Sure, there are countless Thoroughbred and all-breed rescue and retirement facilities around the country, but Old Friends in Georgetown, Ky., has some particularly dignified retirees.
Motivated to action by the death of Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand by slaughter in 2002, founder Michael Blowen established Old Friends to provide one-time celebrated Thoroughbreds with the retirement they deserve after their racing and breeding careers are over.
Old Friends’ roster of retirees (several of them stallions, as the facility is one of the only of its kind to accept them) reads like a who’s who of Thoroughbreds past their prime. In the paddocks you might run into Awad, earner of $3.2 million during his racing career, or Eclipse award-winner Sunshine Forever. Or you might be greeted by Affirmed Success, one of the best sons of Triple Crown winner Affirmed, and a couple aging sons of Seattle Slew.
Patti Nickell writes in her Horse Lover’s Guide to Kentucky:
"Old Friends retirement home is similar to many others. Some of the senior citizens can occasionally get grumpy and out-of-sorts. All are past their physical prime--their knees have long since given way to arthritis, their once-muscular bodies show the ravages of age, and one has even lost an eye.
Still, like most of those living in retirement communities, these old-timers welcome visitors, but unlike most, they seem uninterested in long conversations, preferring instead to nibble on a carrot stick or a sugar cube the visitor might be inclined to offer.
The farm, 52 acres of rolling Bluegrass farmland just outside of Georgetown in Scott County, has become the nation’s first retirement community for Thoroughbreds, a safe haven where they can live out their lives once their racing and breeding careers are over. Started by Michael Blowen, a former movie critic for The Boston Globe and a passionate horse lover, and his wife, Diane White, a former Globe columnist, Old Friends is home to between 25 and 30 horses at any given time--some of whose careers were legendary and some whose careers proved to be less than stellar. It doesn’t matter to Blowen and White; to them, all Thoroughbreds deserve a happy home."
1841 Paynes Depot Rd., Georgetown. (502) 863-1775. www.oldfriendsequine.org. Free daily tours; reservations required.
Evening Tours at Old Friends in Kentucky
Old Friends in Kentucky is adding a 7:00 pm tour to its daily schedule for the summer. June 11 through October 30, visitors can meet retirees who are not normally included on daytime tours.
Left, a stallion greets visitors to Old Friends; above left, Michael Blowen visits with one of his charges. Steven Zunker photos.
Upcoming Horse Lover’s Events:
A Gift from the Desert: The Art, History and Culture of the Arabian Horse, International Museum of the Horse, Lexington: May 29-Oct 15
Ellis Park Race Meet, Henderson: July 10 – Labor Day
Old Friends Evening Tours, Georgetown: June 11-Oct. 30
Horse Mania, Lexington: July 15-Oct. 15
World’s Championship Horse Show, Kentucky Exposition Center, Louisville, Aug 22-28
Henderson Bicentennial Celebration Horse Show, Henderson County fairgrounds: Sept 11
West Kentucky Horse Sale, Bowling Green: Sept. 12
Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Keeneland Race Course, Lexington: Sept. 12-26
Asbury University Draft Animal Day, Wilmore: Sept. 18