Where It All Begins
~Sunday, June 27, 2021~
Another mad exit day at our campground, but a few of us linger. But who knows, with summer vacation, the vacant spots will likely be full by day’s end.
After a trip with the BlueBoy, we headed out for more horse adventures. This one was in Versailles (not far from Lexington) at Sun Valley Farm. The drive was beautiful as Thoroughbred horse country looks like God’s country.
And in this particular area, the barns are fancier than most homes. Many of these horses are treated like royalty. As we drove in the gate, the owner Jan led us in as we lined up car by car to drive to the Foaling Barn. Our group had about 10 cars. Their son Brett, now in his mid-20’s gave us the awesome tour. Nearly all of the horses were inside either napping or munching on hay/oats. It was here that we got a detailed explanation about how the family business started.
Barry and Jan had been in various businesses prior to becoming Thoroughbred breeders. He, an auto dealer, and she, the jam business. Everyone thought they were crazy to pack it all up and make the big move from Ohio to a Kentucky farm. They had never had any experience with horses prior. They purchased a tract of the property in 1997 from aviator Allen Paulson who was one of the world’s top Thoroughbred breeders. Due to ill health, Paulson sold off sections of his sprawling 1,600-acre property, with Barry and Jan being one of them. Their section of land is still enormous at 200 acres. And this family does it all. Their primary objective is to develop these foals to lead a happy and healthy life that will in turn produce a productive and successful outcome.
It’s amazing what goes into the whole business of breeding, raising, weaning and selling these beautiful animals. I was completely blown away when Brett’s answer to my question was, “we only have us and 2 other staff members that run the farm”. How do they do it all? They do everything. From 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. it’s nearly a 16-hour day, and even more so during foaling season. And on top of that, there are the many public and private tours they offer. Brett offers a Summer tour which focuses on weaning and registration, a Fall tour focuses on sale prep for the weanlings and they even offer a Twilight Tour at their home, complete with a Kentucky Hot Brown dinner and one-on-one time with the mares and foals. For us, it was still the Spring tour which covered the foaling and breeding of their horses. January and February are the ideal months to foal,
but some extend into April. They are typically weaned at 4 months. Most of the mares are not terribly attached to their offspring, considering them “just there”. The foals are a different story. So the weaning process can be quite challenging. Many of these foals will be sold at private auction at the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale and a few other horses will be retained for their own racing stable.
After the tour of the Foaling Barn, we followed Brett over to the home he grew up in since the age of 2, the old Samuel Pepper Homestead, built in 1831. It was built by the son of pioneer master distiller Elijah Pepper. Pepper’s distillery was built just across the lane on the banks of Glenn’s Creek many years ago. It was on this homestead that Elijah and his wife raised 5 children while tending to their livestock and crops. They are buried with other family members on the property.
After giving us a little of the historic perspective on the property and the home, we were then led to their detached garage, nice and shaded, where he offered us bottled water and peppermint (horses love peppermint). Here we watched a video about the farm and auction process. Even though owning a champion Thoroughbred is quite a lucrative prospect, the real money can be made in retirement. Example, Justify, the 2018 Triple Crown Winner, was sold for a reported $75 million to Coolmore Stud and now commands up to $150,000 for each mating encounter. Those encounters can be up to 3 per day.
What a lovely day. Definitely a highlight for us while in Kentucky, the Horse Capital of the World. Thank you Brett for such a fantastic tour! As of today, we’re big fans, and will certainly be back.
After our tour, Jeff finally gave into a haircut. He just couldn’t take it anymore since it had been 4 months since his last. His stylist was a little too eager, as the back looks more like a crew-cut. But I have a happier husband now. Around the corner, a little grocery shopping was in order. When we got back we decided to give Billie Jean a wash. It’s been difficult to find the perfect spot to wash her since many campgrounds don’t allow it. We became inspired by all the Instagram posts of people’s shiny clean rigs and since it had been we can’t remember when since our last cleaning, we thought it high-time. Before Jeff gave the trailer a good wash, he took Sadie over to the boat launch area while I stayed back to work on the truck. When he got back, he showed me his war wound. Apparently, while bending down to get Sadie’s ball, standing on wet, slippery rocks, he slipped and fell on his elbow. Quite a bad gash but he assures me he doesn’t need stitches. After a little disinfecting and bandaging, he was back in business, managing to clean the entire trailer. For me, vacuuming the truck alone took me 1-½ hours, thanks to all that Sadie hair, and about 4 hours to completely detail. Working on the inside of a car in 90 degree humid weather was no fun. Hopefully tomorrow night while I’m washing the outside, we’ll have more favorable temps.
While we were outside working, some new neighbors pulled in directly across from us in their Class C. Sue and Jim, from Connecticut are doing a 2-month tour of the West and Southwest, currently heading back home. Very nice couple. They leave the same day we do, so maybe tomorrow night, we can have some mingle time.