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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Skipingo Home (Part 1)

As promised, I finally bring you the (first part of) the last installment in my Kentucky odyssey.

If you recall, I was last seen ogling some very expensive TB horseflesh in the comfort of the WinStar stallion barn. I left there and headed back to Old Friends, where I had agreed to meet Melissa and her friend in order to join them in their visit to Summer Wind Farm. I wasn't sure if this was a good idea or not; Melissa was really excited to see her old racetrack buddy, the mare named India, and I felt a lot like I was butting in. But the ladies assured me it wouldn't be a problem, the farm manager was really nice, etc. so I said I would go. Plus, I was pretty excited at the thought of seeing a non-breeding operation TB farm up close.

Here is what I knew about Summer Wind before I set foot there: NOTHING. Other than that it looked big, quite nice and was across the street from Old Friends, I hadn't a clue. All I could see were the front gates and some fencing. It was a private establishment, didn't stand stallions and I'd certainly never heard of the owners, some people named Lyons.

Or had I...

You see, I actually DID know something about them and the place but I'd forgotten. Back when I first visited Old Friends in 2009, I picked up a children's picture book in their gift shop. It was called "Skipingo Home," and was the beautifully-illustrated story of a failed racehorse, headed down the drain, who was snatched up by his breeders and brought back to the farm of his birth. Of course this made me cry standing right there in the store, but I was delighted to read about people who cared that much for their TBs. Their farm, naturally, was Summer Wind. I can't remember if I realized then it was the place across the street, and I didn't remember any of this when I was invited to go there.

I hopped in Melissa's car when we met up, and we drove directly across the highway to the gated entrance of the farm. From the front, it certainly looked impressive. Melissa gave her name and the gates swung open. We drove in and proceeded down a long road winding between enormous rolling pastures (few trees) until we eventually reached the house-like farm office building. We were met on the front porch by the extremely hospitable and nice manager, a gal named Liz. Melissa had been in contact with her via phone and email to set up this visit, but they'd never actually met before. Many greetings ensued and we were escorted inside.

Hmmpf. I probably don't need to tell you, the offices were decorated just a wee bit nicer than my entire house. There was a wide hardwood entry foyer, with lovely framed photos of racer winners, horse portraits and the like. Two large and lavishly-appointed offices with mahogany desks, tufted chairs, abundant bookshelves and plants and other horse-centric things were to the left and right. A TV was running with live coverage of the Keeneland sale going on. Think expensive lawyer-like, with horse thrown in. An enormous boardroom was towards the back, and a kitchen to the left. Interestingly, there was what looked a lot like a shrine set up in the foyer; a large photo of a horse on a table with a bunch of greeting cards, floral arrangements and even a fading flower horseshoe on an easel next to it.

As I was busy taking all of this in, the other ladies were discussing a horse named Fleet Indian. "It was so horrible, they couldn't save her from the colic," "People have been so nice," "Miz Lyons is still just devastated," and other such things were being said. I was clueless, unfortunately, but finally gathered that they were talking about the subject of the shrine. I didn't want to say, "Who was this horse and why was she so special?" when everyone else clearly knew, so I just stayed quiet. Rather than keep you all in the dark as well, I suggest you read this article regarding the wonderful race and brood mare.

One of the framed race photos on the wall in the foyer turned out to be the object of our visit, India:
She was quite a good race mare, winning over a half-million dollars on the track, if this is indeed her  (I'm pretty sure it is). Melissa had made friends with her while visiting the back stretch at Saratoga back in India's racing days.

I poked my head into the board room as the ladies were chatting, and spotted some books on the (enormous) table. I recognized one. Hey, it was that children's book about the retired race horse! *LIGHTBULB* I went over and picked it up, noticing the other book looked to be similar. Liz appeared in the doorway and said, "Help yourself - take one of each if you'd like, they're about two of our horses who are retired here." I told you she was nice! :-) I happily scooped them up. Here are the covers:
And here are a few pages from inside. Aren't the illustrations just gorgeous?
Skipingo originally sold for over $400,000 at Keeneland. He's a half-brother to the famous Skipaway, and Summer Wind owned his dam.
This illustration shows the beautiful gated entry to the farm (thought I took a picture but can't find it).
Incidentally, all proceeds from the sale of these books goes to organizations that promote TB rescue (quote). I felt a little guilty about getting them for free... but not that bad when I heard more about the Lyons'. There is definitely no shortage of the 'ole ready in this family. Mr. Lyons bought the farm for Mrs. Lyons because she'd always wanted a horse farm in the Bluegrass. Simple as that. Here are a few more details: I guess they've got a potential Derby runner in the lineup!

Once our introduction was over, we piled into Melissa's car and set out to meet the chestnut mare. We followed Liz who was piloting one of the farm vehicles. And it's a good thing, too, because let me tell you: the place is freakin' HUGE. If I thought the back roads around the farms were confusing, they have nothing on Summer Wind - it goes on and on and ON and the interior roads wind every which way. I'd have to use GPS if I worked there just to find the right barn or pasture! On the way to where we'd meet India, we passed the main house. Um, let's just say it wasn't small; in fact, I don't think I've ever seen a larger home in person. =:0 Very tasteful, white with columns, overlooking a small lake with swans on it and I'd guess in the neighborhood of 15,000 s.f. And no, this is not their primary residence. Ay carumba!

India was out in a very spacious pasture with a number of other broodmares, but a farm worker had lured her over to the gate with a bucket of grain, so she was waiting for us outside the fence. Here's a couple photos of the happy reunion between her and Melissa, her old race-days friend. Melissa was pretty sure she remembered her.
India was a sweet, pleasant and very pretty girl, and in immaculate condition.
I think she was/is expecting her second foal? Not sure how many times she's been bred.
I thought once we met India our time at Summer Wind would be up, but goodness, was I ever wrong. Liz was so excited to have visitors and peppered us with questions about what/who we wanted to see next. The yearlings? The cemetery? Skipingo and Primerica? OH, YES, we replied to the last. How cool would that be, to meet the subjects of the books! So into the cars we all went for more driving (and driving) until we arrived at the gelding's pasture...



  1. I don't have either of those books, but I used to know one of the authors (Karen Bailey). She rode in the amateur jumper division way back when and shopped at Judy's. I believe Jane Lyons is her mother. I don't know if I ever met her, but I know at least one of Karen's horses had "Lyon" in its name. Lyonhearted maybe? Can't remember.

  2. Yes, you are right - Jane is her mom! You'll see a photo of both of them shortly. :-) That's cool that you knew her. They both seem like very nice and caring ladies, and wealthy people with money to help TBs are okay in my book.



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