Breezes blew across the pasture, brisk and strong. The green field was a smooth track and I ran and hopped along, full of baby exuberance. Besides, there were people! A pretty big group of people! Of course they must have come to admire me and see what I could do. These legs were hard to master at first, but look how much fun you can have with the things they let you do.
When I saw the people come closer, I had to come closer too, to say hi. They met about me about halfway across the pasture and ran their fingers along my back. A few steps behind was the solid reassuring presence of my mother or my dam, as I’ve heard her called. I don’t really know what words mean mostly. I just hear them said, some of them enough that they have a bit of a familiar rhythm. What I do know is she is always there and so is her milk. That’s enough to keep a baby content, plus all this time outside to play… and oh yeah, did I mention the other thing… people! They’re so great.
I hear more words float by on the breeze, from the one who I see a lot, the lovely lady with black hair. She is telling them to the strangers standing by, all so eager to pat me and get to know me. Even though I don’t understand the words, the cadence is soft and soothing. These people are happy.
lots of foal handling from the beginning…”
It sounds like a good thing, and if I knew what they meant, I’d know they were saying that they work with all of us babies from day one to get them used to people and used to being handled. Whatever they’ve done it works. But somewhere inside me, in my very nature, is another reason for me being so sweet and people-oriented.
And that’s her, grazing a few feet away while I soak up all the attention. She’s mellow and sweet, and I seem to have picked that up too. I’m only a little more than a month old, but it doesn’t take long for temperament to show.
More words, lots of talking, they sure do use their voices a lot. I use my body to tell them how I feel…. oh that spot …. yes keep scratching! I stretch out my neck and lean into the scratching fingers as the conversation flows on.
“What made you interested in Maggy Hawk?” – oh, I know those words! They call my dam those words too, or sometimes just Maggy.
“I’ve liked Afleet Alex for so long I just wanted to see his dam, and that’s neat to hear she is as friendly and sweet as she is. That’s one thing that always stood out to me about him, how sweet and people-oriented he is.”
People… that word almost seems like one I’ve heard enough to sound familiar. People-oriented, hmm…. don’t know what that means, I think as I stand as close to the visitors as I can. They are not strangers to me even if we just met. I’m pretty young, but I don’t think I’ve ever met a stranger. Every time they move a little further away, especially the one who keeps putting something that looks like a long shiny eye in front of her face, I move closer. They can’t be ready to leave yet. I’m still here, and I sure would like some more back scratching. I try to reach my back myself a few times with my teeth but my neck just isn’t quite long enough yet to really hit the right spot.
More talking, of course… I sure have learned that is what people do.
“fuzzy little ears…”
“it’s amazing how fuzzy she is”
The lady with black hair, the one I see a lot, is talking about how laid-back Maggy is and just keeps an eye on things in a real calm way and just then she raises her head and gives a low rumble of a nicker from deep in her throat. Time to go! Only one thing could drag me away from people. She speaks and that always means something to me, not just in tone like with people. I go to her side in a big hurry and decide while I’m there I may as well nurse.
The people laugh, started by the black-haired lady… “She would have to prove me wrong” and everyone else watches as I nurse. I nurse on the side closest to them for a few minutes before ambling off. There’s still so much to do. I wander the fence line, from one person to another, like a little Stonestreet ambassador. Or maybe Storkstreet is more fitting at this time of year! I’ve heard that said too.
“little baby kisses!” one of the people says as I reach my nose up to her mouth, curiously, and just let the contact linger for a moment. “I love that!”
The person next to her sees that and reaches her mouth towards me for her own nuzzling moment. I don’t know why her face is so short and her nose doesn’t make contact with mine, but I guess she can’t help it. I still reach out to get acquainted by scent. So important, that scent acquaintance. I learned that the day I was born.
Closer to the gate, I reach down to nibble some grass. It’s not milk but it’s still good. Enjoying that, I try the dandelion stems, no longer flowering or carrying seeds. Not good! Spit that out.
The lady I’ve seen a lot here seems to be herding the other people away. Sometimes I get taken to certain places by people, sometimes by my dam. I understand that, the way their movement is being controlled.
A few more words reach my ears. They’re still happy words. It’s a good day for me, for them, for Maggy, and across Stonestreet. There is peace here, and quiet. It is the perfect nursery and place to grow up. When we go in, it’s to large, luxurious stalls. Our pastures are large too, with so much room to run and play, and filled with sweet green grass.
“She thinks this is her best day ever, all these people, all this attention…”
I see all the people still watching me. There’s a lot of affection in the eyes on me, in the hands that reach out for a few more touches.
“Okay, 90% her best day. All that was missing was food!”
There was more laughter.
In stillness I stand by the gate, all baby charm and tiny fuzzy cuteness, and watch them go. They only turn away at the last possible moment and then they’re gone. I go back to Maggy. I have a life to live here under the bright blue skies and in the perfect nursery at Stonestreet Farms. I feel like a lucky filly, with a perfect life, and hopefully one day we find my dam and sire have passed on talent and a fire to win. That seems so far away though. For now I’ll just keep being a little Storkstreet ambassador who loves to see people come and visit. I have a feeling these people that met me today won’t forget me.
“I wish I could just take her home…”
Nope, they won’t forget me!
[A note about this piece: So I wanted to try something a little different this time. I normally do a narrative of my experiences at horse farms or race tracks, and try to maintain at least a semi-professional or completely professional tone. Sometimes feelings about the horses I cover, an affection for them, does color my writing. Some may not see that as professional, but as far as I’m concerned, this blog is not strictly for news. I do hope to someday be a racing journalist and that will necessitate covering racing for news. But I think there has to be heart in covering this sport too; first of all, because these horses put their hearts into racing, when they have the will to win and the desire. They do this even if they are not the most talented horse in the race, sometimes. And second, so many people from all walks of life and levels of participation in this sport, whether they are grooms, owners, trainers, or fans, find a personal connection with the horse. To me, even on days when it’s just about news and photos, and setting a scene for what happened during a race day, there’s still usually a chance for connection with the horse, even if it’s just a fleeting moment of having a horse linger and look you in the eye with their deep gaze on the way back to the barn. Even if you don’t know their name, you will think of that moment later. It’s just a way a horse, a Thoroughbred, can have of touching the soul. And then too, most of us have that one horse – at least – that has a place in our hearts. So if that blurs the boundary of professionalism… well, for once I was drawn to write this type of story since the filly we met just had such a memorable little personality already…]
I am not sure at the moment what has become of the photos I took that day, but I can try to paint the images through words, and add the photos later if I come across them again. Maggy Hawk was sleek and beautiful, a testament to the care received at Stonestreet. She’s an amazing-looking mare.
It really is a serene farm, and this was the most I had seen of it yet. Previous visits had “only” involved seeing Rachel Alexandra, absolutely in the top five of my list of favorite racehorses. But seeing the rest of the farm was great too, from the beautiful soothing pond with its swans to the pastoral scene of the large pasture that Maggy Hawk and her Smart Strike filly occupied, with its line of light green leafy trees around the fence perimeter.
On the late April day of this visit, Rachel was in a field with retired barren mares.
It was interesting to hear how self-sustaining Stonestreet is. Each Stonestreet farm has its own workshops, and they make everything on site from their own wreaths for holidays to foal tags and fences. All the ingredients are in place for a perfect home for horses, driven by the passion and enthusiasm Jess Jackson had for the sport, and carried on well by Barbara Banke. This attention to detail and enthusiasm is evident across the whole farm and in any winner’s circle where Stonestreet horses are.
It was clear too, so close to the Derby on the day we visited, how much excitement Carpe Diem had generated. Owned in partnership with Winstar, the silks he wears alternate between that farm’s and Stonestreet’s. On Derby day he would wear Stonestreet silks, and the expectation was high that he would carry them to victory. It’s one more probable success story from this world-class farm.