As you pour your car over the rolling country hills of Kentucky, on any spring morning, the shimmer of damp blue grass highlights the beautifully manicured horse farms hemmed in by immaculate white fences extending as far as the eye can see. If you’re lucky, you can catch a glimpse of a young foal bucking in a pasture, or a group of young adolescents stretching their legs with a quick game of tag. This is horse country..
For nearly two centuries, horses have been stabled on the land that is now home to Kentucky Horse Park. Founded in 1978, it remains the world’s only park dedicated solely to man’s relationship to the horse. Its 1,200 acres celebrate racing history, the impact of horses on society and also offers a pretty cool place to have a business meeting. As says their former motto, “this is the heart of the horse capital of the world.”
We stumbled upon the park while in search to pay respects at the grave of Man O’ War – perhaps the greatest race horse of all time – which is outside Kentucky’s Horse Park. How we could not have had this on our list of must-sees is beyond me. I guess as Ohioans, we take Kentucky’s beauty and history for granted. Not anymore.
The park is absolutely beautiful and there’s so much to do. A gift shop, multiple museums and exhibits designed to, as Executive Director John Nicholson explains, celebrate that “the heart of the horse finds its earthly counterpart in the people whose hearts beat in rhythm with his.” And as you walk around the park, you find the truth in his statement.
Our first stop after buying tickets was the Hall of Champions Show which today introduced visitors to a few of racing’s most adored horses from Funnycide to Cigar who, at his retirement in 1996 was the leading money winner, earning nearly $10,000,000 for his doting owners. The staff played clips of each of four horses key race wins before a handler brought the horse out to applause from the crowd.
Horses are without question, powerful, startlingly beautiful creatures, but these horses were more so. They oozed athleticism, even at their advancing age, and seemed as if they could hop back out on the track at any moment and pull a few lengths ahead. But, they’re more likely – as they’re all enjoying retirement – to have a nice roll in the dirt or just enjoy some hay in the barn.
We then made a beeline for the Horses of the World show which offers a parade of a variety of horse breeds from around the globe. We got the chance to get up close and personal with the horses and talk with the trainers following the show – unfortunately, you didn’t get this access and you’ll just have to enjoy the pictures below. For more information, click here.