Kentucky photographer Rick Capone, who has captured hundreds of gorgeous images of ex-racehorses frolicking at Old Friends Equine, has now found the words to describe the amazing undertaking to create the world-renowned home for retired Thoroughbreds.
In his new book, History of Old Friends, A Home for Retired Thoroughbreds, Capone tells the story of Michael Blowen’s farm. In addition, he includes biographies of the farm’s famous residents, including Sunshine and Creator, the first two residents to be flown from Japan to the sprawling retirement facility.
In this week’s Clubhouse Q&A, Capone discusses his background, the book, and his inspiration for the book, which is due to be released by History Press in early August.
Q: You never trained to be a photographer or with horses. Yet, you’ve published your photos and the story of one of the most compelling Thoroughbred centers out there.
Before my father died of lung cancer, after my mother died in 1972, my father and I used to take a yearly road trip. And the first leg of the trip always went from Philadelphia to Lexington. We used to drive at sunset through farm country, and I always thought it was so beautiful.
At the time, I had a pocket instamatic camera. And, we’d be driving around and I’d yell, “Stop the car now!” And, he’d say, “But there’s a car behind us!” And, I’d say, “I don’t care, I want to take a picture of a horse!”
Q: At this point in life, you had worked for many years as a technical writer— 10 at IBM— and had become a sports writer covering American volleyball. How did the horse photography take hold?
I eventually landed in Kentucky in 2006 writing for the American Volleyball Coaches Association, which was the pinnacle of sports writing. I started going out on Sunday mornings to the horse park to take pictures of horses. I never trained as a photographer, but my father always said I had the eye, that I just needed better equipment. So I bought a Nikon D-90, which I still shoot with today.
Q: A walk in 2008 around the Old Friends property pulled you in deeper.
I had just finished reading Horses of Proud Spirit, which is a great book about sanctuary horses, and was walking around Old Friends. Reading the book and seeing Old Friends gave me the idea to try to write something about Michael Blowen’s farm. So I wrote a little proposal, drove up to Old Friends, and handed to a man and asked him if he could please give it to Michael Blowen. That’s when he said he was Michael Blowen, and he promised to take a look at it. He called me a few weeks later and said he loved the idea. And after that, we started doing Saturday morning interviews.
Q: The book project was put on hold for a while, you became Michael’s go-to photographer, and then he got a serendipitous phone call.
After about the fifth interview we slowed down for a while. But he really liked my photography, so I became his unofficial “official” photographer. But it all came full circle when History Press contacted approached Michael about doing a book, and he pointed them to me.
History of Old Friends, A Home for Retired Thoroughbreds is due out in early August. Old Friends Equine is taking advanced orders, and it will be available at local bookstores, and on Amazon. Fifty percent of sale profits will be donated to Old Friends. Capone’s photographs can be viewed at www.kentuckyhorsephotos.com