July 26, 2010

The Kentucky Horse Park

This past Saturday, as we were stuck in Lexington, KY with no where to go, I asked Malcolm to drop me off at the Kentucky Horse Park. He wasn't interested in walking around in the heat and its really more my thing than his, so for the first time ever I went to a museum/park all by myself...and loved it! I had always shyed away from going to places alone, but not anymore. It was kind of nice to go through at my own pace and not have to take anyone elses interests into consideration, or worry about others having a good time., It was just me, and all the horses I could soak in in a days time.

 We took a chance that we could squeeze into the parking area for horse trailers, but as it turned out, there was a huge empty parking lot not being used. And, though I felt slightly guilty over this, I think they thought we were making a delivery because they waved us through the gate and didnt' charge us the parking fee of $5. I at first felt like I was stealing, but then I decided they were stealing too since they charge $5 to park and then another $20/person to go in the park. Maybe I should have spoken up, but its too late now. Anyway, we parked in that huge open lot in the shade and no one ever said anything so that is where Malcolm spent the day, in the AC, while I tromped around horse lovers heaven in the extreme southern summer heat. I don't regret it at all!

The Kentucky Horse Park was started in the 1970's and is a treat to the horse lovers soul. I went as a pre-teen on a family vacation and have wanted to return ever since. I'm glad I didn't pass up the opportunity. It was so hot that many of the horses, they have at least 40 breeds there at the park, were turned out. But I was fortunate enough to show up on the weekend that the park was hosting Breyerfest, and so there were TONS of horses there with their owners. It was SO MUCH FUN!
I went a little camera happy. What horse person can help doing that when you are surrounded by so many horses and buried in a horse environment. So, I'm going to try and limit words, so as to post pictures and not keep you here all day. I narrowed my 513 pictures (I told you I got camera happy) down to 60. I just can't get it any fewer than that! So...get comfortable. Here we go!

The first thing I did was admire the beautiful sculptures that are near the visitor center.
Below is Man O' War's grave site. Normally surrounded by a fountain, but it was under construction. Still, I was impressed with the memorial to this great horse!
The Morgan Horse Sculpture
and a non-breed specific sculpture
Because the majority of the people had gone to Breyerfest, I had the rest of the park practically all to myself! I hit the Draft Barn first hoping to get to watch them harnessing up for trolley rides. Unfortunately it was so hot, they were actually UN-harnessing a team, and the rest of the day they used a tractor. But I was still one of the only people in the Draft Barn, and so I got to visit with the handlers and the barn manager while they worked.
This gentle giant is a Suffolk Punch. He was ready to do some major socializing provided he could stay close to his fan. They all had a fan strapped to their stall railings and several of them had stationed themselves in a position to optimize the breeze.
After the Draft Barn I made my way to the Hall of Champions.
Not an over statement. This barn really does house 4-6 champions. For example....

Some of you may remember this 20 year old Thoroughbred Stallion, a son of Seattle Slew. Cigar was voted horse of the year 2 years in a row and horse of the decade in the 1990's. His career earnings total $9,999,815.  That is one fine race horse!

This guy, the most social in the barn, is CH Gypsey Supreme.
He is a five gaited American Saddlebred, with a number of World Champion and Grand Champion titles under his belt, including Gaited Horse of the Decade for the 1990's.

From the Hall of Champions I made my way to the Breed Barn because it was almost time for the Parade of Breeds.
The park puts on two shows a day in which they feature 5-6 different breeds of horses, and a different group in each show. This time they were also featuring different disciplines and equine sports to promote the upcoming FEI World Equestrian Games which are being held at the park this year.
During the breeds shows, the horse and rider do a demo/prance around the arena, while the speaker tells about the history and features of the breed.

The show was begun by the American Paint proudly carrying the flag for the national anthem. (look, he's got blue eyes like Sky!)
the Palamino
the Andalusian
the Connemara Pony
the Arabian
 a new one for me...the Knabstrutter...is marked like the American Appaloosa but is actually an European breed.
the Fresian
some type of French Draft, but I forgot the breed name (and failed to take in pen and paper, ugh!)
and I forgot this one's name as well, but he was very patient. He was in is first month of training.
and last, the "Kentucky favorite," the Thoroughbred
A neat feature of the park is that pretty much everything is open to the public. The horses are not kept out of arms reach. So after the Parade of Breeds, the riders take their horses to the fence and the crowd is invited down to pet the horses, and talk to the riders, ask questions, etc.
It is truly an educational experience and I loved watching all the children wrapped up in delight and excitement, getting exposed to SO much horse education!

Once the breed show was over they had a break and then did a "Mare and Foal" show in which they talked about gestation, growth and development, and general information about horses. The park does not breed horses, but local owners sometimes loan their mares and foals for the park to raise and display. Currently they only have these two pairs of mini's.
one of which was ready for a nap. She didn't believe in the old saying "the show must go on."

in fact, she was ready for a serious nap. And I don't think this was staged either.
After the Mare and Foal show I made my way over towards the big arena to see what Breyerfest was all about.  The first thing I encountered were lots and lots of booths set up, almost like a craft show or fair, but it was all Breyer stuff, or horse crafts! I didn't buy anything, but it was fun looking.
This went on around the walkway in the arena, while on the arena floor, Breyer was displaying various breeds and disciplines in the horse world. Some of these were the actual Breyer models.
Some of the 4-H girls on their way to the arena for a demo. Don't they looks grand?!
Just made my heart swell with pride!
I said earlier that because of the heat, many of the park horses were turned out, but that I lucked out in being there for Breyerfest! This is because, though the arena did not draw me much, the barns were open to the public, and they were FULL of horses and owners and handlers getting ready for their turn in the arena. There was grooming, bathing, hitching up, all sorts of things going on!
I posted the above picture on Facebook and a girl I knew in high school commented that that is her car mirror on the left. She was there with the Fresian people, showing, and we never recognized each other! Small world!
This gentleman saw me with my camera and generously took the time to get his 3 year old Fresian to pose for me.
nd of course I had to visit with the not so little Fresian foal that was determined to get out of his stall and do his own exploring.

I visited a bit with this guy, a Gypsy Horse.

and after much searching high and low, I finally ran across the Bluegrass Morgan Horse Association and their horses. They were, by far, the friendliest of all the people there, including the park staff, and I spent a good half hour of more visiting with them and learning what I could from them about Morgans.
This is Aspen, who was tired of socializing.

and Snoopy who couldn't get enough of the company!

There were still others to see. These guys were getting ready to go on.
and this 4-H'er was having a "discussion" with her horse over who was really in charge.

One of the star performances was William Shatner with his horse All Glory.

and inside the museum, Priscilla Presley was autographing Breyer horses as part of the press conference to announce the Elvis Presley Graceland Stable exhibit coming to the park soon.

I didn't want to stand in line for (or pay) so I just took a picture. It was free.

After all that outside touring, I was HOT, so I hit the museum. They have a special exhibit running through October that features the Arabian and its history along with many artifacts. It was very good.

 And the main part of the museum that is up all the time, was really neat. It covers horse history from prehistoric to current events. Once you cover the prehistoric history, you enter a wide winding hallway that moves in an upward direction and acts as a timeline of horse history. Featuring when certain breeds were developed, important roles horses played in history, etc. It was a neat design and a wonderful display. You arrive on the second floor and a gallery of modern horse accomplishments.
By this time I was worn out, starving, and just done! So I headed to the truck and we hit the road. I left the Kentucky Horse Park with the same feeling of elation that I took with me as a kid on that vacation! It is definitely worth the drive and the $20 admission price! My only word of advice really is that I think I'd wait till Spring or Fall as you'll be much more comfortable and there will likely be more horses present and up close. Or, brave the heat and go to Breyerfest! That was so cool. I think I'll have to go back again sometime.


small farm girl said...

Isn't that the best place in the world! When I saw Man-O-War's grave, I almost cried. Having worked with race horses, he means a lot. I also got to feed Cigar when I was there. We went in the winter. lol. Not that many people then. lol

Shirley said...

Thanks for the tour! I'll probably never get there so it was nice to see the photos.

Reddunappy said...

Wow I would love to visit there!!! My Hubby wouldnt go through it with me either LOL
I also really want to go the the Appaloosa museum in Idaho!! That is a little closer to me LOL
Great pictures! Love love loved the tour!!!!

Reddunappy said...

Oh I forgot to mention! Love that William Shatner was there. It would be a pipe dream of mine to ride cutting horses with Shatner!!!
Dont know why, maybe from watching Star Trek all these years! LOL

Sharon Tachenko said...

How fun for you, Sarah! I'm so glad you "risked" the going-it-alone trip and just did it! It IS a beautiful park! We did a big extended family trip there one HOT summer day in about 1980. Lots of memorable pictures of that day!

So GLAD you went. . . fun seeing all your pictures. It must have been quite an experience for you. The only thing that would have made it better is sharing it with Rachelle, huh - someone who loves those beautiful creatures as much as you ! ! !

Meagan said...

Seriously cool! :-) I'm so glad you got to go! NOW I want to go! I remember being there as kids, but not in great detail. I am sure I would appreciate it more as an adult! :-)

Anonymous said...

Dee from Tennessee

As they say, "If the Good Lord is willing and the creek don't rise....," I am going! (It'll be a great weekend trip for us -- and I think a former coworker is from Lexington so maybe if I contact her she'll give me tips about somewhere good to eat! It's all about the food..LOL) Thanks for the tour!!

Judy said...

I've been to the Kentucky Horse Park. It is awesome as you seem to have found out! Love your photos and your jounaling about all of it! There is always something new down there at the KY Horse Park. I hope I get to visit it again sometime! My 8yr old granddaughter is horsecrazy and going with her would make it even better!