It’s called the sport of kings, but far too often the majestic thoroughbreds that make up the royal family are sent off to slaughterhouses in Mexico or Canada, a cruel and unusual end to an all too short life of training, racing, and perpetuating bloodlines. It seems only right, then, that Saratoga Springs, home to the oldest thoroughbred racetrack in the country, is also home to Old Friends at Cabin Creek, a retirement haven for thoroughbred racehorses.
Mark and JoAnn Pepper are the owners of Cabin Creek, a forty-acre spread located on Sand Hill Road in the town of Greenfield Center. The long dirt road bends and winds down to the entrance, where a vista of tranquility and serenity greets each visitor. A stable that could have been in the movie, “Sea Biscuit,” is surrounded by paddock areas, each one home to a peacefully grazing animal. To the left of the stable is a small pond with a fountain spraying water at its center, adding to the feeling of peace. At the top of another hill stands the Pepper’s home, from which they can survey the scene below.
The Peppers built the ranch from the ground up and – for them – Old Friends is the culmination of a lifelong dream to provide a home for these wondrous creatures. While the ranch itself is privately owned, Old Friends is a non-profit organization that feeds, houses, and provides veterinary care, support and – above all – love for the animals. The ranch has been open since 2009 and is currently operating at more than full capacity, housing and caring for 15 horses, ranging in age from 3 to 27 years.
This is the first and only satellite of the original Old Friends, based in Georgetown, KY, the brainchild of Michael Blowen, a retired sports writer from the Boston Globe. Blowen’s love of the animals and the sport prompted him to create a safe haven for horses as they reached the end of their careers.
Now, in its eighth year of existence, Old Friends at Cabin Creek is home to two Travers winners: Thunder Rumble, who is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his win this year; and Will’s Way, who took the title in 1996. The most senior of the equine family, Crusader Sword, winner of the “ Hopeful” 28 years ago, looks remarkable for his age, a ripe old 30. Of lesser fame – but no less pampered – is Moonshadow Gold, the first horse acquired by the Peppers when they opened the ranch. At age fifteen, Moonshadow is a veteran of a whopping eighty-nine races.
The Peppers love horse racing, but they also love the animals who give their lives to the sport. “There are too many horses out there without a plan for a full life,” JoAnn confided to me. “Being able to open Old Friends was a dream come true for us.”
The horses that call Old Friends at Cabin Creek their home are free to roam their paddock areas, romping and rolling in the grass, munching on hay and feed. They never have to run in another race or have a saddle on their backs. They are pampered by a devoted group of volunteers, who care for their equine charges in fair weather or foul, rain or snow.
Of course, as with any other horse farm, it’s vital to have the best rigging hardware available in order to ensure the safety of the horses and their caregivers. Henssgen Hardware supplies the best and most comprehensive line of rigging equipment and horse hardware for places like Old Friends at Cabin Creek, as well as the many other thoroughbred aftercare and horse rescue ranches that are cropping up around the country.
Please visit our website and browse our catalog to find everything you need, from hitching plates and horse panic snaps to harness rings and hoof picks. We offer the sturdiest and most durable equipment, in a variety of non-corrosive metals, such as die cast zinc, brass, malleable iron and steel.