The NTRA announced that this year’s education seminar at Keenland would be even bigger and better than the inaugural event last year. This year, the seminar would include the chance to tour and have a Kentucky style barbecue at Old Friends Farm.
Old Friends is unique. Old Friends gives sanctuary to famous and not so famous racehorses and then dedicates itself to educating the public about the contributions and the needs of ex race horses. And they do it really, really well.
I needed a break – I needed to re-connect with people and a place that honored and revered the Thoroughbred horse – that valued their lives and their ability. I needed to learn more about best practices for biosecurity for our barn, about new vaccines and worming strategies and feed and care. I needed encouragement and advice about fundraising. As we know, time and funds are finite and precious at a small non profit. But I had learned so much at last year’s event and I longed to tour and meet the amazing people and critters at Old Friends. So off I went on the red-eye, flew all night and stumbled into the hallowed ground of the Keenland sales pavilion, a little rumpled, but fueled by excitement, curiosity and some high octane coffee.
As with last year, I got so much more than I bargained for.
Most importantly, I made new friends.
Like Barbara Fossum, who was my personal chauffer and tour guide. Her passion for racing and her love for the horses brightened the very air around her. I hope the NTRA knows how lucky they are to have such a dedicated and knowledgeable ambassador for the sport.
Steuart Pittman and I bonded over a mutual friend and a love of thoroughbreds as athletes. Steuart renewed my faith that professionals still crave to ride a swift and nimble horse.
Bright-eyed and quick witted Penelope Miller and I recognized a fellow foxhunter from across the sparkling coffee urn. Her intelligence and wit will help bring racing into the digital age. I hope she comes to experience the thrill of west coast Red Rock hunting soon.
Last but not least is my kindred spirit – Susanna Thomas of the Secretariat Center. Susana with her stubborn boots planted firmly in the bluegrass and her smile pointed toward the barn and her sharp and curious mind floating somewhere above, always thinking, always turning a new idea around. Her generosity, her spirit her staff and her energy are now firmly connected to Square Peg all the way across this vast country.
There were more of course. People dedicated to the aftercare of the Thoroughbred horse. Trainers, grants makers, lawyers, owners, veterinarians and scientists. I’m inspired and energized and proud to be part of a community that is making progress and changing perceptions.
I’ll follow this post when I have a minute with stories of the tour of Old Friends. Because the farm and the amazing horses and people that make it home deserve their very own post.