Located in the heart of the Bluegrass, the Kentucky Horse Park has been near and dear to my heart since 1991, the year of my first visit (see the little girl on the horse, that’s me!). It is because of that visit I can assure you, love at first sight is real. As a young tot, I would reach out to the soft noses hovering above my head and hope for the horses to deem me worthy of their attention and affection. They are all so use to the overwhelming amounts of attention; however, it didn’t matter for one horse. His name was Teton. Teton was eye catching and our hearts clicked in 1991. The connection continued as I grew older. The pony phase didn’t end like people told my parents it would, instead it grew through reading. We may not have had horses at the house, but horses are all over the pages of literature: Black Beauty, the Thoroughbred Series, The Saddle Club, etc. Through these books I lived as Ginger, Ashley, and Carole cherishing these imagined moments with horses.
In the 5th grade, I spent a week in Lexington for Spring Break – each day my family and I went to the horse park, and everyday I found Teton. The staff saw this repeat visitor and asked for the story behind the daily visits. It was easy, I had fallen in love at first sight with Teton and it only makes since to visit. From that point forward, thanks to an amazing barn manager and supportive staff I became a volunteer for the Kentucky Horse Park. All of that to say my review of the KHP will be biased with love, memories, and adoration for a home away from home.
For basic information on tickets and hours and whatnot – you can check out their website kyhorsepark.com
The best way to experience the horse park for me is to first experience all that is awesome about the drive into the park. You can see the rolling Kentucky pasture crossed with white plank fencing. Sometimes, gentle giants (the draft horses) will be grazing as you roll into the main drive.
Once you park and head towards the visitor center stop and enjoy the amazing stonework throughout the entrance! Rich in history the stone fence signals you are in real horse country. Before even entering the visitors center to the right is a statue of Secretariat and his groom.
One of the best ways to get I learned about the park was to take the Draft Horse Tours – you get to view the park from a trolley pulled by a team of two powerful and gentle draft horses. The tour included an explanation of the facilities on the park grounds, history, and rich equine traditions. My heart is in the Breeds Barn. At the Breeds Barn you will find the most diverse group of horses around. From Quarter Horses to Appaloosas to Morgans to English Shires to Kiger Mustangs to Paso Finos! Twice a day at 11am EST and 2pm EST, during the showing season, you learn about these diverse breeds. Each show, the exhibitors are in costume to accompany their equine companion to educate audiences on breeds and disciplines. After the show, you are able to meet with the riders and pet the horses for a question and answer session.
A quick walk up the sidewalk behind the Breeds Barn and you will find another gem of the park – the Hall of Champions. Here you can get up close in personal with some of the industries most famous horses! My favorite, John Henry lived at the park for several years until passing away in 2007. He was a prime example of how the thoroughbred racing world never really knows what they will find. This 6 million dollar earning gelding took his snarky attitude to the bank and I like those sassy horses. Today, Cigar, Da Hoss, Funny Cide, and Go For Gin bring in crowds who love the thoroughbred racing history. Other famous athletes include American Quarter Horse Be A Bono, Standardbred Trotter Mr. Muscleman, and Standardbred Pacers Staying Together, Western Dreamer, and Won The West. You can learn all about their awesomeness at one of the daily shows.
There are many great parts of the park I haven’t even touched on – the famous and History Big Barn, the educational International Museum of the Horse, Pony and Trail Rides, the on-site farrier (if you are lucky you can see him in action!), and numerous events year round (including internationally well-known events such as Rolex).
During the winter, the shows go on hiatus (just like Greys Anatomy, the stars of the horse park deserve some vacation too). However, you can enjoy the Southern Lights and Holiday Festival. Driving through a lovely light show and ending with a Christmas celebration with an awesome train display, petting zoo, and classic treats!
You can’t talk Bluegrass State without talking horses. The Kentucky Horse Park is the prime location to get your equine adventures started. Connect to a culture and a way of life that is different than most – one that centers around a four legged animal with a heart that is larger than life.