As a third year Transy student, I have experienced three volunteer days with the Transylvania eventing team. The first two consisted of work done for the Kentucky Equine Humane Center, while the third and most recent was spent at Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farm. This past experience at Old Friends was nothing short of inspiring.
This retirement program opened in 2003 and is owned and operated by Michael Blowen, a former Boston Globe film critic. The farm is located in Georgetown, Kentucky, and is home to 175 horses on 136 acres of land.
Old Friends could be considered a living history museum of horse racing, and attracts close to 20,000 visitors annually. Some notable equine athletes that call Old Friends home include Breeders’ Cup champions Amazombie, Little Mike and Alphabet Soup, Belmont Stakes winners Sarava and Touch Gold, and three-time Santa Anita Handicap winner Game On Dude. Additionally, Kentucky Derby and Preakness winners Silver Charm and War Emblem reside on the property. Over 100 other thoroughbreds who had all levels of success on the track have earned a happy retirement spot in the pastures of Old Friends.
Riding a young thoroughbred myself, I can understand how the track can be quite stressful for young horses, and I loved being able to experience these once world-renowned athletes in a calm and comfortable atmosphere.
Other than having the privilege of meeting a variety of famous racehorses, the eventing team also got the opportunity to interact with these athletes one-on-one. By being tasked with pulling manes of over 30 horses, we got to connect with these horses in their own environment, where they were most comfortable and at home. Members of the team were given manes to pull and tails to brush. Some horses that got this special treatment included Joey P, Fantastic Day, Arson Squad and Miss Hooligan, and it was clear these horses loved the attention. They were relaxed, happy and certainly thankful to be in such a happy and caring environment.
The inspiring aspect of Old Friends is that these once renowned athletes now get to live out their days as nothing more than simply horses, eating and spending time in green pastures for the rest of their years. For the team, having the opportunity to interact with these animals as simply horses instead of prestigious athletes was what made the experience so special.
Collectively, the eventing team had a great time saying thank you to these equines for the service they have provided to the thoroughbred industry, and the team hopes to be back at Old Friends soon.
About the author: Emma Masur has been a part of the Transy eventing team since 2016. She is studying writing, rhetoric and communications as well as digital arts, with the plan to go into visual communication after graduating in 2020.