Silver Charm received a grand celebration for the 25th anniversary of his birth, at Old Friends in Georgetown, KY, where he has resided since 2014 upon retirement from stud duty in Japan. Seeing the large turnout, and knowing how immensely popular Silver Charm is, a quote from one of the Harry Potter movies came to mind: “It’s not every day your young man turns 11, is it?”
Of course, for Silver Charm, the age is not 11 (which was still a milestone age for Harry Potter, however, so the fictional character and the dual classic winner do have that in common with those two different ages, hence the quote coming to mind). Michael Blowen, in an interview during the course of the festivities, said Silver Charm’s age is equivalent to an 83-year-old human. While that is worth celebrating, even better is honoring the life he’s had, touching hearts around the country during his racing years and then during his time at stud in Japan (Blowen pointed out he did receive a card from Japan to commemorate his silver anniversary), and most of all in his retirement at Old Friends. He has transitioned wonderfully to an ambassador role and truly does take all the visitors he receives and everything else in stride. I recall visiting him years ago at Three Chimneys, before he was exported to continue the stud career begun there, and understandably he was like most stallions and quite territorial about his fence boundaries.
Now that he is retired and his only “job” is to receive visitors and eat carrots on daily tours, that impulse has fled. Naturally it won’t for every stallion, and there are certainly those at Old Friends who have to be approached cautiously or not at all, but within reason they now get to live life on their own terms, a routine that has most notably helped mellow War Emblem somewhat, even while he will always have to remain behind a double fence to keep a buffer between him and visitors.
The party for Silver Charm was billed as a silver jubilee, and naturally milestone ages lead one to reflect on where he has been and what a life he has had, elements incorporated into my card for the birthday card contest Old Friends held in conjunction with the day’s events. I created a border along the side of the card of braided ribbons in his racing colors, roses around a photo of him at Old Friends for his Derby win and Japanese and American flags on the interior of the card along with a cake that also featured his silk colors and numeric candles for his age. There was also a nod to his name with a silver photo matting and a message about his “charmed life.”
And it truly has been charmed. He is eye-catching as a nearly white horse, lightened perceptibly from the steel gray coat he had in his racing days, and his kind nature strikes one as gentlemanly and lingers even more in the memory after time in his presence than his physical appearance does, which is incredible for his age and not even for his age, but just in general. He is still particular about having his face stroked, a natural impulse, but that is his only insistence that reminds visitors he is a stallion, since such a touch is viewed by stallions as being one of domination.
The event featured goody bags for guests, with a 1997 Kentucky Derby glass, a postcard and a bookmark with Silver Charm’s photos, and several other wonderful mementoes. Each bag had a label with green and gold balloons printed on it and read, “Happy 25th Silver Birthday Silver Charm February 22, 2019.”
He had been groomed and brought into his stall for the day’s festivities, and while visitors ate soup from several area restaurants, the media gathered around him to get photos. His stall was festooned with all the cards people made, and throngs of people gathered around to get photos with him and of him, feed him carrots, and attempt to pat him. The sweetest encounter I saw was with a young boy of perhaps two or three on his mother’s hip who fed him a carrot and stroked him with a few fingers. He looked awed by the encounter, just for a moment with a horse. That mattered more than even who the horse was, specifically, and what he has accomplished and that truly is the best thing about Old Friends, the opportunity for interaction with and the chance to get to know these horses much better than was possible for most people while these horses were racing. Silver Charm was on my radar for a long time as a racehorse, but he has become even more special to me for getting to see him often and visit him at Old Friends, and I am so grateful he was able to return from Japan for all his U.S. fans. So naturally, attending his party was a must.
He did eventually tire of the attention—even a great ambassador needs a break—and stood in the center of his stall, half-dozing. Yet when Michael Blowen came along to say a few words, present the card contest winners with their prizes, and lead off singing “Happy Birthday”, Silver Charm perked his ears and came over when Blowen said his name. There is certainly a deep affinity between those two, and it is wonderful to see.
There was a cake with a photo of Silver Charm on it for the people in attendance and an oat cake decorated with whole carrots, carrot slices and numeric candles for his age for Silver Charm himself. He didn’t want the cake at first, having been inundated with attention and carrots, but before being turned out, he did come over to his stall door and eat the green leafy tops of the carrots.
His coat gleamed, having been groomed just for the party, with not a spot of mud on it, and one attendee even pointed out his halter was brand new—only the best for the birthday “boy”!
He couldn’t resist a roll in the mud once he was turned out, trailed by well-wishers for a few more photos and a bit more time in his presence. It wasn’t as unpleasant as a winter day could have been, but a biting wind made it colder than the temperature indicated it should feel—yet that didn’t deter everyone who wanted to celebrate him. It was a lovely commemoration of his big day, and wonderful to see what he meant to so many people.