Old Friends. What do those words conjure in the imagination? Love, familiarity, gratitude for the ones they apply to? All of those and much more can be fitting descriptions.

Of course, Old Friends – as many who work in or follow the racing industry know, is the farm founded by Michael Blowen to give a home to horses who gave their all on the track and needed a place to retire when their racing and/or breeding days ended. It is often mentioned, of course, how unique it is in that it is the only retirement farm that accepts stallions.

It is why the regal yet fiery Creator, once considered a candidate for stallion fighting in Korea, rules over his pasture at the farm. It is why Gulch was turned over to the farm’s team when his breeding days were over – not because he didn’t have a good home, but because Old Friends has shown time and again how tireless and impeccable their care and management of their retirees are, and how dedicated their effort is to bring horses home and keep them accessible to fans.

I love this farm. There is much to be said for visiting the many well-known farms throughout this region and seeing their roster of stallions, comprising a Who’s Who of the racing world, but as Old Friends’ roster grows, it is quickly becoming one of the top farms to visit.

Just a recitation of the names of some of its retirees, past and present, is awe-inspiring.

Hidden Lake.

Game On Dude.



Rapid Redux.





Taylor’s Special.

And we can’t forget the miniature horse Little Silver Charm. He is such an endearing mascot, and was a slaughterhouse rescue himself. Besides the chance to get to see these horses up close and personal and feed them carrots and really walk away feeling like you got to know them, it is the chance to hear their stories and how they came to be at Old Friends that really lingers. There are so many paths our lives can take, and when you hear the hard-knock lives that some of these horses had that got all turned around when Old Friends and their supporters got involved, it makes any horse lover grateful this farm exists.

Of course, the Thoroughbred industry is driven by economics and is a business. And I realize it is difficult to personally have an attachment to every horse a farm or a professional may come in contact with, through some facet of his or her job. But this sport wouldn’t be what it is without the horse. I know we can’t love every Thoroughbred we see. That is just logistically impossible. But there runs through me a respect for them, when I have a moment to look in their eyes. It doesn’t matter if it’s a low-level claimer or a top stakes prospect. I see something in their eyes that stirs my soul. This is not an anti-racing speech, by any means. I am simply saying that while economics have to matter and Kentucky is a proving ground for sires and broodmares, who will be sold on if they are not commercial enough, because there is often a fresh influx of retired runners to take their spot, it is still those moments when I can step back from that and just have a connection with the horse as a horse instead of simply a commodity that are ones to relish. I think most of us in this industry have that love of the horse at the root of what we do, of why we’re in it. I think an animal as noble and majestic as the Thoroughbred can be has that ability to completely captivate people time and again.

Over the years of visiting Old Friends, it has been wonderful to see Michael Blowen’s efforts to build this farm into a showcase for the Thoroughbred, to give people that chance to see them up close and feel a connection, has been recognized and embraced by the industry. It has shifted from largely being rescue horses to cases like Gulch’s, Game on Dude’s, and Amazombie’s, where these are horses that could have retired anywhere, but they were turned over to the care of Old Friends and to the chance to be seen by fans as much as possible. It’s a great life, with all the visits, attention, and carrots.

So when Silver Charm finally arrived at Old Friends on December 1st, 2014, after his long journey from Japan, it struck me how truly fitting it is that the farm is named Old Friends. I had missed him more than I realized during his years outside the U.S. And when I saw the photos of him arriving at the farm, it was wonderful to see how magnificent he looks and to think of the stellar care he has clearly received and of the collaborative effort to bring him home and to his U.S. fans once more. He really is an old friend, dear and cherished, and I look forward to the day he is out of quarantine and I can feed him carrots and give him a measure of the affection it was more difficult to show him at Three Chimneys, as they are a working farm first and foremost, though quite generous about letting fans visit.

I had been waiting so long to see Silver Charm come back to the U.S. and hoped when that day came, he’d be somewhere I could visit him once more. He was phenomenal during his racing career, and that was more than enough to endear him to me. I saw him at Three Chimneys a couple of times before he went to Japan, and that just wasn’t enough for a horse I like this much.

Three Chimneys kept up with him, sharing updates from Japan every now and then, and when social media use became more widespread in his last few years there, it was even easier to see how he was doing. But even then, I had not fully realized how much I’d like to see him back here. You just never know how long a stud career may last, or if a horse will even live past his days as an active breeding stallion.

That is why it was so wonderful to hear of him coming home, to be finished breeding at what seemed to be a relatively young age of 20. I realize that is getting on towards the twilight of a horse’s life, but when some horses breed up to age 25 or even longer, it was great to hear he was already being pensioned and on his way back. I can’t help but feel, seeing what excellent shape he is in and that it was always planned for him to return to the U.S., that the JBBA and the Lewises possibly pensioned him a bit earlier than may have been absolutely necessary. Everything I’ve heard about the collaborative effort to bring him back and how much Michael Blowen wanted him at Old Friends really seems to indicate that. The long journey should be easier on him than if they waited five or so years, and he should still have a while to bask in his fans’ adoration. It was heartwarming to see the video of him walking off the van, greeted by Three Chimneys’ stallion manager Sandy Hatfield, and to know that all had been done to do what is right by the horse. Too many stories at Old Friends, while they ended up better when the horses arrived at the farm, are not as good as Silver Charm’s. So to hear one like his really is touching.

It was a misty afternoon with intermittent drizzling rain when several dozen people, fans and media alike, arrived at the open house to showcase the newest resident. He was paraded in a small circular paddock just steps away from the quarantine barn by Sandy Hatfield, and it was so good to see him with my own eyes again. Sandy herself echoed that sentiment when someone in the crowd asked her about being with Silver Charm again, and she said, “Ten years had been too long.”



He was worth the wait, though. Those few brief visits with him back at Three Chimneys had not been enough to give me a real sense of who he is. This time watching him at Old Friends did.

I could have watched him all day. His presence is incredibly captivating, and there is such an air of nobility about him. He was so bright-eyed, and taking everything in.




It did seem he was trying to figure out where he was, after all the stops along his journey, and perhaps even figure out why the horses in the pasture across from him were watching him so intently. They were geldings, but his neigh to them was commanding, one of a stallion either offering a challenge or already claiming territory.

All too soon, he went through the paddock gates and was led into the quarantine barn, to stay there for 3 weeks. I longed to touch him as he went by, but that was not allowed – yet. I look forward to the day when I can get even better acquainted and get to feed him carrots too. How lucky, not only for him, but for all of us that care about him get to be near him once more.

I later read that Sandy Hatfield herself said she would be at Old Friends more now to volunteer and be near one of her favorite horses. I had that thought myself, even before seeing him up close again at last, that I would want to come often to visit Silver Charm. He really is an old, dear friend, and I look forward to getting to call him an even dearer friend in the months to come.

The sign in one of the barns welcoming him back

The sign in one of the barns welcoming him back

The sign on Little Silver Charm's pasture

The sign on Little Silver Charm’s pasture