life in and around NYC is insane

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Kentucky Horse Park

When you arrive at Bluegrass Field, on the grounds of the airport you will find sculptures of horses with jockeys and trainers, reminders that you are in "horse country".


So what do you do when you're in horse country and you've got a few hours to kill?

Well, unless you hate horses, you head to the Kentucky Horse Park, of course.

There are two aspects to the park, historical exhibits and living horses housed there.

Even before you enter the Visitor's Center, you can view tributes to Man o' War, considered to be the greatest racehorse of his time, and Triple Crown winner Secretariat.

Included with your admission is entry into the International Museum of the Horse. I didn't go into the museum until very late in the afternoon, when I was tired and hungry, so it felt a bit overwhelming. Yes, there really is a lot to see in the museum. The evolution of the horse in prehistoric times, the development of the horse's relationship with humans. Horses were once considered prey until they were domesticated! There were exhibits about horses and chariots in ancient Egypt, horse racing at the Circus Maximus in Rome, knights in full armor astride their horses, Conquistadors bringing horses to the new world.

There is an exhibit of all the different sports which use horses. The emphasis is on Thoroughbred racing, of course, with the bright silks of the jockeys, the Kentucky farms that breed them, and the trophies won in all those races. But I also saw a lot about harness racing, polo, steeplechase, fox hunting ...

There's a separate wing devoted to Arabian horses. Beautiful animals. There's a small reading nook within this exhibit, where I found a carefully-preserved display of books -- Walter Farley's "Black Stallion" series, which kept me entertained for most of 4th grade.

But what I really came to see were the horses themselves.

You can wander the grounds and find horses in their stables and paddocks. Better yet, there are several short shows throughout the day where you can see horses in action.

"Horses of the World" involved several different breeds of horse riding around a ring, with riders in costume. Afterwards the audience is invited to meet the horses up close and personal. I especially liked a rare breed from India -- the horse has unusual ears, they can rotate 180 degrees.

I also saw the show at the Hall of Champions. There are several retired racehorses living on the grounds of the park, and I got to see four of them. Each horse was walked around the ring to be admired. A video was played to explain the horse's exploits. I saw three Thoroughbreds (including two Kentucky Derby winners), and a harness racing champion who spent a considerable amount of his career at the Meadowlands in New Jersey.


There's a lot more to do, especially if you have children -- ride a horse or a pony, ride in a horse-drawn trolley. They also offer tours of area horse farms. And, of course, there's a gift shop.

If you are a serious horse racing fan, this is a "vacation destination". For the rest of us, it's a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.



Pictures to follow.



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