Old Friends ushers in new horses, partners

Cathlaunch, shown with his friend John Engelhardt, is a "cool horse" who is a new resident at Old Friends

Cathlaunch, shown with his friend John Engelhardt, is a “cool horse” who is a new resident at Old Friends

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.

Dancing Renee

Dancing Renee

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.

Sunshine Forever

Sunshine Forever

“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.

Michael Blowen, co-founder of Old Friends, welcomes Geronimo to the farm. Photo by Laura Battles

Michael Blowen, co-founder of Old Friends, welcomes Geronimo to the farm. Photo by Laura Battles

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.

13 responses to “Old Friends ushers in new horses, partners”

  1. Lori Smith

    I fully support racehorse adoption and repurposing. What drives me absolutely crazy is when multimillionaires turn out their horses to rescue organizations to take care of. Or sell them to Japan or Sweden or Saudi Arabia, or godknowswhere.. where they are going to get killed when they can’t produce anymore. This is so hypocritical. Where is the responsibility? When I own a horse, he is my horse until sold or turned out. I pay for his care. I hope to heck these people donate heavily to these wonderful people who work night and day to care for horses who no longer make money for their owners.

  2. Angela Cadaret

    I was at the farm on Sunday when 3 of the new retirees arrived and got to meet them all. I must say that they’re all really cool horses but I’m now in love with Catlaunch. Such a giant sweetheart !

  3. Linda R. Moss

    Michael – thank you for joining in! Sue is SO WONDERFUL at capturing the essence of every Thoroughbred and story she takes on! George and I hope to be back in the Spring – far too long since we have seen everyone! Love, George, Linda & Milyone

  4. michael blowen

    Dear Sue and commentators, Thank you so much for your kind words. The California retirees, once they got over the initial shock of our frigid weather, have settled in very nicely. A bunch of our courageous volunteers show up every day to knock the ice off the waterers an talk of spring. I really can’t thank people enough for all the support we get…Come visit..(when it’s a little warmer). P.S. Sue, you are terrific writer..turning my babbling into coherence. Thanks.

  5. Kim Farris

    After much sadness during recent weeks at Old Friends THIS is happy news and I am over-joyed for ALL the horses , Michael and the staff. What a wonderful decision and wishing Old Friends and the new magnificent horses and the fabulous stars that live there many, many happy years togethers. Best wishes always to Old Friends:)

  6. Jon

    It is sad that Old Friends lost these horses, but each of these horses spent their time at Old Friends properly cared for, loved and spoiled. Michael’s thoughts that the horses come first is correct.

  7. Carrie Dahmer

    This sounds like the best of all worlds for all TB retirement groups, as well as the wonderful ex-racehorses that deserve a future; whether that future is a retirement home or retraining for another career, they can all be hopeful! Thank you Michael, and all.

  8. Mary Voss

    I hope to get back to Ky this year and visit again…I went a couple of years ago with my brother his wife and my son….Mike rode Larry M. and myself in the golf cart meeting the wonderful horses there and of course the little mascot of Old Friends…Silver Charm…Thank you Mike for all you do and for caring for these wonderful animals…

  9. cheri vaughan

    How wonderful, on every level!

  10. skw

    Mike’s response is very telling:” It was a good idea to take the horses…number one, it was good for the horses” is vintage Mike: he always, always puts the horses first, before politics or anything else. An inspiration to all of us.

  11. Debra

    So glad to hear of the new homes for some of the California horses. Tranquility Farms did a tremendous job with little funding for many years and it was sad, but understandable, to see they had to downsize to a new locale. Also extremely happy for Catlaunch, a horse we always loved to see win!

    Cudos to all of the people at Old Friends and the other charities that do this wonderful work!

  12. Judith Ochs

    Every now and then you get privileged to find an individual who is so incredibly and vibrantly happy with what they do. Michael Blowen simply glows when you see him at Old Friends and he talks about the different horses as he walks along. After going to a horse auction and a few other activities in Kentucky, and feeling that horses were simply viewed as merchandise and a means to make money, to find Old Friends (and Our Mims) was such a relief. Both Michael Blowen and Jeanne Mirabito exemplify what is best in Kentucky for the horses – and leave you more than a little bit envious. I know both also have incredible heartache when they lose one of their horses but the horse has now known great care and love and Michael and Jeanne have had the opportunity to share with some of the most magnificent creatures on earth.

  13. Linda R. Moss

    Susan – what a great article highlighting the HEART of Michael and Old Friends. LOVE Michael and his team. for anyone that has not visited Old Friends, and if you love horses especially thoroughbreds – a must for your bucket list!

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