Archive for the Places Category

Is Michael Blowen Crazy?

Posted in Equine Issues, Equine Rescue, Kentucky, Places, Thoroughbreds, Videos with tags , , , , on January 19, 2010 by martimu

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


2-1/2 Minute Trail Ride

Posted in Trail Rides on October 12, 2009 by martimu

There are elements to my life that are the epitome of good fortune and I am grateful for them to the highest degree. So with this post I share a recent of one these events by giving you a rider’s eye view of a trail ride experience through some of the beautiful trails at Mammoth Cave National Park. Your mount is an intrepid Rocky Mountain horse who is the companionable steed of a good friend’s very fortunate young daughter. How lucky to share this pleasant fellow’s accompanying hoofbeats on this wander through the rocky trails and trees of southeastern Kentucky on a beautiful fall day. The music is a ditty by Leo Kotke. Giddyup!

Freedom Pony Painting

Freedom Pony Painting

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