Kentucky "Horse-Play" Off the Track

It comes as a surprise to no one that one of the most popular aspects of Kentucky culture centers around thoroughbred horse racing.


As home to the Kentucky Derby, or “the most exciting two minutes in sports” for almost 150 years, the annual event draws millions of spectators and horse enthusiasts from all over the world. However, horse culture in the Bluegrass State, as well as the thoroughbreds themselves, go far beyond racing.


Here are some horse themed attractions and activities outside of the racetrack that encourage visitors to get to know another side of these beautiful animals.  



Horse Retirement Farm Tours


Like people, there comes a time when a horse needs to retire from their job or find something else to do. Luckily for them there are farms that specialize in helping these horses find news homes and sometimes new careers.


Through organizations like Horse Country, the general public can book tours at horse farms all over Bluegrass region.


Second Stride is a national equine adoption program and its participating horse farms specializes in helping retired racing thoroughbreds find homes and, when applicable, second careers after they have run their last race. Since 2005 the group has helped more than 1,500 thoroughbreds find new homes.


They offer tours of its flagship facility in Oldham County. Guests will learn about the retraining and rehoming process and meet current trainees, as well as interact with the Thoroughbred ambassadors that reside at the farm, including Kentucky Derby contender General A Rod, graded stakes winner Warrior’s Club and million dollar winner Hawaakom.  


Headquartered on the outskirts of Lexington, New Vocations is the oldest and largest racehorse adoption program in the country, having placed 8,500 horses since 1992.  


Learn about the founding and 30 year history of this nonprofit program. Experiences may include greeting retired racehorses in the barns and pastures, discovering the adoption process, meeting our permanent equine resident, Ranger, and his important duties, and the many different jobs these retired athletes go on to do.


The Kentucky Horse Park:


Located in Lexington, is a 1,229 acre Kentucky State Park that celebrates all things horse, and it is home to some 115 horses representing more than three dozen different breeds.


One of the parks most popular attractions is the Parade of Breeds Show.  The twice daily show treats visitors to a live historical narrative that highlights man’s 6,000-year bond with the horse. Different breeds are introduced to the public and afterwards, you can greet and take pictures of your favorite breeds.


Other mainstays of the park include the four museums, all of which are located on the property.


The International Museum of the Horse (IMH), a Smithsonian Affiliate, examines the role of horses throughout world history, from ancient times to today’s most popular sporting events. In addition to permanent and featured exhibits, the IMH exhibits a collection of equine art from artists around the world.


An 8,000-square feet museum wing added to IMH in 2010, The Al-Marah Arabian Horse Galleries focuses on Arabian horses and caters to younger visitors with an interactive multimedia experience. This museum gives visitors a look at writings, films and art that explore the timeline of the Arabian breed in world history.


The American Saddlebred Museum highlights the role Saddlebred horses have played in American history and culture. From a large research library to exhibits and a gift shop, this museum is the world’s best place to learn about American Saddlebreds.


At the Wheeler Museum, visitors can admire a collection of equestrian memorabilia–from antique equipment to trophies, pictures and more. This museum focuses on show jumping horses and competitions. 


Trail Riding:


For those who are looking for places to take their horses, Kentucky has mile after mile of trails that are ideal for horseback riding. 


Mammoth Cave Horse Camp opens in late April and offers scenic beauty on trails that surround the largest explored cave system in the world.  Reservations include breakfast Saturday and Sunday mornings and dinner on Saturday night. Be sure to bring your dancing boots to scoot to the music after dinner on Saturday.


Kentucky State Parks offer a variety of horse campsites in certain parks. Carter Caves State Resort Park in eastern Kentucky offers 8 pull-through campsites specifically designed for horse owners included with electric, water, and hitching posts for up to four horses and over 12 miles of horse trails. Further west, Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park also has 8 pull-through campsites with similar amenities and a 1.25 mile horse trail in the campground connects campers with over 40 miles of horse trails in adjacent Pennyrile State Forest.


There are 18 Kentucky Trail Towns near the best outdoor action in the state, including hundreds of miles of trails for runners, hikers, cyclists and equestrians. Trail town Livingston is in the Daniel Boone National Forest and has the Red Hill horse camp where riders can ride into town, hitch their horses and enjoy local sights such as the historic Livingston School and Trail Town Visitor Center.

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