Chat retirement strategies with AARP’s Jean Setzfand today, Oct. 24th, at 2:00 p.m. ET

He's a Champion of Racehorses

Michael Blowen provides sanctuary for retired thoroughbreds

Michael Blowen rescues retired stallions

Michael Blowen raises funds for his sanctuary by selling canvases — Moneighs — that his retired and rehabilitated racehorses, like Clever Allemont, pictured, have painted. — Greg Ruffing/Redux

Michael Blowen might place a bet in this year's Kentucky Derby, although he thinks the sport of horse racing has its imperfections. Once a movie reviewer for the Boston Globe, the 64-year-old has been devoting his life to saving retired racing champions since 2002.

See also: Rolling Dog Ranch Animal Sanctuary.

Blowen's Old Friends sanctuary in Georgetown, Ky. — along with another affiliated farm near Saratoga Springs, N.Y. — is home to 100 horses that have won a combined $75 million during their racing lives. He was originally inspired to start Old Friends when he learned that a famous Derby winner, Ferdinand, died in a slaughterhouse in 2002.

"I discovered that when horses couldn't race anymore, that was often their fate," he says. "They should be collecting Social Security or a 401(k), but they don't."

Blowen raises money through contributions, daily tours and selling horse art, or "Moneighs," created by the animals themselves by dipping their muzzles, whiskers or tails in paint. Celebrity donors, including Jack Nicholson and Anjelica Huston, have contributed their own artworks to benefit Old Friends.

Horse fever

Until a local television station revealed his obsession with race horses, Blowen lived a double life of sorts in Cambridge, Mass. Early every morning before reporting to his job at the Globe, he worked as a racehorse trainer.

"I fell in love with the animals," he says, and soon he surrendered his heart — and life — to them.

"When I retired, I came down to Lexington, Ky., to do a story about the horses that were being cared for by prisoners from the Blackburn Correctional Complex. Then, in 2001, I got an offer to be operations director for the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. I thought it would be terrific."

Michael's wife, Diane White, also a Globe columnist, wasn't exactly happy about leaving New England. He recalls her jokingly telling him, "You have to promise me that when I leave you, you won't come looking for me." But they're still very much together today.

After a year and a half, Blowen left the foundation and started Old Friends. While not many other sanctuaries are eager to take in stallions — they tend to be feisty and difficult — Blowen is proud to have them.

Next: Change of fate. >>

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Donate to Drive to End Hunger

featured online
community volunteers

Honor Our Soldiers

Stop by to recognize those who have served our country, past and present. Discuss

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Anna's Linens

Member save 10% every day at Anna's Linens and

Faanui Bay, as seen from beach on Bora Bora, French Polynesia

Members save up to $525 on vacations at AARP® Travel Center powered by Expedia®

Pepperoni Pizza, Papa Johns Superbowl promotion for AARP members

Members save 25% off regular price menu items at Papa John's

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.