'Hat's Off to the Horses'

Published 8:42 AM ET, Fri May 3, 2013
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Sally Steinmann has never owned a horse, but her heart is full of love for them. Now, she creates hats in honor of retired racehorses at Old Friends. A hat is auctioned off to benefit their welfare each month for six months, leading up to the Kentucky Derby. Pictured here is a hat designed in honor of retiree Popcorn Deelites. Rick Capone
Rapid Redux retired to Old Friends in May 2012 after an impressive 22 consecutive victories. "His contribution to the sport of racing in ordinary races at blue-collar tracks called attention to the achievements of the majority of horses, who never win a stakes but provide the daily thrills and livelihood of the sport," according to Old Friends. EquiSport Photos
To honor Rapid Redux's 22 consecutive wins, Steinmann created 22 rose curls to adorn this hat, which utilizes the distinctive pink and yellow racing silks of owner Robert Cole Jr.'s racing stable. EquiSport Photos
Before retiring to Old Friends in 2008, Benburb finished his racing career with seven wins out of 22 starts and earnings of $1,159,904. He passed away in 2012. "Bennie," like many gray horses, had complications from melanoma. EquiSport Photos
Steinmann used nearly 12 yards of silver, black, ivory and white tulle layers to translate Benburb's legacy into fabric for the January 2012 auction. EquiSport Photos
Sarava arrived at Old Friends in September 2012. He won the Belmont Stakes in 2002 and was the longest shot ever to win the race. His former owner, Gary Drake, still comes to visit him every month and donated more than $30,000 to his aftercare.
EquiSport Photos
To honor Sarava, Steinmann wanted to highlight the horse's nearly black coloring with his racing silk colors of red and white, as well as red roses to represent the Kentucky Derby and white carnations for the Belmont Stakes. Rick Capone
Considered one of the fastest runners of his generation, Ogygian is also known for his breeding. As a stallion, he sired 23 stakes winners. Old Friends raised the money to bring him back to the United States after his breeding career in Japan. EquiSport Photos
When it comes to translating the legacy of a thoroughbred into a silk hat, Steinmann likes for her creations to mirror the rippling motion of a racehorse. To achieve this, she used rows and rows of alternating tulle layers, repeated under the brim as well. EquiSport Photos
Bull Inthe Heather (yep, that's how it's spelled), retired to Old Friends in 2006, is considered to be the greatest son of Ferdinand, who won the 1986 Kentucky Derby. The death of Ferdinand in a slaughterhouse in 2002 inspired the foundation of Old Friends. EquiSport Photos
Steinmann used her trademark silk "feathers" to mimic the horse's mane and tail, as well as his iconic blue-gray coloring and dark accents. EquiSport Photos
When Wallenda was brought home by Old Friends from his breeding career in Japan during April 2007, the Flying Wallendas themselves came out to the farm and put on a circus for the whole weekend, walking the high wire and wearing the silks the racehorse sported in the Kentucky Derby. EquiSport Photos
Dogwood Stable's yellow and green polka dot racing silks inspired the trimming colors for Wallenda's hat. Several strands of the great stallion's tail hairs were braided and woven into the trim of the hat itself. EquiSport Photos
Creator was owned by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, the ruler of Dubai and overseer of the world-renowned Godolphin Stables. He had a successful career and was retrieved from Japan in 2004 by Old Friends. EquiSport Photos
Steinmann purposefully made this hat asymmetrical because Creator is known for striking particular poses with his forelock to the side. EquiSport Photos
Arson Squad netted $1,190,181 during his racing career, but injuries ended it in 2011 during a training accident. His owner, Samantha Siegel, paid for his surgery, and he began his retirement with Old Friends in February 2012. EquiSport Photos
One of Steinmann's biggest creations, the Arson Squad hat, is 26 inches wide. She used a combination of his natural dark coloring and bright racing silks. The fanning black trim is meant to mimic his mane and tail. Courtesy Sally Faith Steinmann
Dancin' Renee retired to Old Friends at the age of 20 in September 2012. In her banner year, 1997, she claimed seven consecutive victories and was crowned New York Horse of the Year. Rick Capone
Dancin' Renee was named after her owner's mother-in-law, Renee, who was a dancer in the Ziegfield Follies. To capture the playful nature of Ziegfield and the horse's stable colors, Steinmann played with contrasting textures and tones in her design. Rick Capone
Wooden Phone, now Watson, was a warrior of a racehorse who kept beating the odds and numerous injuries to defeat likely winners. During his retirement, Wooden Phone stayed at LOPE Texas, a thoroughbred adoption farm, and met his future owner, Suzanne Minter, while she was rehabbing him. Thomas Reardon
To translate Wooden Phone's warm colors and "diva personality" in her design, Steinmann used dramatic layering of black and chocolate tulle around the brim. The looping and curling bow centerpiece is meant to reflect his "watchful eye" nature as well. Thomas Reardon
The beloved Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby in 2006 by seven lengths, but broke down in the Preakness Stakes after shattering his leg. He spent eight months at a treatment center, but succumbed to laminitis on January 29, 2007. Steinmann wanted to create a hat to remember Barbaro. Andy Lyons/Getty Images
"My way of coping with difficult things is to create, and I decided that I had to create a hat to honor Barbaro. I wanted it to be about his conformation, colors and his victories, not this completely sad memorial," Steinmann said. The red roses honor his incredible Derby win. Lydia A. Williams