Following the deaths of three beloved racehorses at Old Friends Equine this month, the New Year seemed to get off on a very bad foot when suddenly, good tidings came to the bucolic Thoroughbred retirement farm in Kentucky.
Old Friends President and co-founder Michael Blowen says he was reeling from the unexpected deaths of Patton, Sunshine Forever and Dancing Renee, three great racehorses who died within weeks of each other, when a breath of fresh air blew through the renowned retirement facility in the form of new horses and new partnerships.
Citing the help of the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, which recently accredited Old Friends and 22 other Thoroughbred charities and plans to raise funds for them, Blowen says his charity has been enriched already by its affiliation with the TAA.
This affiliation led to Old Friends accepting horses from California charity Tranquility Farms, which is downsizing its operation and needed to find new homes for a couple of its racehorse residents, Blowen says.
TAA Vice President Madeline Auerbach asked Blowen if Old Friends could possibly make room for the Tranquility Farm horses, notes Blowen, who adds, “It was a good idea to take the horses for a couple of reasons. Number one, it was good for the horses, and number two, it was good to show that we’re all trying to work together, collaboratively, with other horse charities” on behalf of the horse.
As a result, last weekend, Old Friends accepted Graded Stakes Winner Geronimo, a Chilean racehorse, and his buddy Areyoutalkingtome from Tranquility Farms, and a third California ex-racehorse Rail Trip.
Their arrival coincided with a decision to also welcome to Old Friends the million-dollar winner Catlaunch, the “greatest Ohio bred in history,” who Blowen praises as a “really cool horse” who should be a big hit with the Old Friends fans because of his friendly, in-your-pocket demeanor.
“Every time we get a new horse in here it reinvigorates the whole place,” Blowen says. “We were all devastated at our losses. We lost three horses in one month, and last year lost of total of four horses during the entire year.”
In addition to the new horses, Old Friends has also partnered with racehorse training and re-homing facilities New Vocations Racehorse Adoption and ReRun, Inc., in order to collaborate on services for horses. Blowen explains, “If we get a young one in who needs retraining, we’ll send him along to one of them, and if they get an old one with (few options) we’ll take him,” he says. “This way, we’ll work collaboratively with each other and play to each other’s strengths.”
In addition to the new horses and partnerships, Old Friends is also moving ahead with expansion plans.
Blowen just signed a lease on a 45-acre property and well-known horse farm designer Ron Wallace has agreed to design the facility for Blowen, he says.
Blowen says that he is feeling more optimistic about the future, especially given a new spirit of collaboration that is being fostered among horse charities by the TAA. “The TAA really came along at the right time,” he says.
“If they can go out and earn the money” to defray the costs at accredited horse charities “it makes everybody less competitive for limited funds” and fosters a new spirit of cooperation, he says.