"They're great athletes. They work all their lives for our entertainment, and in some cases they make people very wealthy. And, at the end of the line, they don't have any social security or a 401K plan. And they should, because they earned all the money.... Some people go to the racetrack and don't even bet. They're just overwhelmed by the majesty of the performance. They did it. Without [these horses] there's nothing. There's no bluegrass, there's no racetracks... they are the essence of it."
I read Michael Blowen's quote, and it resonated deeply with me. Michael Blowen is the former film critic for the Boston Globe, and the Founder and President of Old Friends, a retirement and rescue facility for pensioned thoroughbreds.
Old Friends is a thoroughbred retirement with a difference, giving home to stallions and more recently, to mares. The plan to provide "at risk" racehorses (horses too old to race or breed) with the dignified and humane retirement they deserve, was born from the shocking death of Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand in a slaughterhouse in Japan in 2002. Like many, Michael Blowen was beyond appalled that something like that could happen.
Old Friends is located in Georgetown, Kentucky. Realizing that promoting these celebrated horses through a campaign of education and tourism would draw attention to the plight of racehorses and equines in need, Old Friends is open to the public. Tours are available, and the list of stallions and horses who call their fields and barns homes is humbling and impressive, the memorials and tributes to fallen heroes incredibly touching.
Everyone who visits goes to see the once great horses who battled their way down the homestretch to bring fame and fortune to owners, trainers, and jockeys. Each one leaves touched by the beauty, dignity, courage and heart these thoroughbred heroes have.
Thank you, Michael Blowen!