Thursday, May 24, 2012

Afternoon at Merryland Farm

Back in the day, when I was but a youthful young one and my family still lived in Maryland, my father became interested in Country Life Farm. I believe this was probably in part because of the book that one of the Pons brothers wrote.As a result of this interest my father invested in a portion of a race horse. Probably the hoof. I'm not sure how successful that particular investment was, but it did allow us the opportunity to visit  Country Life Farm on at least one occasion (I vaguely recall going, but I was a bit sullen and the only thing that really stands out is the beauty of the farm and the crab soup we were served). It's been nearly 10 years since my parents uprooted from Maryland and moved down south, but I guess in the last few months my father's interest in a small share of a race horse reared its head again. So he went ahead and bought half a share of Moon Meeting Too. This recent choice and our temporary residency in Maryland because of the Preakness allowed us the opportunity to go out to Merryland Farm, where Moon Meeting Too is being trained.So the Thursday before the race weekend, I made my way down 95 and then off into the horse country of Bel Air and other nearby towns. It was a beautiful day and I was quite pleased with the scenery as I drove along. This sense of pleasure was doubled upon my arrival at Merryland Farm. Nestled at the base of a sloping hill, green as all get-out, this place has a little sense of magic to it, and history to boot.
This pup was hanging out where I parked, happy to say hey and then move on to the next new arrival. Dad and our cousin V. were already there, sitting on a bench in the shade.
We were there to see Moon Meeting Too work out, but we also were given a tour of the restored farm house, which serves as a guest house for slightly higher rollers than ourselves. I really want to live there. I want to be the caretaker. I want to cook in this kitchen, which back in the 1950s/60s was where exercise riders/jockeys would come after they were done with all their mounts, and the then-owner of the farm would cook them up breakfast. I make a killer breakfast! Of course, if they're jockeys, they probably wouldn't really want to eat what I gave them.
Seriously. I need to find a way to live on a horse farm and be part of its rhythms. Or just a farm. Though the addition of horses is nice, given my own stint with riding.
The view of the practice track at the base of the hill.
Where most of the horses seem to reside. Moon Meeting Too wasn't the only horse getting an opportunity to go around the track. I think there were four jockeys, and they'd go out in pairs, getting their horses familiar with riding next to another horse. Sometimes they'd go out to the dummy starting gate to give the horses a sense of that aspect of racing, sometimes they would simply run at a good clip, other times the focus was more on getting them accustomed to listening to the bit. Each horse was in its own specific part of the training process that takes a young foal towards a potential racing career.

If I lost about 100 pounds I could be an exercise rider.

This grey horse was adjusting to a few things. Still by the barn, it reared a few times, which is always a dramatic sight to behold. Though if you're at all familiar with the potential consequences of a rear, then it's both dramatic and straight-up worrisome. Its rider, clearly a seasoned pro, just kept talking to it as it pranced and sidestepped its way to the track. Seemed liked it settled a bit but  had work to do as far as listening to the reins.

Hoof print.

I'm pretty sure the horse on the right is Moon Meeting Too.
And again.
The house from another angle.
There were a few other folks on the farm to take a look around, three women from Boston/Cape Cod, one woman from Florida, and a guy from I'm not sure where. The three women and I perked up when we heard that we could go up to another barn and see the foals. It took us a while to actually find the babies. One woman said they were in the barn, but another contradicted her and said they were in the fields. So we first walked towards the fields. All we found, however, was this horse and its companion - a pony that wouldn't leave the shade of the shed.
Terrible photo of me, but still: here I am with a horse.
We then went to the barn, where a good number of the stalls contained mama horses and baby horses.
Foals are just the most gangly, awkward creatures. But with a sweetness and newness to them that is hard to get over. Unless, I'm sure, you're a proper horse person and deal with them every day?

So it was me, my father and our cousin V. V. and my father are cousins, and grew up together in Sewanee. She has lived in Baltimore for nearly 40 years, and was our hostess for the weekend. You'll note my father is properly hatted with an Orioles cap.

So much beauty in even the necessities of farm life. I know it's hard to actually be in the business, but with an outside view, I can't say I'm not without envy. Work must be hard, but you can look up soak in the green and space.


Anonymous said...


Huckleberry said...

Maybe they need a Writer-in-Residence there? Who does readings on some evenings for the slightly higher rollers?

cc said...

Huckleberry, if only they did!