb 2011 8:05 PM
sherpa

Wonderful, simply wonderful!  Thank you, Anne.

15 Feb 2011 8:12 PM
linda n katie

we are planing a trip this june from michigan north west we love thourghbred racing an to have a man do so much for they old spirts  is holy heaven on earth

15 Feb 2011 8:28 PM
MRO

Wonderful place & wonderful horses. I saw Gulch in October & he seemed to be doing well. I visited with Cappucino Kid the year before & thought he was beautiful. He quickly became a favorite.

15 Feb 2011 8:43 PM
ctgreyhound

I so look forward to all your posts. Each one is special in its own right. These are rare and unique souls. Thank you.

15 Feb 2011 10:09 PM
Lisa

Awesome story.  What a wonderful person Michael Blowen is.  I wish I had his job, what a great way to start the day.  Great to see Commentator looking so well...loved watching him race, he was great. That last picture is priceless...two old guys enjoying some play time together.  Great pictures!

15 Feb 2011 10:13 PM
Ange

We had Futural for a few months. He is now at Old Friends. I passed along the info on his love of bananas & watermelon. I can't wait until I'm able to visit Kentucky and I'll go see the old guy at this wonderful home. Thanks to Michael for his hard work & love of these champions.

15 Feb 2011 11:13 PM
Barbara W

Thank you, Anne, for the great pictures, and God bless you, Michael. You are living your dream, and most of us are jealous! Just kidding.

I'm glad to see The Wicked North is doing well. If I remember correctly, the last time we were there, he was being kept in the barn because of foot problems.

Any reports on a possible visit from Little Silver Charm to his heartthrob Zenyatta? He is SO adorable..and not a bad soccer player either!

15 Feb 2011 11:15 PM
NancyP

Michael and Anne,

Thank you for sharing pictures of these old warriors with us, and most of all - Thank You for caring for them so lovingly!

15 Feb 2011 11:17 PM
needler in Virginia

Michael, we all know you're just letting Marquetry win! Great shots, Anne, and there can be no better place than Old Friends. If you haven't done it by now, though, everyone PLEASE go visit the website as shown above. There you can meet the not-so-famous Old Friends in residence. Other than the fact that I LOVE Creator's grumpiness (we MUST be related!), I also adore Swan's Way......you MUST read his story ....this guy is the hardest of the hard knocking horses that keep the sport alive at ground level, and he is, OF COURSE, a Red Sox fan. SEE?  you can find EVERYTHING at Old Friends.............

Huge thanks to both Anne and Michael. What a nice gift on this Tuesday evening.

Cheers and safe trips to everyone.

15 Feb 2011 11:37 PM
Paula Higgins

My husband and I made a donation about a week or so ago to Old Friends. They do a great service to the horses there and it is a pleasure to support them.

16 Feb 2011 12:07 AM
Anne Eberhardt Keogh

I spoke with Michael Blowen this morning. Marquetry does give Michael a head start to keep their races fun before powering up and passing Michael.

Anna asked about Gulch and Michael said, "He's doing great. Like Creator, he's very proud. He doesn't do tricks for visitors. If he feels like coming over for a visit, he does. He exudes class and confidence. And he will complain if I forget his carrots!"

16 Feb 2011 8:21 AM
Mike Relva

LISA

Are you the same Lisa that lives in TN?

16 Feb 2011 9:31 AM
LouAnn Cingel of Union, Missouri

Thankyou MIchael Blowen for sharing and also for being there for the horses.  Thanks for all the wonderful pics for us to see too.

Wish that all retired horses could live at a place as wonderful as Old Friends.  Every horse deserves to live its life out in comfort and safety that has people there to give them the care and love they need.

Love & Blessings to all the horses and to the people who are there to make their lives wonderful!

LouAnn Cingel of Union, Missouri

16 Feb 2011 10:00 AM
HRFan4Life

Great photos!  Old Friends is a wonderful retirement for these athletes.  Any idea where Rachel Alexandra is?  She was my favorite and there's been no word of where she is being boarded and if she's in foal.  Any information you can find would be wonderful!

16 Feb 2011 10:47 AM
Susan W

Mike:  Great photos!  HRTV just did a wonderful piece on Ferdinand, but I wish that they'd mentioned how YOUR response to that tragedy was to come up with a concrete answer: a place where horses like Ferdinand, old stallions, could go!  What a great, great service to our whole industry!  Love from New England

16 Feb 2011 11:21 AM
BackstretchBabe

Love that they say Commentator's groom Gus comes to visit him all the time.  At the track Gus is known as "Paulina."  Lol

16 Feb 2011 1:06 PM
needler in Virginia

HRFan4Life, Rachel is at Stonestreet with the other Jackson horses. Don't look for daily updates about her, though.

Cheers and safe trips.

16 Feb 2011 1:06 PM
Mike Sekulic

How beautiful it is to see these wonderful old-timers again!

16 Feb 2011 1:23 PM
Rachel

These are the horses of my "young" racing days...you got me choked up. I hope all the younger fans looks up each one of these horses...each has an amazing tale...like Swan's Way...he was still racing at the age of 15...

16 Feb 2011 2:28 PM
Flora

How wonderful to see all these old warriors so happy and well cared for. There should indeed be more places like Old Friends all over the country, and the world!

16 Feb 2011 3:46 PM
Seabiscuit

Thank you for all you do!! The pic. of Mr. Blowen racing Marquetry is priceless:) and a visit to Old Friends is on my bucket list!

16 Feb 2011 4:32 PM
Ida Lee

I'm planning my visit to OF now..I'll be going to KY this summer for vacation. I adore Commentator and cannot wait to see him. I also saw the Inside Information on Ferdinand. I stayed up all night crying.  He was gorgeous and so talented and I loved him so much when he was racing. I don't think I'll ever get over the way he died. But, I am so grateful that he did not die in vain and that so much is being done now to protect our great champions who go overseas.  Thank you so much Mr. Blowen for keeping my beloved Ferdinand's memory in such a wonderful manner. Hope to meet you soon.

16 Feb 2011 7:51 PM
quarterhossgal

Had an opportunity to visit Old Friends as it was just getting started and am so pleased to see how it has grown with the support of so many owners,trainers, jockies and people that just love the old champions.  Michael is a class act, he truly loves these great horses. Each time I visit I am so proud of what has been done to show case the animals. We all Michael a great debt for the care he provides our 4 legged Old Friends.

16 Feb 2011 7:55 PM
Dani

There is something so soothing to my soul when I look into the eyes and take in the faces of horses like our 'old friends'. Anne, your photographs are touching in how they capture the quiet comfort and contentment recognizable in those eyes.

Michael Blowen, you are a gift.  

16 Feb 2011 8:13 PM
LauraJ

Lovely photos. Are you sure that is Swan’s Way, though? I think it’s Special Ring who shows off his tattoo. Or did Swannie swipe his trick?

HRfan4life, if you go to Stonestreet Farm’s Facebook page, you can see a few fairly recent pictures of Rachel. She appears to be happy and well. Her paddock buddy is Hot Dixie Chick aka “Dixie.” I expect she’ll be going to Curlin in the next few weeks. Don’t want to send her too early!

Ida Lee, be sure to bring Commentator some mints. He loves them.

16 Feb 2011 8:41 PM
Suzie

Old Friends is wonderful!  A trip to Kentucky wouldn't be complete without a visit there.  Mr. Blowen and staff are so accommodating and it is obvious how much they care for their retirees.  The horses are all very happy, and it is such a treat to be able to see these great old champions up close and personal.  I adore Ogygian, so glad he has the folks at Old Friends to watch over him and his fellow horses.  If you've never been to Old Friends and you love horses, you MUST go!  I didn't want to leave.  Bless you, Michael,for such a generous gift to both the horses and us, their loyal fans.  You're the best!

16 Feb 2011 10:03 PM
Chris

Adorable! Not just the horses but also the relationship they have with Michael. What a dream he lives! Cool story...

16 Feb 2011 10:45 PM
scpalohorselvr

We visited Old Friends in October and had the pleasure of meeting Michael Blowen. I was so happy to get to see these wonderful horses and hear their stories.  I can't wait to go back!

17 Feb 2011 3:38 AM
Gail

Please do an article on Our Mims.

17 Feb 2011 7:43 AM
PATTI IN CARLSBAD

LOVELY ARTICLE.  OLD FRIENDS IS A FABULOUS PLACE.  BEAUTIFUL PICTURES.

17 Feb 2011 9:58 AM
Fran Loszynski

You know I love reading Bloodhorse but you have outdone yourselves!

To see Mr. Blowen race with one of our older racehorses, I'm sorry I'm too choked up to finish. God Bless farms and people like this.

17 Feb 2011 12:07 PM
warren eves

Marvelous human interest picture story.  I sorely miss direct contact with the horses on the farm.  God bless Blowen and his love of the horses.

17 Feb 2011 12:37 PM
Soldier Course

Where Old Friends find New Hope. Thoroughly enjoyed this article and photos. Thanks.

17 Feb 2011 1:31 PM
SPLITSOF12

Last summer I visited Kentucky by way of California. I went to all the horse farms: Claiborne, Lane's End, Three Chimneys, and a slew of others. I must say Old Friends was my favorite. Not only did I get to see Queen Elizabeth's favorite horse Gulch, but I also got to see one of my favorite California runners, Smokey Stover. What a beautiful horse he is. Also I'm glad I got to see the great Jade Hunter before he passed away.  Millionaire Special Ring and I shared a close bond. I think he could sense I was from Cali, so he never tried to bite me as he will others. Oh, and one of my favorite handicap horses from the early to mid nineties, The Wicked North.   Watching Little Silver Charm kick around a soccer ball was pretty amusing. Or how about BullintheHeather drinking a beer. So many wonderful memories on that hot and humid day in the heart of horse country. I would just like to say thanks again to all the people that volunteer their time and work so hard to make Old Friends a truly special place. And also a special thanks to Michael Blowen for providing a home and shelter for these glorious runners. If you've never been to Old Friends it's a must stop and see if your in Central Kentucky.  

17 Feb 2011 8:28 PM
Robin from Maryland

Wonderful story,WONDERFUL PEOPLE!!! Keep up the great work.  I only wish that there were more OF all over the US.  God Bless to all.

17 Feb 2011 8:39 PM
needler in Virginia

Laura, there aren't any pix of Swannie shown above and Special Ring (ALSO missing from these pix) IS the lip artist! Swannie gets you from "hello", though; he's such a presence and has the kindest eye........gotta love a horse who raced his eyes out, won little, tried hard, and then trusts humans to do right by him. But then, every horse at Old Friends seems to give a trust I'm not so sure I could muster given some of the places they came from. Even when grumpy Creator nips when you try to drape his forelock over his shoulder (just a SLIGHT exaggeration, folks) he's just being Creator....he still trusts that you WILL show up with carrots and that you won't harm him. Amazing animals, horses....

Cheers, safe trips and love to everyone at Old Friends......horses, cats, dogs AND humans!

17 Feb 2011 10:32 PM
Irish Advantage

Wonderful photos!  Michael, you've got your 2012 calendar photos already :-)

18 Feb 2011 11:59 AM
Smarie

Michael Blowen and people like him "get it." You don't throw away your equine friends and partners when they can no longer meet your expectations. You don't abandon them and you certainly don't send them to slaughter!! Right now, there is a debate going on between John Holland, a man whose compassion and love for horses knows no bounds, and Charlie Stenholm, a man who sees nothing wrong with butchering horses; cares nothing for how horrible this process is, and wants to get horse slaughtering plants going again in the U.S. Check out vicki@equinealliance.org

to read about this yourselves. Stenholm and his ilk have to be stopped. Our horses do not deserve to be slaughtered!

18 Feb 2011 12:13 PM
Lisa

to Mike Relva:  sorry I have to use this as a venue, but I just wanted to let Mike Relva know that I am not the Lisa in TN...I am Lisa in New Orleans who loves all horses and frequent the sites of Old Friends and Akendale (sp?) and all other sites concerning race horses here and on Facebook. I'll put my name as Lisa in New Orleans from now on. And, I'll be at the FG to watch all the Saturday races, but the Rachel Alexandra race is what is drawing me there.  If I can't see her, I can think I'm seeing her as I did when I saw her race here several times! Miss you beautiful, Rachel Alexandra!!!

18 Feb 2011 12:38 PM
Kathryn

Every note & every photograph is a confirmation 'God`s in His Heaven; All`s Right .. .'

19 Feb 2011 2:31 PM
Anne from Paramount CA

Just loved reading/viewing these photos/slide show...I am still smiling and will be for a long while, thinking of your love for the horses. Thanks for a great day brightener. Also enjoy reading comments from those who have visited Old Friends. Can someone tell me more about Little Silver Charm?  Thanks

19 Feb 2011 10:04 PM
sherpa

Esther's Old Friends article in this week's (2/19) Bloodhorse (with pictures by Anne, of course!) was absolutely wonderful.  A keeper.

Anne from Paramount - according to the BH article, Little Silver Charm was bought off a slaughter truck for $40.   A charmed day for him, for sure!

I could wish the Old Friends website was updated more often. They do have a Facebook page, too.

19 Feb 2011 10:33 PM
Karen

God bless you Michael.  I truly believe you are doing God's work.  Horses are not commodities they are breathing, feeling, loving creatures.  They deserve a place where they are loved, admired, and treated with dignity.  Michael you are providing that place.  You are a saint in my opinion.

20 Feb 2011 12:34 AM
Anne Eberhardt Keogh

Terrific comments and ideas. Thanks. Michael Blowen is amazing! Their current facility is beautiful with ideal access to the interstate. His ideas for assisting horses never stops. He's a true asset to the Thoroughbred community.

20 Feb 2011 12:11 PM
Helen

Just would like to say thank you for all you do for these magnificent horses!  Hope to see you this year.

20 Feb 2011 5:54 PM
Helen

Hmmm, please let Little Silver Charm I am thinking of him...love this little guy!

20 Feb 2011 6:33 PM
LauraJ

@Anne from Paramount CA, you should check out Little Silver Charm's Facebook page.

www.facebook.com/.../113471835374378

He is a hoot. He has a crush on Zenyatta! He plays soccer and is allowed to go into the house. He seems to enjoy meeting visitors on tour, and as you can imagine, the kids adore him. He may be the smallest horse at Old Friends, but he has the best hair.

20 Feb 2011 6:40 PM
Giddyup

I just have to commend Bloodhorse for doing a great job of educating people about places like Old Friends. I am somewhat ashamed to say that only recently have I become aware of the situation surrounding unwanted and retired thoroughbreds. Through another website I came across a link to a Bloodhorse report on this important issue and I will post it here in case any one else may have missed it.

i.bloodhorse.com/.../unwanted-horses-848847980.pdf

20 Feb 2011 9:01 PM
Anne from Paramount CA

LauraJ thanks SO much for making me aware of those adorable, wonderful pictures of LSC--he is indeed a hoot and a real "charmer."  Loved his Valentine to Queen Z. Laughed and laughed. She may be too busy to respond right now,though. Another day and another smile from this site. Hope to meet everyone at Good Friends some day.  Keep on doin' what you all do,everyone!

20 Feb 2011 9:44 PM
ofelia

Michael is the best.

21 Feb 2011 8:49 PM
old horse lover

Please take note horse slaughter legistion is coming up0 again in some states,Instead of stopping it in the U S and stopping transport to other contries for slaughter.Some legislators are trying to reinstate it here.

Please do everything you can to stop this.I watch a 2500 claiming race the other day and ther was a mare that had won 1 in 21 starts and she finished way way back last.I cried because I know where she was going to end up probally

23 Feb 2011 10:45 AM
LuckySon

Michael Blowen is a Saint!!!  I was lucky enough to visit last spring, and as wonderful as these stories are, they by no means do him or his organization justice!!!  He is just a living saint!!  Thank you Mr. Blowen!!

23 Feb 2011 2:46 PM
Donna Melendez from Grayslake, IL

Thank you Michael for all you do.  Your farm looks like a haven of comfort and peace for these champions!

23 Feb 2011 3:04 PM
Dee Poulos

Really enjoyed the photos of Michael Blowen and his "Old Friends."  "Black Tie Affair" was so fortunate to spend the autumn of his life with Michael and the wonderful volunteers at "Old Friends."  Great cause and wonderful facility.

23 Feb 2011 8:14 PM
Susan W.

This is a wonderful article --- seeing these photos is almost as good as being there in person. If you have never visited Old Friends and you get a chance to visit, - DO SO!

24 Feb 2011 6:53 AM
horseracinglover

God Bless Michael! He is trying to rescue Ball Four right now. Another Stakes horse dropped into cheap claimers. Please help. They are trying to raise 5000.00 to buy him (thats the amount he is running for\claim tag). He is 10 and in his 8th yr. raceing. He ran against Rail Trip and Lava Man. Lets make sure we don't lose this one to a break down or the killer pen.

24 Feb 2011 12:06 PM
Doris

these are very nice pictures. I can't wait to come & visit in May. it will be my 1st visit  and I'm really looking forward to it.

27 Feb 2011 6:56 PM

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