Thursday, January 15, 2009

"Old Friends - Visits with My Favorite Thoroughbreds"

I am the little girl who loves horses that never grew up. Most of us get over it when we meet boys but not yours truly. You will find me ensconced in front of the television for every Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont. And in the last few years the Breeders Cup.

Every time one of these beautiful horses gets hurt or dies I swear that I'll never watch racing again. But my love for the horses keeps bringing me back. So last month as I was searching for good horse books on Amazon I found "Old Friends" by Barbara D. Livingston, I immediately put it on my wish list.

The reviews I read absolutely raved about the book. The problem was the book is out of print but available online for $149.00. (Prices are down to 89.99 now). Her new book "More Old Friends" received equally fantastic reviews so that is the book that I requested for Christmas. Fortunately I am blessed with parents who go the extra mile. They found the original on e-bay being sold by the author herself! They even got it autographed with an additional bonus of a small drawing of a horse penned by Barbara Livingston.

Barbara is a photographer with a love for horses and it shows in her stunning pictures. Her camera and her love for her subject allow her, in some cases, to almost capture the soul of a horse. The elderly face on the cover on the book is Raja Baba son of Bold Ruler. In the photo he is 34 years old and had been fully retired since he was 19. He was moderately successful on the racetrack and was named leading sire in 1980. He passed away shortly after the book was published. For me, knowing the horrible fate of so many horses, it is heartwarming to read about them living long well cared for lives.

The author covers some of the true greats like Seattle Slew, Affirmed, John Henry and Spectacular Bid. Some of the very near greats like Pleasant Colony, Little Current, Gato Del Sol, and Genuine Risk. You may recall Genuine Risk who became only the second filly to win the Kentucky Derby in 1977. A pretty chestnut with white flash down her nose and the guts to beat the big boys. She died at age 31 just last August.

Along with these special horses are stallions and mares that very few of us know anything about. The story of the mare Our Mims was one of these. Born in 1974 Our Mims was a half sister to the great Alydar. Her 2 year old racing career wasn't much but when she turned 3 she burned up the track winning several stake races that earned her the Eclipse Award for 3 year old champions. After her racing career she was only moderately successful as a broodmare and so at 21 she was put out in a field with cattle to survive or die.

Fortunately for Our Mims a woman named Jeanne was working on the farm. She took a liking to Old Mims, despite her some times haughty nature, and fed her grain and groomed her. When the farm burned down she convinced the owners to give Old Mims to an organization called ReRun whose motto is "recycling racehorses." Old Mims got a full veterinary workup, grooming and food before being taken to Jeanne's farm to live out her days. She died in December, 2003 at the age of 29. Her story and her life prompted Jeanne to create the Our Mims Retirement Haven a nonprofit dedicated to caring for retired broodmares.

All of the horses in this book are special in one way or another. It is wonderful to find out what has become of the heroes of your past. If you love horses like me then you will love this book. Barbara Livingston has done a fantastic job of bringing them to life for her readers again and giving them their just recognition after all these years.

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