Attached to Lyphard

By Marion Gross
I don't know anywhere else you can go and see a 35-year-old horse. I would like for Stop the Music to eat more but he seems happy and healthy. Guess he eats as much as he wants. Older people don't eat as much either.

We had to put down Lyphard last week (June 10) at age 36. You hate to see them go but you don't want them to suffer or be in any pain. He had trouble getting up the last month. It was time.

People ask how we get them to live to be so old. No one knows the answer but I think it has to do with how we turn them out every morning before 7 and don't bring them up until 12:30. They like the time in their paddocks. We also aren't afraid to change their feed if we feel it is warranted. We weigh them every 30 days and I can maintain their weight.

I kept Lyphard's spot in the cemetery for him, right between Riverman and Green Dancer. We put him down in his paddock. It's hard to let go because you get so attached to them. But you have to look to the future.

April 7 marked 42 years I've been here and I've worked with a lot of horses. Joe Taylor hired me and he and John Gaines were both great horsemen, very smart and very accommodating to breeders. Since the Becks bought the farm in 1988, nothing has changed... great people to work for. I became the stallion manager in 1968 and have worked with a lot of great horses.

We had four stallions when I started in 1963 and in 1982 we stood 50 stallions. We bred 4,500 mares that season and were the first to go to two sessions a day. People were very skeptical. Once during the 1982 season, with two sheds doing two sessions, we bred 76 mares in one day. You were in the breeding shed for 3 1/2 hours each session.

We were able to do so because of the men who have worked here through the years. It took 25 men back then and they all knew their jobs. It was something to see.

A stallion doesn't get to know the personalities of his handlers; the handlers get to know the stallion's personality. Each stallion is different and you must be very observant. Off the racetrack, we quarantine a new stallion for 30 days so we can observe; begin to learn his habits and traits.

Faraway Son and Dickens Hill were the most aggressive stallions I worked with...mean horses. Vaguely Noble was my favorite; I loved being around him. Green Dancer was very particular; sometimes it took him 45 minutes and we might have to bring in a test mare to get him going; Lyphard was such a kind horse, a 10-year-old kid could lead him in with a piece of string. Crimson Satan and Stage Door Johnny were very focused horses; you better have the mare ready when they walked in because they were all business. Colonial Affair and Plugged Nickle were two that disappointed me; the biggest surprise was Lear Fan.

After we buried Lyphard, we were talking and I thought about Green Dancer, Riverman, Arts and Letters, Explodent, Key to the Mint, Stage Door Johnny, Vaguely Noble, and so many others. The measuring stick for me has never been how many stakes winners they sire. If they are here for 10 breeding seasons, I know they have become a very good sire. Otherwise, we would have moved them out.

I like a sire that stamps his get, both inside and outside. They have his looks and they have his heart.

We've also raised many good horses here. As a yearling, the best I ever saw was Hoist the Flag. He dominated his paddock and you knew he was going to be a top racehorse.

Not a day goes by that I don't take a drive around the stallion paddocks to check on each one of them. Stop the Music and Lear Fan are near where Lyphard, Big Spruce, and Explodent lived out their retirements. Pensioned Broad Brush, 22, is across from Cozzene, who is still active at 25.

You couldn't ask for more from a stallion than Lyphard, to sire 115 stakes winners and have his daughters produce another 206.

I'm 65 now and still look to the future. We're proud of the horses in the cemetery, but the next great stallion is out there somewhere.