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AAEP Recognizes the Founder of Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Center

The equine vets’ association honored Michael Blowen for his work to provide a dignified retirement for racehorses.

By Leslie Potter | December 7, 2016

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Silver Charm at Old Friends
Silver Charm, winner of the 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, is one of Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farm's famous residents.

Like many prominent racehorses, 1986 Kentucky Derby winner Ferdinand went on to a stud career after his racing days were over. He spent several years as a breeding stallion in the U.S. before being shipped overseas for stud duty in other markets. In 2002, the once celebrated horse was killed in a slaughterhouse in Japan. His breeders and former owners only found out after the fact, when they looked into bringing him back home.

The tragic incident shone a spotlight on a scenario that many Americans outside of the racing industry were unaware of. Racehorses were being treated as commodities, and even notable winners like Ferdinand were at risk of a callous end when they were no longer earning money for their owners.

Ferdinand’s story was a catalyst for the creation of Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Center in 2003. Old Friends was created by Michael Blowen, a film critic with the Boston Globe and a fan of Thoroughbred horses. The mission of Old Friends is to offer a safe, permanent retirement home for the horses who had given so much to their owners through their racing and breeding careers.

Today, Old Friends has two facilities that house notable Thoroughbreds, including many stallions that might not be accepted at other retirement facilities. The organization raises awareness of Thoroughbred aftercare through its visitor-friendly farms, which serve as a living history museum of the Thoroughbred racing industry.

On Tuesday, Dec. 6, Blowen was recognized by the American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) for his work in Thoroughbred aftercare. He received the association’s Lavin Cup, an award given to a non-veterinary organization or individual who has worked to improve the welfare of horses.

Past Lavin Cup winners include: Robbie Timmons of CANTER USA, a Thoroughbred adoption group; the Society for Protection of Animals Abroad, a charity that helps working animals in poor communities around the world; and Allan and Kaathleen Schwartz of Days End Farm Horse Rescue.

The headquarters of Old Friends is its main farm in Georgetown, Kentucky. A second facility, Old Friends at Cabin Creek, is located near the Saratoga Race Course in New York. Both facilities are staffed by volunteers and are financed by donations. They are also open to the public with tours available.

Learn more at

Leslie Potter is a writer and photographer based in Lexington, Kentucky.

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AAEP Recognizes the Founder of Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Center

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Reader Comments

Buffy    South Tx, TX

1/5/2017 6:34:49 AM

Sounds like a good plan.

cc    Countyside, OH

12/31/2016 6:55:53 AM

I will look at the link listed too.

Gee and Haw    North, CA

12/27/2016 6:40:30 AM

Sounds like a great program and I too will check out the links.

pKL    Northern Part, WY

12/26/2016 7:18:44 AM

Good program and will have to check out the links.

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