In early April I was saddened to hear that Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farm had just lost one of their retirees, Bull Inthe Heather. This happened just as Old Friends and MAGGIE MAE DESIGNS® were kicking off the final auction in the “Hats Off to the Horses: The Road to the Derby” fundraiser in which the Geri hat was featured, inspired by another one of their retirees. Each year I look forward to this annual event as I create six one of a kind Derby hats to raise funds to support the retired racehorses at Dream Chase Farm after their racing days are over.
Winner of the 1993 Florida Derby and celebrated son of Derby winner Ferdinand, Bull Inthe Heather was a beautiful champion. During our inaugural year of the “Hats Off to the Horses” auction I created a hat to honor Bully as he was affectionately called by those who got to know him. I chose to wait until now to share this tribute because I felt that he deserved a special blog spot all his own. Bull Inthe Heather came home to Dream Chase Farm in 2006. He was the most successful son of 1986 Kentucky Derby winner, Ferdinand, who had suffered a tragic death in a Japanese slaughterhouse in 2001; his death was a key inspiration in the creation and development of Old Friends. Although some might say that his son Bull Inthe Heather did not achieve the same level of racing greatness, he still managed to get plenty of tongues wagging about his chances in the 1993 Kentucky Derby after a decisive win in the G1 Florida Derby earlier that same year. He lost the Derby to Sea Hero, but in the following three racing seasons he placed 11 times and earned over $500,000 for his connections.
Bully was retired to Old Friends in 2006 where he spent 8 wonderful years enjoying the peace of Dream Chase farm and the company of many other Old Friends and admirers. President and founder of Old Friends, Michael Blowen states, “He was probably the toughest horse at Old Friends and yet he was kind and loved to have his back rubbed. He was a staff favorite and we will miss him very much.” Beth Shannon, a volunteer at Old Friends, relates, ” I miss him. Nothing will ever take the particular, special place that was Bull Inthe Heather’s.”
Years ago as Old Friends and I were choosing which horses to honor in our first “Hats Off to the Horses” fundraiser, I remember that Bully was an easy pick for all of us. Indeed, this most famous son of the great Ferdinand deserved a chapeau that would honor not only him but also his sire’s legacy. I knew from the start that a hat for Bull Inthe Heather needed to be one of bold design and substance. Described as cool blue-gray in color, I chose for this statuesque gray/roan stallion a pale winter white dupioni silk to fashion an asymmetrical “cocktail” design with bigger than life proportions to reflect his magnetic personality. To reflect Bull Inthe Heather’s beautiful dark points and also to honor his dam, Heather Road, I fashioned an oversized silver dupioni silk bow, lined with pale gray-blue organza, and laid it across the upturned front brim of the hat. This dramatic silk bow design provided the perfect backdrop for a stunning organza Marguerite fleur created out of alternating shades of gray, silver, and pale gray-blue organza for the petals, layered one upon the other. Sparkling blue buttons and marcasite jewels accented the center of the Marguerite. To capture the graceful, waving action of Bull Inthe Heather’s silver-gray mane and tail, silver silk organza “feathers” were creatively shaped to convey the idea of movement. Three ruched tails of dark silver, bejeweled gray, and pale gray-blue organza were added to reflect the powerful energy of this great stallion.
Sometime during that inaugural “Hats Off” year I created a postcard featuring the Bull Inthe Heather hat to include in the box of every hat that ships out from my studio, a memory of a horse that captured my heart and imagination. Since I create these hats at a distance, it can be difficult when I realize that some of these Old Friends, like Bully, may pass before I ever get the chance to meet them. But the more I reflect on his passing, or any of the other Old Friends, perhaps their greatest legacy is their example of how different the end-of-life experience can be for a racehorse when people care about their welfare and their last days don’t have to be sad or tragic. Bully was an unforgettable ambassador for Old Friends and their mission; my life is richer for having known him in such a special way.
Please enjoy this slideshow of Bull In the Heather and the hat that he inspired. Special thanks to Matt and Wendy Wooley of EquiSport Photos for their beautiful images of Bull.
To learn more about Bull Inthe Heather, please click on the Bull Inthe Heather webpage or visit the Bull Inthe Heather hat webpage. To learn more about our annual hat auction series, please visit the “Hats Off to the Horses” webpage. You can also learn about our previous hats at the Auction Hat Portfolio page.
‘Til next time, thank you for visiting Hats and Horses!