The Bluegrass Region
~Friday, June 25, 2021~
Another horse day in the “Horse Capital of the World.”, Lexington, Kentucky. Today we’re touring Kentucky Horse Park. This working horse farm set on 1,200 acres in the heart of the Bluegrass Region, is THE place to get up close and personal with horses, with numerous attractions, museums, and of course horse rides. With its purpose mainly toward equine education of the relationship between man and horse, they are also a competition facility, and even offer campgrounds on the beautiful property. With all there is to see and do, we now see why your park pass is good for 2 days. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to see the Saddlebred Museum and the International Horse Museum and won’t be able to return again tomorrow due to the hour long drive from our campground. Hopefully we’ll be back at a later date.
The park is gorgeous with its many lush, green, brown fenced
pastures with horses grazing throughout. There are a number of buildings to tour, i.e. Visitor Center, the Kids Barn, the Mounted Police Barn, the Breeds Barn, the Big Barn (the size of a football field), and the Hall of Champions, and Sadie was allowed in all of them. She even mingled a bit with a few horses, some of which took an interest in her too.
One of our first attractions of the day was the Parade of Breeds Show, performed in the arena directly in front of the Breeds Barn. There were about 5 breeds introduced with their riders, both dressed in colorful attire that evoked the culture from whichever country and time period they were highlighting.
Soon after, we hopped on the horse drawn covered trolley (yes, Sadie joined us too). Pulled by 2 draft horses, we got a 10-minute tour of the horse park, led by a real speaker, not a piped in recording. We learned quite a bit about horse-speak so thought we’d share a little with ya’ll.
🐎Gelding-neutered male horse
🐎Stallion-non-neutered male horse
🐎Dam-a mother horse
🐎Sire-a father horse
🐎Foal-A female or male horse or pony under 1 year
🐎Colt-A male horse or pony under 4 years of age that has not been gelded
🐎Filly-A female or or pony under 4 years of age
🐎Weanling-a foal that has been weaned (generally between 5-6 months)
🐎Yearling-a female or male horse that is between 1 and 2
🐎Mare-a female horse or pony over 4 years
The third attraction which was one of our favorites, was the Derby Winner Nightcap. We learned a great deal on this tour and am ready to share! It was here that we met 2 Kentucky Derby winners, now in their happy and healthy retirement years. I swear, these horses look like they could still race today. The first horse “Go For Gin”
(named after the card game Gin Rummy), won the 1994 Kentucky Derby and currently is the world’s oldest living Derby winner. In 1991, 40,000 Thoroughbred horses were foaled in North America, with 14 entering the starting gate 3 years later. The track that day was “sloppy” and “Go For Gin” loved a sloppy track. It had been decades since the track on derby day was considered “sloppy”. Amazing odds! He came in second that same year in both the Preakness and Belmont Stakes, missing the Triple Crown Trophy by a combined margin of only 2-¾ lengths. Retired due to injury at 4 years old, “Go For Gin” then launched his stud career in Kentucky at Claiborne Farm before moving to Bonita Farms. He is the sire of a whopping 443 named foals (been a little busy) and has been at Kentucky Horse Park for about 10 years, where he lives solo in his paddock, with the stallion that he is.
Another Derby winner from 2003 was “Funny Cide”.
His odds on race day were 13-1, a complete underdog, where he beat the royally bred favorite “Empire Maker”. He, too, nearly won the Triple Crown as well. In fact, his win at the Preakness was won by 9 lengths and he came in third at Belmont in the same year. He became the first horse bred in New York to win America’s greatest race and the first gelding (neutered) to win the Derby since 1929. It had been 74 years since a gelding had won the Kentucky Derby. What’s even more amazing, is his owners were just a group of small business owners who loved horses and racing, but really knew nothing about owning a horse. 10 guys basically bought a “lottery ticket” and hit the jackpot. “Funny Cide” jockey, Jose Santos summed it up perfectly…..“I’ve been riding for 27 years, and this is the best horse I’ve ever ridden in my life.” I was pretty awestruck that we were in the company of such rockstars.
The perfect way to cap off our visit was to actually ride. I couldn’t talk Jeff into it, so he and Sadie just watched from the sidelines. What a turnout. The staff said this was one of the largest groups they've had in a long time (about 25). As we checked in and lined up in our designated areas (beginners vs. those with 10+ hours of riding experience), we were assigned our horses. I must say, it was kind of funny to hear the staff ask, “everyone get closer together so we can fit everyone on the platform”. “Everyone closer?” A bit strange since we’ve all been keeping 6 feet of distance for 18 months. My horse, “Bull-Dog”, was anything but; as gentle as could be. Helmets are not required, but I opted for one (‘ya just never know). We did a 30- minute guided trail ride on the outskirts of the park. And the scenery was absolutely lovely. There was one mishap in the group when a few horses got a little nippy at each other causing one of the riders to lose his balance and fall off, but in the end, it was all o.k.
Since she was such a trooper all day, we took Sadie down to the boat launch area for a little swim before dinner time. The water was very refreshing! Had a beautiful evening back at the campground…a slight breeze, no bugs, very little humidity and it was nice to eat before dark. The skies still looked a bit twilight-like, even at 9:30. The longer the days, the better!