01/02/2014 12:22PM

Old Friends plans expansion to Kentucky facility

Barbara Livingston
Michael Blowen, founder of Old Friends, said that the Thoroughbred retirement farm in Kentucky would expand during 2014.

Old Friends, the Thoroughbred retirement organization based out of Georgetown, Ky., is planning an expansion to its Kentucky property in order to take in more horses.

Michael Blowen, the operation’s founder and president, said Old Friends has signed a lease with an option to buy on a piece of land abutting its current property on Paynes Depot Road in Georgetown, which will add 40 to 50 acres. Old Friends, which also has a satellite facility at Cabin Creek Farm in Greenfield Center, N.Y., currently houses 120 horses on the Kentucky property. Blowen said he currently has 80 horses on the waiting list.

“Our only business is to find places for these retired horses,” Blowen said. “When I first started, I used to have to beg people to let me take a horse. And now, 10 years later, it’s completely different.”

Ron Wallace, whose Equine Farm Management offers consulting services to a variety of farms, has come on board to help oversee the expansion and design of the new property. Wallace worked at operations such as Juddmonte Farm and Three Chimneys Farm and designed Summer Wind Farm, which is across the road from Old Friends.

“[Wallace] has been amazing, he’s just been amazing,” Blowen said. “That’s going to be a really big help.”

Last month, Old Friends was among 20 aftercare facilities accredited by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance (TAA), a non-profit organization designed to serve as both an accrediting body for facilities that care for retired Thoroughbreds, and a fundraising body to support these approved facilities. Old Friends was subsequently among the facilities awarded a total of $1 million in grants by the TAA, with money provided by Breeders’ Cup, the Jockey Club, Keeneland, sales companies, and donations from farms, owners, breeders, and fans.

Blowen said that while the money is “very helpful,” another benefit of involvement with the TAA has been networking with other retirement organizations to better place and care for retired horses.

“It’s been a great boon to everyone,” Blowen said. “It’s allowed us to work out relationships with New Vocations and ReRun and other groups to take the horses we have that can be retrained and have them retrain them. And then we take horses that need to be permanently retired from them. And as part of that, Tranquility Farm is cutting back out in California, and we’re going to take some horses from them.”