A group of Chrome fans, many from out of state, gathered on a chilly yet sunny late March day for one of Horse Country’s new tour offerings, the California Chrome Experience. The tour presents the opportunity to view the immensely popular Taylor Made stallion, take a photo with him, meet some of the foals from his first crop, and have dinner at Daddy Joe’s.
The 7-year-old stallion gleamed a burnished coppery color in the sun, with dapples evident across his side and powerful hip.
After viewing “Chrome” outside, it was on to meet the other Taylor Made stallions—Mshawish, Not This Time, Northern Afleet, Midnight Storm, and Graydar.
3 of the stallions (Mshawish, Not This Time, and Midnight Storm) were ones I had not seen before other than while racing, on TV. Brooks Taylor, the stallion sales assistant, mentioned that Mshawish was one of his favorites, and while he is small, he is nicely balanced.
I also liked the look of Midnight Storm, a dark bay son of Pioneerof the Nile, seen in the brief video below.
Everyone on the tour then got a meet and greet with California Chrome and a chance to feed him horse cookies and get photos with him.
Graydar couldn’t resist begging for some of California Chrome’s horse cookies
After that, it was on to the broodmare division to meet some of his foals, like this filly foaled in January.
Barn cats gathered as we drove away from the farm and back to Daddy Joe’s for a delicious meal that came with a souvenir California Chrome cup.
It will be interesting to see what this first crop of Chrome’s does. He looked spectacular as usual. There’s so much promise inherent in new beginnings, and it’s always intriguing to look at these new foals and think of what might be.
Horse Country hosted its second popular Meet the Neighbors series of tours on the weekend of March 9, opening up a variety of farms and other horse-related sites to central Kentucky residents for free.
I got a last-minute opening to attend the Darby Dan tour when a spot on the waitlist opened up, where I have not been in several years.
I appreciate that Horse Country tours often provide an opportunity to visit sites that I haven’t seen when booking a visit on my own. While I always enjoy seeing the horses, it is intriguing to get a glimpse of other parts of farms as well.
For the visit to Darby Dan, that included going inside the grand manor house. With the elegant horse portraits adorning the walls, a cabinet featuring silver trophies, and luxurious furniture around the room where our tour began, it very much seemed reminiscent of a home in England equally steeped in racing tradition and its earliest beginnings. It evoked that feeling of stepping back to that time just by walking through its door.
After an introduction to the farm and its history, the procession began to the stallion barn. I had hoped to see Shackleford, and did catch a glimpse of his distinctive large blaze through his stall door.
The stallion chosen to be led out for photos was Dialed In. He was magnificent to see, from the look in his eye to the incredibly well-developed crest on his neck.
Tale of Ekati was also outside, his coat gleaming in the March sun as he received a bath.
Then I made my way to Keene Ridge, where I had never visited. Farm owner Ann McBrayer began the visit with the story of English Channel, foaled at the farm after being purchased when he was carried by his dam. As would be expected with such an illustrious runner, he is a point of pride for the farm, and a blanket embroidered with his name is draped prominently across a chair in the office.
Nursery farms are not as common on tours as the many stallion farms that dot this region, yet I may enjoy them just a bit more. It’s not solely for the chance to see foals. It is to feel even closer to the cycle of nature, evident in mares of all categories, from maidens to those waiting to foal to those with playful foals at their sides, as well as weanlings or short yearlings romping through the fields.
McBrayer jokingly–though no doubt with more than an inkling of truth–that she sells beer and wine because she hasn’t figured out how to get the horses to pay for themselves. While the margin of profit can be slim for racing enterprises, that’s probably a bit tongue-in-cheek, though. Her passion for the horses in her care, most of which are from boarders, and the meticulous attention to detail speak volumes about her dedication.
So did her telling the story of finally getting a colt out of English Channel’s dam, after a series of fillies, and persisting in getting him to the track even when minor setbacks kept him from being entered in a sale. He looked like he had a chance at being a good runner, but that was not to be either. So McBrayer decided to give him a chance as a stallion, since he appeared to have potential and is English Channel’s full brother.
She also told the visiting group about a mare, Beat Your Feet, who was incredibly attached to her foal. One day they heard the mare neigh in the pasture where she was turned out with her foal, and she sounded panicked. When they went out to check on her, they realized she had suddenly gone blind and could no longer see her colt in the pasture with her.
They took her to a clinic, and she was found to have tumors in both eyes that were cancerous. The tumors were removed, and Beat Your Feet had to have her foal touching her during the whole procedure. The options for her were to put her on medication, or take her to a clinic in Ohio for more aggressive treatment, but her colt would have to be left behind. McBrayer knew she was too devoted to her foal for that to be an option.
Beat Your Feet returned to Keene Ridge, and her colt was fitted with a bell so she could keep track of him, a reverse of the well-known case of Begum, born without eyes, necessitating fitting her dam Rullah Good with a bell so Begum could find her when she was a foal.
Beat Your Feet lived until the day her colt was weaned, dying that same afternoon. McBrayer said it gave every indication she had stayed alive long enough to raise her foal, so absolute was her devotion to him.
McBrayer has a shadowbox of items from when Beat Your Feet was raising this colt, as well as photos of her in the clinic after her tumors were removed, which actually ended up being part of a TV show Animal Planet filmed.
Her foal, a 2014 gelding by Channeled, is named Big Bad Zin. At the time of the farm visit, he was expected to make a start near the end of the upcoming Keeneland spring meet.
Beat Your Feet and Big Bad Zin as a foal; Beat Your Feet’s halter
a lock of Beat Your Feet’s hair tucked through her halter
The bell Big Bad Zin wore as a foal
Before going out to meet some of the horses, we took in a few of the sights around the farm. Two things that especially stood out were seeing the Keeneland grandstand from the farm, and the sign post showing the distance to various notable racetracks.
The Keeneland grandstand, as seen from Keene Ridge Farm; first time I’ve seen it from this vantage point and somewhere other than the Keeneland property
The Keene Ridge farm cemetery
A horse model showing the proper (and hoped-for) position of a foal being born
Whiskery nose of a foal born the morning of the visit
Video of the foal in the photo above; the broodmare manager said it seemed figuring out how to lay back down had not yet been achieved. This foal was only hours old at the time this video was taken.
On the way back from Keene Ridge, I passed this barn with decor that caught my eye. I love a drive through the country, seeing all the foals starting to dot the fields, and unexpected sights like these, lending a pop of color to a weather-beaten structure.