Get Up Close and Personal with the Horses at the Kentucky Horse Park!
By: Anne Kent
Kentucky is the place to experience the profound bond between humans and horses. We're not ashamed to say that we're obsessed with horses, whether horses are on the track, running free across a field or grazing on a farm. Visitors from all over the world visit Kentucky to experience the "unbridled spirit" of horses in the flesh and if you have just arrived, we suggest that your first visit be to the Kentucky Horse Park.
The Kentucky Horse Park has a long and rich history, having been home to horses for over 200 years. The farm is the only one in the world which is dedicated to the celebration of man’s bond with the horse, featuring a host of attractions to entertain the entire family for a full day. One of the most interesting parts of the Park is the Hall of Champions – this space celebrates the adrenaline of the racetrack, with horses famed for their beauty and velocity – including Da Hoss, Go for Gin and Won the West. The horses are presented to the public in a fun show, during which children and adults alike can learn more about what makes a winning race horse.
Equally dazzling is the Parade of Breeds Show, which takes place every day at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. The park staff combine music, historical narrative and interactive activities to highlight man’s 6,000-year bond with the horse. Different breeds are introduced to the public and afterwards, you can take greet and take pictures of your favorite breeds. One of the best things about the park is the friendly staff – feel free to ask riders any questions about horses. They will keep you entertained with their anecdotes of daily life alongside this noble animal. If you own a horse or are thinking of buying one, this is also a good time to see the work involved. Visit the Breed Barns to see how to bathe, groom and train a horse!
Culture vultures will love the museums, featuring beautiful imagery and sculptures, but also providing lots of information about horses via interactive multimedia experiences, texts, audiovisual material and art. The Park also houses exhibits, one of which focuses on equestrian sculpture. Check out the true-to-life sculpture of 1987 Kentucky Derby winner, Alysheba, by Shelly Hunter. This horse proudly won six Grade 1 stakes and was ridden by legendary jockey, Chris McCarron, in 17 consecutive starts!
Then there is the dramatic sculpture of Bask by Edwin Bogucki, located in foyer of the International Museum of the Horse. This horse was awarded the title of U.S. National Champion Stallion and National Top Ten Three-Gaited Horse, an achievement which is unique in the Arabian show horse sector. Bask also produced more champion horses than any other Arabian stud. Sadly, the beautiful horse passed away in 1979 – he can now be visited at the Champions Cemetery.
The Park also encourages Kentucky’s favorite activity – horseback riding. This all-time American passion for the equestrian arts can probably only be matched by keen riders in the UK, who also boast a deep and highly-valued relationship with the horse. Indeed, visitors from the UK can often be found at Kentucky’s major equestrian events, especially showjumping events with an international flair. If you are visiting from abroad, make sure your travel itinerary includes this type of sporting activity, which is a must when visiting Kentucky.
The Kentucky Horse Park offers lots of fun activities, including Youth Riding Camps, which take place throughout the year. Kids aged eight to 16 (beginners and more seasoned riders alike) take part in a host of on- and off-horseback activities, learning everything from how to ride to the basics of horsemanship, arts and crafts, mounted games and stable management. They also take part in the backstage aspects of the Park’s daily shows, and learn about the history of horsemanship at the International Museum of the Horse.
Of course, your visit to the Kentucky Horse Park will probably just whet your appetite for more horse-centered activities and there is plenty more to do: visit Churchill Downs to catch an exciting race, raise the stakes at Keeneland or make your way to the Kentucky Derby Museum, where you can learn more about the excitement of one of the world’s most celebrated races.