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CROWDRISE : Jun 24, 2011
Tax ID: 20-0049798
BASED: Georgetown, KY, United States


Thoroughbred Retirement

Old Friends provides a dignified retirement to Thoroughbreds whose racing and/or breeding careers have come to an end. By promoting these one-time celebrated horses through a campaign of education and tourism, we hope to raise awareness of the importance of aftercare and all equines in need.

When Michael Blowen, the former film critic at the Boston Globe, decided to work on the backstretch at Suffolk Downs in his hometown of Boston, MA, he admits his motivation was purely economic. “I thought if I knew more about horses it would improve my handicapping,” he says. But what he discovered while mucking stalls and hot walking Thoroughbreds was not what made the athletes run, but rather, what didn’t. “The vans would come and take away horses that had been injured,” he says. “I was naïve—they told me they were taking them to a riding academy in Maine.”

Blowen founded Old Friends in 2003 as a retirement home for Thoroughbreds whose racing or breeding careers had ended. And what began with one horse on a leased acre has, in 14 years, grown into a 136-acre farm in Georgetown, KY, a satellite facility in New York and over 175 retired horses on the roster. Many are luminaries of the turf, like Kentucky Derby winners Silver Charm and War Emblem and Belmont Stakes winners Touch Gold and Sarava—all stallions in post-breeding life. (Old Friends is one of the only facilities in the country that accepts stallions.) Others came from serious situations, like one-time stakes winner Silver Ray, who, skinny and toothless, sold for $30 at an auction. Then there was Easy Grades, a Kentucky Derby contender who found himself toiling in low-level claiming races and was, very possibly, destined for that riding camp in Maine. Or Mikethespike, who gave his all in every one of his 126 starts

To make Old Friends viable, Blowen took a chapter from his Hollywood days. “I knew that people loved movie stars,” he says. “To me horses like Silver Charm are movie stars and they all have great stories.” And so Old Friends was opened to the public. Today the farm is rarely closed, with Blowen and his wife, Diane White, also a former journalist, unwavering in their commitment to the retirees. The farm offers tours daily and Blowen’s “celebs” attract nearly 20,000 visitors annually, making Old Friends a “destination” with a solid economic impact on local tourism.

Over the years Blowen has done the near impossible: He has convinced a skeptical racing industry that Old Friends matters, that it’s a natural evolution of the sport. “You’re born, you race, you breed, you retire to Old Friends,” says Blowen. More importantly, it has sparked the formation of similar equine aftercare organizations. For its efforts, Old Friends received the highest of industry nods in 2014: A Special Eclipse Award for Outstanding Contributions to Racing.

With Old Friends, Blowen has done more than recognize a problem, he has worked to provide a solution. His business model has nearly 300 horses and he has worked tirelessly to grow his organization with only one goal: to provide a dignified retirement for even more horses. “Some people say we have too many horses,” he notes. “But I think we don’t have enough. We get calls every day for horses that aren’t viable for second careers,” Blowen adds. “The hardest thing we do every day is say ‘no’.”

Blowen has never faltered from his mission to protect the equine athletes he loves. And despite Old Friends’s accomplishments, he knows there is a struggle ahead to continue expanding and raising nearly $2 million annual budget. But “hey,” he laughs, “I wouldn’t have gotten into this if I wasn’t a gambler.”

Tax ID: 20-0049798 •


Hay-llelujah! Hay-llelujah! Hay-hay-llelujah!

Hay-llelujah! Hay-llelujah! …

Amount Raised:



27% Raised of $10,000 Goal

Old Friends Feed the Steeds for a Week Campaign

Old Friends Feed the Steeds …

Amount Raised:



28% Raised of $5,000 Goal