Is Michael Blowen Crazy?

Michael Blowen is an optimist. Here’s how I can tell — he started up a sanctuary for some of the most difficult of all horses to house: thoroughbred stallions. Seasoned thoroughbred stallions, if you know what I mean.

Here’s a fun fact, when he got going on this Old Friends project of his, he wouldn’t have called himself a horseman. And horsemen were calling him crazy. But here’s the thing, those details didn’t figure into his plan to re-home these tricky dudes.

I guess he reckoned there was a need. It wasn’t being directly addressed compassionately by anyone else so, being an optimist he weighed his odds and must have decided he had just as good a chance as anyone else to make it work. Help, he knew he could hire. Resources too — because I think a personal mantra for Michael may well be “Why not?”.

As a newspaperman (film critic for the Boston Globe) Michael and his wife Diane (also a gifted writer) were happy to exit their eastern urban life when an attractive retirement package floated their way. They hopped aboard and with a personal appreciation for just how unretired the recently retired can feel jumped — head first — into this dream to help these horses.

They moved to Kentucky. Horse country, Kentucky. Through his connections from within flat racing’s inner sanctum — did I forget to tell you Michael, the office-bound newsguy, developed a taste for the ponies? Yes, apparently sticking his neck out with periodic opinions on perceived public property (movies and the like) within notoriously crazy newspaper deadlines wasn’t a big enough rush for him. Well, he did. And like all good players be bought-in lock stock and two smoking barrels, eventually owning and running some of his own. I told you, optimist.

Unlike so many in the game, though, Michael started to really love his horses. Not just when they pranced into the winner’s circle — but even when they were gobbling up pricey hay and grain in their stalls he was footing the bills on under the stewardship of trainers and grooms his money helped support. Then he began wondering what their futures were like.

It’s usually somewhere around now in these love affairs that delusion gives way to reason. The sharp outlines of what is overwrite the glowing expansiveness of what could be. When he began making inquiries into where these horses went after they were played out on the track the answers started to weigh on him. When he learned that 1986 Kentucky Derby winner and 1987 Breeder’s Cup Classic winner Ferdinand ended up butchered in a slaughter house for meat, like so many other spent equine athletes – something inside him snapped.

Call it his sanity.

Then again, say it was just the sound of his cussidness hopping into the director’s chair. Go ahead, tell him he’s:

  • nuts
  • unqualified
  • underfunded
  • ignorant
  • doomed

and anything else that bubbles up from the depth of the naysaying pessimist. Because to a guy like Michael Blowen negativity apparently has a positive effect.

He and Diane started Old Friends in 2003 on a dream. Eight years and many life-in-the-balance, future jeopardizing, white knuckle financing moments later here they are:

Dream Chase Farm, Georgetown, Kentucky

On the gently rolling acres, where wooden fences partition the space into paddocks that each hold exactly one full functioning gorgeous old and even not so old thoroughbred stud. Some of thoroughbred racing’s fastest, famous and above all luckiest. The staff at Old Friends (volunteer “ambassadors” mostly) and Michael himself conduct tours of the farm 7 days a week. They host visiting dignitaries, horse crazy girls, some of the steeds’ former jockeys and the rest of us.

The place, the horses and their people garner national and international attention. Best of all owners who once shunned the effort are stepping up to help.

How come? Because Michael Blowen is starkers. Insane. He’s a retiree who’s off his rocker. I told you. He’s an optimist.

Old Friends, Inc.
1841 Paynes Depot Rd.
Georgetown, KY  40324
Phone: 502-863-1775


22 Responses to “Is Michael Blowen Crazy?”

  1. Sally Cruikshank Says:

    so wonderful…made me cry.

  2. Michael Blowen is crazy all right – crazy nice.

    So’s Diane. And everyone else I’ve met at Old Friends.


    • Um, Nicole, you do know the article and video are celebrating and applauding Michael’s and all of Old Friends’ efforts, right?

      • Then again, say it was just the sound of his cussidness hopping into the director’s chair. Go ahead, tell him he’s:

        * nuts
        * unqualified
        * underfunded
        * ignorant
        * doomed

        Is that their way of celebrating and applauding his efforts? By calling him crazy and unqualified and off his rocker? Just curious… In one opinion, but I just watched a video from Michael and he is everything but what is said about him in this article.

      • Yes, m’dear, that’s what the “naysayers” said of him. Some still do — the REST of us spend time writing about him, making movies about him and spreading the word of his (and all those ambassadors) good deeds. Have a good day. 🙂 — oh, and I like your PASSION – and invite you to join us at where we celebrate ALL equine advocates.

    • nicole he runs a tb farm he cant be sane haha ask any tb owner if they are sane and they will tell you NO!

  4. Keep up the GOOD work – I have been to your place 2 times and it’s amazing:) I am hoping that your fever will spread – question IS? will the industry NOW start to think about the “overbreeding”?? thank you and Happy New Year Tish

  5. I can not wait to visit Old Friends again. So, See You In September or May or December. Well, see you in 2010 sometime. And I’ll bring a butt load of carrots for all to enjoy!

  6. Angie in OH Says:

    Thank-you Old Friends for giving these guys a *new* chance to retire with dignity. My daughters and I will see you in the spring….hugs–

  7. Love Michael and Old Friends. Living in KY, it is wonderful to make trips to Old Friends to see new additions and the long time residents.

    Thanks Michael and all the ambassors.

  8. I’m amazed at how these people stepped to a plate and took what would otherwise be discarded after racings financial gain was done…. and made the horses their family members. bravo michael and diane…. your hearts are as big as the champions you have opened your home too. your two fantastic people….. and the supporters of t his are beyond words.

  9. HAHAHHA, Nicle is “retarted!” Are you “special,” Nicole?
    Go back to kindergarten and re-learn how to read.

    You oviously know nothing about writing. Must have some really lousy schools where you live. Or else you’re really thick.

    This blog is not for small children who can figure out how to press keys on a keyboard, but HAVEN’T LEARNED TO READ!!! Der….

    Hey little one, go ask a grown up (a BIG person!!!) to translate this blog into little kid speak!!! Run along now.

  10. God what an amazing video !!! Brought tears to my eyes. Was that my babycakes BLUES eating away at the bail ????

  11. “Is Michael Blowen crazy” is a nice hook that helps DRAW attention to this article on why…. he founded Old Friends organization; to give thoroughbreds a dignified retirement. This is a better alternative for thoroughbreds than horse slaughter, an action derived from our “throw away” society.

  12. […] Is Michael Blowen Crazy? January 2010 15 comments 3 […]

  13. Evelyn Laing Eastman Says:

    I am so glad you are taking care of retired horses.

  14. Evelyn Laing Eastman Says:

    It is wonderful to think those beautiful horses will have a long

    and carefully nurtured retirement.

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