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Three Perfect Days: Horse Country




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There’s no doubt we are in horse country as we approach the Georgetown-Lexington area. The terrain changes and we are now travelling through lush rolling pastures outlined with board fences and barns built for royalty.  On this day we  even caught a glimpse of some of the resident blue bloods.

Our first stop is Old Friends Farm, a home for retired thoroughbreds, a living museum of horse racing.  Every horse at the farm has a story to tell and the friendly staff was more than willing to share them as we got to meet some of the retired champions. 

After leaving Old Friends, near Georgetown, it was just a short drive to the Kentucky Horse Park.  Before beginning the tour we grabbed a great lunch at the Bit and Bridle Restaurant on the grounds.  This park is THE place to get close to horses.   There are more than 40 breeds living at the park.  Besides the self-guided tour of the park and equine presentations, our admission included the world-renowned International Museum of the Horse, a Smithsonian affiliate and  the American Saddlebred Museum.  After a fulfilling afternoon we checked into our Lexington hotel and enjoyed the evening exploring the Horse Capital of the World.

Bright and early the next day we followed a tip to visit the Track Kitchen at historic Keeneland Race Track.  In addition to a hearty breakfast we were able to watch early morning workouts and mingle with mangers, trainers, jockeys and grooms.  For a few hours we felt we were part of Kentucky’s horse racing industry.  

By late morning we were ready for a break so we jumped in the car and headed to Claudia Sanders Dinner House in Shelbyville (about an hour drive.)  This is the restaurant that Col. Harland Sanders and his wife Claudia founded  in 1968.  Following a leisurely lunch of delicious Southern fare we are off to learn about the American Saddlebred Horse (the only horse indigenous to Kentucky) on a tour arranged through the Shelbyville/Shelby County tourism office.  These beautiful horses are bred for the show ring and many compete annually at the World Champion Horse Show held every August in Louisville.  

We decide to overnight in Shelbyville and spend the evening at the Outlet Shoppes of the Bluegrass, an upscale shopping destination.  (Louisville would also be a convenient overnight stay)  

No trip to Kentucky Horse Country would be complete without a visit to the home of the world’s most famous horse race, Louisville’s Churchill Downs.  Day three of our trip finds us there and we excitedly enter the Kentucky Derby Museum.  We become absorb in the culture that defines the Kentucky Derby, from the large women’s hats to the mint juleps we can hardly take it all in.  But our visit does not stop inside the walls of the museum.   Admission includes a tour of the race track.  Not a bad way to spend a morning and cap off what has been three nearly perfect days.  

We need to get on the road for our trip home but are beguiled by other Louisville attractions: Muhammad Ali Center, Belle of Louisville, underground ziplining at Mega Caverns, and the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience just to name a few.   While we can’t fit them into this trip we will definitely be back and using kentuckytourism.com to help plan the trip.