At the end of the race: Old Friends where thoroughbreds come home to die

By Debra Tash

Michael Blowen

Michael Blowen

Ferdinand won the roses in 1986, finishing first at the Kentucky Derby that year.  By 2002, after amassing over $3.7 million on the track, he was sent to the slaughterhouse.  This story inspired Michael Blowen, a film credit at the Boston Globe, to create a home for retired thoroughbreds.   Blowen read about Sunshine Forever, another winning horse, who had stood stud in Japan and  faced the same fate as Ferdinand.  Saving Sunshine became a saga in itself, as Blowen attempted to negotiate with the Japanese.  It was more than just the language barrier, but moreover understanding why anyone would bother rescuing a horse that had outlived its usefulness.

Well this Boston writer did save Sunshine and hundreds of other horses, bringing the retired racers to Old Friends at Dream Chase Farm in Georgetown Kentucky where they can live out their remaining years as, well, horses.  There’s no more warmups on the track, no more demands to race, just bluegrass pastures and rolling hills and lots of carrots for treats.  From the Old Friends’ website on Ferdinand: “Old Friends, in partnership with the Japan Racing Association and various overseas breeding farms, have transformed the awful death of 1986 Derby winner, Ferdinand, into a beneficial relationship insuring that his demise was not in vain.”

20,000 visitors a year are given tours around the 136 acre spread at the organization’s Kentucky facility.  Old Friends is in three states now and cares for over 100 horses.  They are the only non-profit rescue that will take retired stallions.  Often these animals are sold for Stallion Fighting in Korea.  This is a fight to the death.  One such stallion rescue is a current resident of Dream Chase.

The paddocks and stalls bear placards with the horse’s name.  Some were big time, others never garnering much of a return.  But they are all treated well, even if they’ve gone blind, or suffered a broken leg, they are given the best of care.  Along with the tours and the public’s donations the organization is supported by the Hollywood community.  Some of the retired thoroughbreds were once owned by entertainment notables. 

There’s a cemetery on the property.  There again, placards the horse’s name, their parentage along with their winnings.  The mane, tail and head are buried. 

It’s quite an experience visiting Old Friends at Dream Chase Farm.  If you can’t go in person, visit them on the web: Old Friends. You can meet Silver Charm, a 31 rescued pony who is something of a celebrity mascot for the group.  He even has his own Facebook Page.   It’ll be well worth your time.

The rolling bluegrass hills of Kentucky at Dream Chase Farm

The rolling bluegrass hills of Kentucky at Dream Chase Farm

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Living the life

Living the life

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saying farewell to the four legged athletes

Saying farewell to the four legged athletes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Silver Charm...a charming mascot

Silver Charm…a charming mascot

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Debra Tash is Editor-in-Chief of Citizensjournal.us, past president for Citizens Alliance for Property Rights, business executive and award-winning author, residing in Somis.

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