Hats Off to Little Mike of Old Friends!

The 2017 “Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby” for Old Friends is well underway with our second hat of the season, the “Little Mike”!

littlemike-equisportphotos-3crop-web-medIf you would like to bid on the “Little Mike” chapeau please place your bid at this link on EBay.

Bidding ends Saturday, February 11th at 8 PM EST.

To learn more about Little Mike, the horse, please visit the Little Mike webpage. For more information about the “Alphabet Soup” Chapeau please visit the Little Mike hat webpage.

Thank you for supporting Old Friends!



War Emblem Honored in “Hats Off” Derby Hat Fundraiser

Creating a hat to honor a living Thoroughbred athlete is not as easy as it may sound. Yet for six months out of the year this is my challenge and privilege as I create chapeaux to honor six amazing horses of Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement in Kentucky during our “Hats Off to the Horses” Derby hat fundraiser.

WarEmblem-HatProcess14-BlogFrom the outset I study photographs and race videos, and most especially ask those at Old Friends who care for the horses every day what makes each one special. As I work I don’t see just hats; I see Mixed Pleasure, Genuine Reward, Yankee Fourtune, Amazombie and Silver Charm.

Over time their spirits, their magnificent athletic beauty and their inspiring personal stories get stitched, layered and woven into each and every hat.

And now, this month, I see War Emblem.

WarEmblem-HatsOfftotheHorses-BlogPoster-BlogI was over the moon when I heard that I would be creating a hat to honor this nearly black 2002 Derby and Preakness winner with such a strong physique and keen mind.

WarEmblem-MattWooley1-Web.MedWar Emblem was retired from stud duty in Japan in 2015 and arrived at Dream Chase Farm in September 2015 thanks to the Yoshida family, the staff of Shadai Stallion Station, Emanuel de Seroux and the many supporters who generously enabled his retirement.

WarEmblem-LauraBattles31-Framed-MedI asked Beth Shannon, volunteer at Old Friends, her impression of War Emblem and she responded, “War Emblem is smart, proud, and fiercely independent. He’s extremely interested in all that goes on around him and everyone who’s in his immediate world. You can see him constantly watching and learning.”

WarEmblem-RickCapone7-Framed-MedAnd she added, “His other striking quality, besides his spirit, is his athleticism. He keeps himself fit-he’s ruggedly gorgeous-and he glories in his speed at 17 as he did at 3.”

WarEmblem-LauraBattles1-Framed-MedMy research began with War Emblem’s racing bio, his pedigree and videos of his wins on the track.

WarEmblem-HatProcess1-BlogClearly a very special hat was needed to showcase War Emblem’s stunning nearly black coat, his familiar racing silk colors of green and white, and his proud spirit and athleticism.

Sketches were drawn, swatches collected and the creative process was underway!

WarEmblem-HatProcess2-BlogThe foundation of the “War Emblem” hat was fashioned as a wide brim design in black dupioni silk. A white brocade underbrim, edged with black taffeta, was added that frames the face beautifully when the wearer’s face is upturned.

WarEmblem-HatProcess3-BlogWarEmblem-HatProcess4-BlogThe edge of the brim was trimmed with a unique ruffled brim edge which allows light to pass through the sheer fabric. Created out of black silk organza overlaid with black silk “pinstripes”, the resulting look is one of smooth elegance befitting this great Thoroughbred athlete.

WarEmblem-HatProcess5-BlogWarEmblem-Hat15-Web.MedAs a reflection of his 2002 Triple Crown campaign, three large rose curls created out of alternating layers of white dupioni silk and silk organza with just a splash of soft yellow organza for the centers, were placed along the front crown of the hat.

WarEmblem-HatProcess6-BlogEach rose was then framed with a medley of leaves that I fashioned out of layered emerald green and bold blue silk organza.

WarEmblem-HatProcess8-BlogShimmering black tulle was layered around the crown to provide a setting for the roses that is wispy and elegant as well as a reflection of War Emblem’s nearly black coat.

WarEmblem-HatProcess9-BlogA layered sash, created out of folded black satin with an emerald green dupioni silk lining, was hand stitched around the crown of the hat.

For the finishing touch, a large black pebble button was set to adorn the back of the hat.

WarEmblem-HatProcess10-BlogFinally, the lining was created from a bold emerald green satin to coordinate with the trims.

WarEmblem-Hat18-Web.MedThe finished “War Emblem” hat design measures over 30 inches across inclusive of the pleated organza brim layer.

Once the bidding ends and it is time to ship the hat to the winner, several strands of his tail hair will be braided and woven into the trim of the hat, creating a unique, one-of-a-kind Derby chapeau that captures War Emblem not only in spirit but in substance as well.

Following a final inspection of the hat top to bottom here in our MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® studio and a quick photo session…

WarEmblem-HatProcess11-BlogThe “War Emblem” chapeau was prepped, packaged with care…

WarEmblem-HatProcess13-BlogAnd sent to Old Friends for the big photo shoot with Shea and Julien Leparoux!

WarEmblem-Shea-Julien-Leparoux2-MattWooley-Crop-Web.MedWe were pleased to have Shea Leparoux once again modeling for us, this time donning the “War Emblem” hat at Old Friends alongside her husband, jockey Julien Leparoux.


For a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the War Emblem photo shoot at Old Friends, check out the video footage below so generously provided by EquiSport Photos.

We want to extend a big thank you to Shea Leparoux and her husband, jockey Julien Leparoux who have been super models for our auction hats this season and to Matt and Wendy Wooley of EquiSport Photos who worked their video and photographic magic once again. The gorgeous dress that Bella Rose Clothing Boutique, Lexington, Kentucky furnished for Shea matched the “War Emblem” hat beautifully. Our thanks to everyone!

The “War Emblem” auction hat is up for bid from April 1st through the 11th at this EBay link; bidding ends tonight, April 11th at 8 PM EST.

Please also enjoy this slideshow of the “War Emblem” chapeau and the horse who inspired its creation.

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For more information, please visit the War Emblem hat webpage and also the War Emblem horse webpage at maggiemae.com.

Thank you for visiting Hats and Horses, and Hats Off to War Emblem!!




MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® Derby Hat Countdown 2016 – 27 of 101

Welcome to the Derby Hat Countdown with MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS®!

Today I am featuring Hat #27, the “War Emblem” chapeau that is currently up for bid on EBay in our “Hats Off to the Horses” auction to benefit the retired racehorses of Old Friends.

DerbyHatCountdown-2016-27Days-BlogFor more information about the “War Emblem” hat please visit the the War Emblem auction hat webpage or go directly to EBay and place your bid!

Today’s Derby Trivia Question today –

“Name the Hall of Fame jockey who has been to the the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle three times, 1998, 2000 and 2008.”

The answer can be found at the following link – Derby Hats where you can also visit all four of our Derby hat salons for a wide selection of Derby hat offerings for the Kentucky Oaks and the Derby!

Only 26 Derby chapeaux and 26 days to go ’til the 142nd Kentucky Derby!


A Genuine Reward

The year was 2011 and I was beginning a new hat line honoring famous racehorses. One of the hats, a wide brimmed “chestnut” Derby chapeau with green and white trims, was created to celebrate 1980 Kentucky Derby winner, Genuine Risk,  who with a glorious burst of speed raced past the boys and into the history books, just the second filly at the time to win the roses.

I named the hat, “The Genuine Article”. And that she was.

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Following her retirement in 1981, Genuine Risk was unlucky as a broodmare as she gave birth to only two live foals in 18 years.  “Genny’s” first of the two foals was born on May 15, 1993 at 5:05 PM. By the great stallion Rahy, he was the spitting image of his chestnut Mum.  You can tell from the video footage that he was her absolute delight. The name they chose for him was perfect: Genuine Reward.

Because of various health issues, the colt never raced; a stud career took him from Virginia to Sheridan, Wyoming.

To the surprise of many, Genuine Reward, now a 22-year-old, was discovered on Craigslist in June 2015 by “Seabiscuit” author Laura Hillenbrand, a longtime supporter of Old Friends. Through the efforts of Hillenbrand and others, the blessed son of Genuine Risk was safely retired to Old Friends.

I was extremely pleased when Michael Blowen, president and founder of Old Friends, asked me to create a hat to honor Genuine Reward, the son of this grand dame of horse racing, Genuine Risk, for whom I’d created “The Genuine Article”, just five years before.

GenuineReward-Jamie-Brian-Joshlyn-MattW2-Web.MedTo inspire me in the creation of the “Genuine Reward” hat, I called upon Old Friends volunteer Beth Shannon to tell me about the personality and spirit of the horse. Beth described Genuine Reward in the following way: “He’s really smart, really beautiful, really sweet. He’s a love, and very social.”  Everyone asked seemed to agree that Genuine Reward has settled in very well at Old Friends.

GenuineReward-LauraBattles12-Framed-MedGenuineReward-LauraBattles5-Framed-MedGenuineReward-LauraBattles17-Framed-MedA very special chapeau was needed to honor this cherished son of Genuine Risk and celebrate his new life at Old Friends. An elegant Derby design was created to showcase the stallion’s bright chestnut coloring and kind temperament, using his mother’s distinctive racing silk colors of green and white (Bertram and Diana Firestone’s stable) for the trims.

GenuineRewardHat1A-Web.MedI went online and printed out Genuine Reward’s bio, and soon had the background information that I needed.

GenuineRewardHat-Process1-Web.MedSketches were drawn…

GenuineRewardHat-Process2-Web.MedFabrics were chosen…

GenuineRewardHat-Process3-Web.MedAnd the creative process was underway!

The “Genuine Reward” hat was created as a flat wide brim design, using white dupioni silk for the brim foundation of the hat and white silk organza for the crown.

GenuineRewardHat9A-Web.MedAlternating layers of ruffled white, chocolate and gold organza were added to the outer brim to reflect the movement of the Thoroughbred athlete at full gallop.

GenuineRewardHat-Process4-Web.MedGenuineRewardHat1A-Web.MedA fancy chocolate braiding was then top stitched to the ruffled brim edges.

GenuineRewardHat-Process6-Web.MedA large dahlia flower, a new trim design by MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS®, was created especially for Genuine Reward.  To inspire me, I printed out images of white dahlias, and created a tiny white silk organza “dahlia template”.

GenuineRewardHat-Process7-Web.MedThe flower was then sculpted out of white silk organza with 22 petals to reflect Genuine Reward’s age when he was discovered on Craigslist and brought home to Old Friends.

GenuineRewardHat-Process8-Web.MedFor the center of the dahlia, a rose curl was crafted out of alternating layers of green and white silk organza.

GenuineRewardHat-Process10-Web.MedA medley of Spring green organza and satin leaves was then fashioned to frame the dahlia.

GenuineRewardHat-Process11-Web.MedThree 2-tone chocolate and green organza “feathers”, a MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® trademark, were carefully stitched, layered and then shaped to add the perfect finishing touch to the floral trim.

GenuineRewardHat-Process12-Web.MedA bright emerald green organza-covered taffeta sash, lined with chocolate taffeta, was fashioned to encircle the crown of the hat, and a tiny chocolate button was added to the back for the finishing touch.

GenuineRewardHat-Process15-Web.MedThe “Genuine Reward” hat measures nearly 25 inches across inclusive of the ruffled brim layers.

GenuineRewardHat6-Web.MedAs a physical remembrance of Genuine Reward, several strands of the stallion’s tail hair were braided and woven into the trim of the hat, creating a unique, one-of-a-kind Derby chapeau that captures Genuine Reward not only in spirit but in substance as well.

The finished hat was photographed in our studio, packaged with care…

GenuineRewardHat-Process17-Web.MedAnd shipped on its way to Old Friends for the grand photo shoot with Jamie Hernandez and her husband, jockey Brian Hernandez.

GenuineReward-Jamie-Brian-Joshlyn-MattW1-Web.MedThank you Jamie and Brian for being such super models! And your little girl Joshlyn stole the show in her own little white silk chapeau from the new “Little Silver Charm Kids’ Hat Collection” that also benefits Old Friends.

A special thank you also to Matt and Wendy Wooley of EquiSport Photos, and to Bella Rose Clothing Boutique, Lexington, Kentucky for furnishing Jamie’s stunning emerald green dress. You can view all the photo shoot magic in this behind-the-scenes glimpse by Wendy…

Please also enjoy this slideshow of the “Genuine Reward” chapeau and the horse who inspired it.

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Creating this hat to celebrate Genuine Reward has been an honor. It has brought me full circle from mother to son after creating “The Genuine Article” years ago to honor his mother, Genuine Risk; this for me is a genuine reward that goes way beyond words.


About the Auction:

The “Genuine Reward” auction hat is now up for bid on EBay and bidding ends Friday, March 11th at 8 PM EST.

To learn more about Genuine Reward the horse, please visit the Genuine Reward horse webpage.

For more information about the “Genuine Reward” Chapeau please visit the Genuine Reward hat webpage.

To see the story about Genuine Reward’s rescue and retirement to Old Friends, click on The WKYT August 2015 Genuine Reward Video.

Charmed: The Story of the Little Silver Charm Silk Mini Horse

It was finally time to dig into a project that had long been swirling around in my imagination: a new line of kids’ Derby hats to benefit Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement farm in Kentucky named after a very special resident of the farm, Little Silver Charm!

But nothing could have prepared me for the big surprise that lay ahead as the new collection began to unfold…

Little Silver Charm, of Old Friends

Why name a collection of kids’ hats after a chocolate brown mini horse?

Little Silver Charm, a chocolate brown mini with silver mane and tail, is the official spokeshorse of Old Friends. Founded by Michael Blowen in 2003, Old Friends provides dignified retirements to over 150 racehorses whose racing and breeding careers are over.

And Little Silver Charm is the perfect Old Friends ambassador, spreading the word about the farm’s retirees in a way that only an adorable mini horse can. Blessed with good looks, Little Silver Charm exudes a quick wit and a captivating personality. Even the big horses love him!

Little Silver Charm wishing his buddy Mixed Pleasure a happy 30th birthday back in May 2015.

Children of all ages who visit the farm each year are drawn to Little Silver Charm like tiny magnets.  Like them, I was charmed as well.

Little Silver Charm getting a visit from jockey Gary Stevens and his daughter.

Named after the great racehorse, Silver Charm, who recently retired to Old Friends, Little Silver Charm finally got the chance to meet his idol last year. I heard that the long-awaited meeting between the two silver-haired stallions was MAGICAL!


So who could possibly be more of an inspiration to me for a new kids’ hat collection than Little Silver Charm?

But as I got busy with the project I felt like my designs lacked something, a spark of some kind. I kept thinking, Wouldn’t it be great if Charmie could be right here with me, to inspire me?

LittleSilverCharm-RickCapone1-FramedWhen I was a little girl dreaming of having a horse of my own, I spent hours creating make-believe horses out of paper, fabric and yarn that would then come to life before my eyes. All the pretty little ponies.

Suddenly it came to me! I would do the next best thing to having Charmie here with me: I would make a silk version of him and he could then be here for inspiration!

I found two silks in mocha and chocolate to reflect Little Silver Charm’s coat coloring and spools of threads to match.

I wanted this silk horse to really look like Charmie, right down to those gorgeous dapples and of course, the HAIR!

LittleSilverCharm-RickCapone3-FramedI cut the main body sections out of the two silks, then cut circles out of cream felt and hand stitched them to the body.

LittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process4-Web.MedOnce the sewing got underway my machine was whirring day and night as I simply couldn’t focus on anything else until my new friend was finished!

LittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process5-Web.MedThe ears were next…

LittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process6-Web.MedLittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process7-Web.MedAnd then the nostrils, fashioned out of chocolate felt.

LittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process8-Web.MedThe legs and hooves were sewn and then stuffed to shape…

LittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process10-Web.MedThen came the torso, neck and finally, the head.

LittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process12-Web.MedSoon my little horse was able to almost stand up on his own.

“You’re becoming more real every day!” I told him as I finished for the night…

LittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process13-Web.MedThe next day I found my little horse staring down at the Old Friends Calendar.

“I’m not like these other horses,” he said wistfully. “You said I was going to be a real horse, like them. But something’s missing.”

LittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process14-Web.Med“Yes,” I told him. “You are right. We need to create your mane and tail.  But yours will not be dark brown like you see in the picture there of Star Plus.”

“Little horse, you were inspired by a very great mini horse named Little Silver Charm, and your mane and tail will be all in silver… just like his!”

LittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process18-Web.MedLittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process19-Web.MedNow I knew this project was going to take a LOT of yarn to achieve a mane and tail with that kind of fullness, so I made sure I had plenty of big balls of yarn on hand.

I cut the yarn into long pieces, then carefully gathered and stitched the strands together.

LittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process23-Web.MedFinally the forelock was ready to be settled into place…

LittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process24-Web.MedAnd I shaped the strands of the mane ’til it looked like Charmie’s billowing locks cascading down his neck.

LittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process31-Web.MedThe tail was next, using much longer strands of yarn.

At last it was ready to be shaped and attached.

LittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process26-Web.MedWhen I stood back to look at the little horse lying next to the photo of Charmie I just smiled.

“We’re getting there, we really are!”

LittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process27-Web.MedI told my little horse that Little Silver Charm has some of the prettiest eyes I’ve ever seen on a mini and I had to find just the right buttons for him so his eyes would be just as beautiful. I found them at last, and stitched them into place!

LittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process28-29Finally, I created a halter out of dark chocolate silk, adding rings and buckles for the finishing touches…

LittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process32-34And when I slipped that halter behind my little horse’s ears I could not believe how he came to life. “Why, it’s Charmie!” I said to myself.

LittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process35-Web.MedI grabbed the camera as I watched him take his first look out the studio window…

LittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process36-Web.MedAnd then he met Marmee, my other inspiration.

You could just tell these two were going to be real pals.

LittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process47-Web.MedLittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process48-Web.MedYes, I had been charmed from the very beginning by Little Silver Charm of Old Friends. And now I have to thank him for two very important things.

He didn’t just inspire me to create the new kids’ hats to support all the retired racehorses of Old Friends; he also inspired the creation of the most adorable little studio helper and the little horse I’d dreamed about since I was a little girl…

LittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process53-Web.MedYou can view the “Little Silver Charm Kids’ Hat Collection” online featuring four Derby hat styles for both girls and boys; new hats will be added as we approach the Derby.

LittleSilverCharmKidsHats-MedleyPoster-LogoYou can also read more about Little Silver Charm of Old Friends at the newly created Little Silver Charm webpage at MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS®.

LittleSilverCharm-Horse-Process54-Web.Med‘Til next time, thanks for visiting us at Hats and Horses!


Rosie Wedding Hats Debut to Benefit Old Friends

MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® is pleased to announce the debut of a new round of hat designs recently added to the Rosie Signature Hat Collection!

Blog-RosieWeddings-SelenaHairOrnament1-UnveiledStudio-Web.LgThe Rosie Signature Hat Collection first debuted in July of 2014 and features hats Blog-RosieHat3B-MattWooleyinspired and individually signed by recently retired jockey Rosie Napravnik. Twenty percent of the sale price of each hat sold from this collection gets donated to Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement in Kentucky. The Collection debuted last year with three horse racing hat styles worn by Rosie on location at historic Keeneland Race Course.

This year MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® is pleased to introduce three new hat styles with a wedding theme. We are calling them “The Rosie Wedding Hats”.

Blog-RosieWeddings-RoseMarieHat2-UnveiledStudio-Web.LgRosie Napravnik is well known in racing circles having been one of the nation’s top ten riders, and her devotion to horses extends off the track as well. Rosie is an advocate of Thoroughbred aftercare through The Retired Racehorse Project and serves on the board of directors at to Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement in Kentucky.

Please enjoy the photo shoot featuring Rosie and the new hats at the Bodley-Bullock House in Lexington, Kentucky.

Blog-BodleyBullockHouse-Front1-Web.MedIntroducing The Selena Hair Ornament featuring a large Marguerite created out of white silk organza “flower petals” with a hot pink rose curl fashioned for the center of the flower.

Blog-RosieWeddings-SelenaHairOrnament2-UnveiledStudio-Web.LgChartreuse and lime green organza leaves frame the rose, and white netting, shaped into free form “bow loops”, gracefully drapes across the face.

An elegant alternative to a traditional wedding veil or brimmed chapeau!

Blog-RosieWeddings-SelenaHairOrnament3-UnveiledStudio-Web.LgNext, the Brooke…

Blog-RosieWeddings-BrookeHat2-UnveiledStudio-Web.LgA lovely white silk medium brim design, perfect for weddings and also for a fancy tea, garden party or a special horse racing event!

Blog-RosieWeddings-BrookeHat1-UnveiledStudio-Web.LgAnd finally the Rose Marie Chapeau…Blog-RosieWeddings-RoseMarieHat3-UnveiledStudio-Web.Lg

A white dupioni silk wide brim hat style with a single rose created out of alternating layers of hot pink organza and fuchsia dupioni silk framed with a medley of chartreuse and lime green organza and silk.

Layer upon layer of white tulle surround the crown, spilling over the brim edges, with a medium length tulle train down the back. (Comes with or without the tulle train; tulle train can be created to any length desired.)



As always, each and every hat sold from the Rosie Signature Hat Collection is created with a special white brocade lining, individually signed by Rosie Napravnik, which is meant to honor Rosie’s beloved retired Thoroughbred racehorse, Sugar, who is now almost completely white.

Rosie-Lining1A special thank you to the Bodley-Bullock House in Lexington, KY for giving us the perfect location for the launching of our newest designs from the Rosie Signature Hat Collection.

Special thanks to Unveiled Studio for providing the photography for “Rosie’s Wedding Hats”.

And a special thank you as well to Twirl Boutique of Lexington, KY for furnishing Rosie’s beautiful Tara Keely dress!

For more information about the hats, please visit The Rosie Signature Hat Collection webpage.

To learn more about Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Facility in KY, please visit their website at Old Friends.

And thank you for visiting us today at Hats and Horses!


The Mixed Pleasure Hat: A Tale of Two Friends

Ever since last season’s annual “Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby” fundraiser for Old Friends, I’ve wanted to create a hat to honor Old Friends retiree, Mixed Pleasure, the great-great grandson of the legendary Seabiscuit.

Blog-MixedPleasure-RickCapone1-FramedLittle did I know that my greatest source of inspiration for such a hat would come not from Mixed Pleasure’s royal bloodlines but from what transpired soon after the stallion’s arrival at Old Friends on July 18, 2012.

Earlier that month, Mixed Pleasure had been rescued from a trip to auction in Oregon through the coordinated efforts of Charlotte Farmer and the national horse welfare advocacy group, Equi-Army-NDO.

When I asked Charlotte Farmer for her impressions of Mixed Pleasure (“Bo”) she wrote, “In those soft brown eyes of Bo there was a story, a story of perseverance. He carried the Seabiscuit bloodline but it was Bo, not his bloodline, that placed an indelible hoof print on everyone who came in contact with him either face-to-face or through social media. Class does show itself and Mixed Pleasure has demonstrated that throughout his life.”

Sadly, Mixed Pleasure had been kept almost entirely in his stall for 12 years, and as a result he was underweight and had poor muscle tone when he arrived at Old Friends.

Blog-MixedPleasure-CourtesyCharlotteFarmer-LeavingGrandTrine2012-FramedVivien Morrison, a volunteer at Old Friends described the general spirit of the new retiree. Vivien stated, “When I met Mixed Pleasure he was newly arrived from a long journey. He was quiet and kind as he stood in his pasture with his back against the wind. What struck me about Mixey was that I had seldom met a horse that seemed more . . . alone. It was as if he had accepted he was to be a herd of one.”

Blog-MixedPleasure-RickCapone2-FramedVivien continued, “One friend, visiting from out of state said, ‘Oh, he needs his own person to love so he won’t seem so lost in the world.’ Someone must have heard, and John Bradley was the answer.”

John Bradley, a native of Kentucky and a big racing fan ever since the days of the great Secretariat, had begun volunteering at Old Friends in 2012 shortly after Mixed Pleasure’s arrival.

John had no prior experience with horses yet soon was described as “a natural” around them at Old Friends. John quickly noticed how friendly Mixed Pleasure was with visitors. As he states, “I was attracted to how kind he was, and those eyes just melted my heart. I just wanted to see if I could make his life a little better.”

MixedPleasure-LauraBattles4-Crop-FramedOne thing John observed was that Mixed Pleasure couldn’t eat the carrot treats everyone tried to feed him because his teeth were so worn.

Then one day John came up with the solution: shredded carrots!

Blog-MixedPleasure-BarbaraLivingston1-FramedAnd a friendship was born.

Every day after work, and all day on Saturday and Sunday, John would drive 40 miles round trip to groom Mixed Pleasure and turn him out for the night.

John described this turnout time as the best part of the day for both of them.  Part of their routine was stopping halfway from the barn to the paddock at a very special place so Mixed Pleasure could eat the tasty, lush grass that grew there.

Blog-MixedPleasure-BarbaraLivingston3-FramedSoon John started buying the stallion’s halters, fly masks and anything else he needed.

Blog-MixedPleasure-LauraBattles9-FramedThe two could often be seen together, swapping stories and telling jokes like good friends do.

Blog-MixedPleasure-LauraBattles10-FramedI’ve even heard it said that one day John shared some of MP’s old Hollywood Park racing videos with him.

As you can see, Mixed Pleasure was all ears!

Blog-MixedPleasure-LeAnnArnold-6-19-2014-John-showingMPBoHisRacesatHollypark-FramedVolunteer Vivien Morrison described their deepening friendship, “Over the many months at Old Friends the little chestnut and the tall, broad shouldered man had bonded into a herd of two… [And] under the loving and most patient of hands, the aging horse regained his personality and indeed his sense of self.”

However along with that devotion, Mixed Pleasure had a way of making it very clear that John was part of his herd, and his herd alone. If Mixed Pleasure caught John paying attention to one of the other horses on the farm, you could bet that an icy stare or the stomp of a hoof was sure to follow!

Blog-MixedPleasure-LauraBattles-4-26-15-FramedYet John describes Mixed Pleasure as an exceptionally kindhearted stallion who was always lowering his head for children to pet him on the face.

Blog-MixedPleasure-LauraBattles8-FramedJohn seemed to understand exactly what their relationship was all about and gladly accepted his role.  “Many people have told me I have a nice horse, ” he said, “And my reply was, ‘He’s not my horse, I’m his human’.”

Blog-MixedPleasure-LauraBattles-12-22-14-Framed Mixed Pleasure reminded John of an old country gentleman sitting in the shade, enjoying a fine bourbon and a good cigar. “He is very wise, he has made it to the age of 30 and had some rough times in his life. After our bond developed into something special, I decided to make his most senior years perhaps the best of his life. I feel like it was meant for us to find each other… In my opinion, he will always be the greatest horse ever born.”

Blog-MixedPleasure-LauraBattles7-FramedWhen it came time to pick our horses for season seven of “Hats Off to the Horses”, I was thrilled when Mixed Pleasure was chosen and more than ready to get started!

But the process of creating this hat was different from all the others. This was a hat that needed to not only honor Mixed Pleasure, but also to reflect the great friendship that he and John had found when they met at Old Friends.

Fabrics were chosen: bold blues and yellows for Mixed Pleasure’s racing silk colors, and warm reddish chocolates to reflect his beautiful coat.

Blog-MixedPleasureHatProcess7-Web.LgThe foundation of the hat was fashioned as a flat, wide brim using just the right dupioni silk to match the stallion’s warm red chestnut coat; yellow taffeta provided the underbrim accent color.

Blog-MixedPleasureHatProcess8-Web.LgMixedPleasureHat3-Web.MedNext, layers of ruffled chocolate organza were added to the outer brim layers to reflect Mixed Pleasure who, at 30 years young, was still known to “buzz” by John at a gallop!

Blog-MixedPleasureHatProcess9-Web.LgFor the trim centerpiece, a single large Marguerite was designed with petals made out of several shades of yellow organza to adorn the front of the hat.

Blog-MixedPleasureHatProcess13-Web.LgThe center of the Marguerite is a rose curl in royal blue silk organza with a beaded center created out of royal blue seed beads, swirled to form an ever-widening whirlpool of shimmering blue.  It is meant as a symbol of the deep friendship that grew between a horse and a man who’d found each other at Old Friends.

Blog-MixedPleasureHatProcess14-Web.LgBlog-MixedPleasureHatProcess15-Web.LgRoyal blue silk organza leaves, were individually shaped and wired and fashioned to allow light to pass through them as they cradled the flower.

Blog-MixedPleasureHatProcess17-Web.LgDozens of long slender royal blue and yellow organza “feathers”, a MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® trademark, were carefully stitched and layered to frame the floral centerpiece from many angles.

Blog-MixedPleasureHatProcess19-Web.LgMixedPleasureHat4-Web.MedWispy mocha chocolate hat veiling was gathered and set behind the feathers for a touch of soft elegance.

Blog-MixedPleasureHatProcess21-Web.LgA royal blue dupioni silk sash, folded in layers, was fashioned to encircle the crown of the hat and a deep cobalt blue button added to adorn the back.

Blog-MixedPleasureHatProcess12-Web.LgYellow taffeta was chosen for the lining of the “Mixed Pleasure” and the MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® label was hand stitched into place.

Blog-MixedPleasureHatProcess11-Web.LgAs a physical remembrance of Mixed Pleasure, several strands of the stallion’s tail hair were braided and woven into the trim of the hat, creating a one-of-a-kind Derby chapeau that captures Mixed Pleasure not only in spirit but in substance as well.

The finished hat was then shipped to Old Friends for the grand photo shoot!

Blog-MixedPleasureHatProcess22A-Web.LgThis year we were delighted once again to have Shea Leparoux modeling for us. Shea and her husband, jockey Julien Leparoux, recently welcomed a baby boy named Mitchell into the world, and it was wonderful to have the entire family in the “Mixed Pleasure” photo shoot with Matt and Wendy Wooley of EquiSport Photos!To view the shoot, check out the behind-the-scenes video by Wendy Wooley…


To view the hat and the horse whom it honors please visit our Slideshow.

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Sadly, less than a week after the photo shoot at Old Friends for the “Mixed Pleasure” chapeau, we received the news that Mixed Pleasure had been euthanized on October 26, 2015 due to complications from colic.

That night on her Facebook page, Old Friends volunteer Vivien Morrison said it so well as she shared the news of the passing of Mixed Pleasure who had left his forever friend behind:

“A friendship like this lasts through the ages and does not end when one of them joins the celestial herd. Tonight, running on the autumn wind is a chestnut horse, young and free again, carrying the love of his beloved friend with him. Thank you, Mixed Pleasure, for all you gave us and thanks and love to John for being Mixey’s forever friend. He left his earthly home in the arms of loved ones . . . never to be alone again.”

The story of Mixed Pleasure will forever be inseparable from the story of the friend that he found when he arrived at Old Friends. In John, Mixed Pleasure found his herd, the family that he could lean on while he healed and found his valued place among the other retired racehorses at Dream Chase Farm who need that, too. And in Mixed Pleasure, John found the horse that would teach him how to love and care for a horse in a way that no human ever could have.

Thank you, Mixed Pleasure and John, and thank you, Michael and Old Friends, for providing the sacred ground where such a friendship could flourish and now live on forever to inspire us all.


About the auction:

The “Mixed Pleasure” auction hat is currently up for bid on EBay. Bidding ends Monday, December 14th at 8 PM EST.

To learn more about Mixed Pleasure, the horse, please visit the Mixed Pleasure webpage. For more information about the “Mixed Pleasure” Chapeau please visit the Mixed Pleasure hat webpage.