Kentucky Horse Park is a paradise for horse lovers | TheFencePost.com

Kentucky Horse Park is a paradise for horse lovers

Carolyn White
Olathe, Colo.

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Did you know that 80 percent of the horses which starred in the movie, “Gone with the Wind,” were American Saddlebreds? Or that certain Bedouin tribes treasured their Arabians so much that prized mares and foals were permitted to sleep inside the tents? If you want to learn more, don’t miss a chance to tour the 1,200 acres of Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky., which is described as “a working horse farm, theme park, and equine competition facility dedicated to man’s relationship with the horse.”

“Horses change people,” says spokesperson, Cindy Rullman. “They get so excited.” Touring the grounds with her, it was clear that she’s proud of the place and how successful it’s become since first opening in 1978. “The Rolex Three Day Event – which includes show jumping, dressage and cross-country eventing – takes place here each spring, with attendance around 80,000. There are a couple of rodeo and reining events a year, too.” In 2010, for the first time outside of Europe, the park hosted The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, which are held every four years. “It was televised to over 500 million homes … that’s more than the Super Bowl. It’s spectacular.” When asked about her personal favorite, Cindy thought for a moment and then her face lit up. “The Freestyle Dressage Final was definitely the highlight, with Gold Medal riders (on their elegant, highly athletic mounts) performing to music.” Watching from the stands, she was mesmerized. Later, when my sister, Nancy, and I walked through the buildings on our own – stopping to admire the displays, read the histories, and yes, drool over the 40 different breeds that were stabled in well-kept, spacious barns and paddocks – we were amazed, too.

Twice daily, at 11 a.m., and 2 p.m., (April 1 through Oct. 31) there’s a Parade of Breeds which can be watched from viewing stands. Both horses and riders appear in the costumes that are native to their countries, and you’ll see a representative of everything from an Andalusian to a Gypsy Vanner to a Knabstrupper while an announcer reads a detailed background of each. At the International Museum of the Horse, we saw wagons, stage coaches, and chariots that had been set up so realistically that you could almost hear the bits jingling on the life-sized models that were pulling them.

Carefully reading our ways down a wall that was chock-full of interesting facts, we learned about a 1700s mail delivery horse which knew its route so well (and kept up such a steady pace) that his rider was able to knit socks along the way. Tucked behind a narrow glass, we saw a night time diorama of a frontiersman – his wife sitting sideways behind him – leading a pack animal that was loaded down with pots, pans, bedding, axes and a muzzleloader. (How’s THAT for moving from place to place?) And while browsing by the spacious cases which held fox hunting, firefighting, and western riding gear, I came across the saddle, bridle, and pad that had once been worn by the mighty Secretariat. Suddenly, it was 1973 again, and my friends and I were screaming with excitement as we watched him win the Belmont by an astonishing 31 lengths.

Displays are frequently rotated inside each building as new items come in on loan, the most recent ones including “Ancient Bronzes of the Asian Grasslands” and “The Horse,” which according to the park’s news release, “Graphically portrays the horse’s impact on trade, transportation, labor, warfare, culture, and sports.” Set up permanently, there’s an assortment of magnificent bronze statues which include Brett Hanover (winner of harness racing’s Triple Crown in 1965) and *Bask++ (the imported, Polish-bred Arabian which won the US National Champion Park Horse title). There were also some surprises, like the foals that I discovered nestled within a flower patch.

One of the largest statues on the grounds is a 6-1/2-foot tall tribute to Man o’ War, relocated in 1977 (along with the stallion’s remains) from where it originally stood at Lexington’s Faraway Farm. His sons War Admiral, featured in the recent movie “Seabiscuit,” and War Relic are buried across from him. Directly opposite is the grave of 19th century jockey Isaac Murphy, the son of a former slave, whose 44 percent winning average has yet to be matched. And up at the Hall of Champions, surrounded by horseshoe-shaped rings of green, are the burial sites of such greats as Alysheba (Horse of the Year in 1988) and John Henry (named Racehorse of the Decade in the 1980’s). Dennis Christman, a park volunteer who took over as our guide after Cindy returned to her duties, had been especially fond of Henry, and delighted us with the story of how he used to feed the gelding chocolate doughnuts. But then … I came across the clean and roomy stall of Cigar.

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Winner of nearly $10 million during his illustrious, 1994-1996 racing career, the 16.3 hand bay stallion had long been a personal favorite of mine. While I stood staring, open-mouthed, Dennis briefly excused himself and returned with a groom. “Stand aside,” he said cheerfully, and we watched as the door slid open and Cigar was led past us to the paddock area. “Want to have your picture taken with him?”

For a moment, I thought he was kidding. “Go ahead,” Dennis encouraged. Easing towards the animal’s withers (and breathing deeply to hold back sudden tears) I posed for the camera. It was over in a moment, but the memory will last forever.

“You should have seen your face!” Nancy exclaimed afterwards. “You were beaming about as wide as I’ve ever seen!”

It’s no wonder. Horses truly DO change you.

The Kentucky Horse Park is located at 4089 Iron Works Parkway, Lexington, Ky., 40511. It’s open seven days a week through November 6th, and from November 7th through March 14th it is open Wednesdays through Sundays.

For more information or to reserve a spot at the neighboring campground, go to http://www.KYHorsePark.com or call (859) 233-4303.

Did you know that 80 percent of the horses which starred in the movie, “Gone with the Wind,” were American Saddlebreds? Or that certain Bedouin tribes treasured their Arabians so much that prized mares and foals were permitted to sleep inside the tents? If you want to learn more, don’t miss a chance to tour the 1,200 acres of Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington, Ky., which is described as “a working horse farm, theme park, and equine competition facility dedicated to man’s relationship with the horse.”

“Horses change people,” says spokesperson, Cindy Rullman. “They get so excited.” Touring the grounds with her, it was clear that she’s proud of the place and how successful it’s become since first opening in 1978. “The Rolex Three Day Event – which includes show jumping, dressage and cross-country eventing – takes place here each spring, with attendance around 80,000. There are a couple of rodeo and reining events a year, too.” In 2010, for the first time outside of Europe, the park hosted The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, which are held every four years. “It was televised to over 500 million homes … that’s more than the Super Bowl. It’s spectacular.” When asked about her personal favorite, Cindy thought for a moment and then her face lit up. “The Freestyle Dressage Final was definitely the highlight, with Gold Medal riders (on their elegant, highly athletic mounts) performing to music.” Watching from the stands, she was mesmerized. Later, when my sister, Nancy, and I walked through the buildings on our own – stopping to admire the displays, read the histories, and yes, drool over the 40 different breeds that were stabled in well-kept, spacious barns and paddocks – we were amazed, too.

Twice daily, at 11 a.m., and 2 p.m., (April 1 through Oct. 31) there’s a Parade of Breeds which can be watched from viewing stands. Both horses and riders appear in the costumes that are native to their countries, and you’ll see a representative of everything from an Andalusian to a Gypsy Vanner to a Knabstrupper while an announcer reads a detailed background of each. At the International Museum of the Horse, we saw wagons, stage coaches, and chariots that had been set up so realistically that you could almost hear the bits jingling on the life-sized models that were pulling them.

Carefully reading our ways down a wall that was chock-full of interesting facts, we learned about a 1700s mail delivery horse which knew its route so well (and kept up such a steady pace) that his rider was able to knit socks along the way. Tucked behind a narrow glass, we saw a night time diorama of a frontiersman – his wife sitting sideways behind him – leading a pack animal that was loaded down with pots, pans, bedding, axes and a muzzleloader. (How’s THAT for moving from place to place?) And while browsing by the spacious cases which held fox hunting, firefighting, and western riding gear, I came across the saddle, bridle, and pad that had once been worn by the mighty Secretariat. Suddenly, it was 1973 again, and my friends and I were screaming with excitement as we watched him win the Belmont by an astonishing 31 lengths.

Displays are frequently rotated inside each building as new items come in on loan, the most recent ones including “Ancient Bronzes of the Asian Grasslands” and “The Horse,” which according to the park’s news release, “Graphically portrays the horse’s impact on trade, transportation, labor, warfare, culture, and sports.” Set up permanently, there’s an assortment of magnificent bronze statues which include Brett Hanover (winner of harness racing’s Triple Crown in 1965) and *Bask++ (the imported, Polish-bred Arabian which won the US National Champion Park Horse title). There were also some surprises, like the foals that I discovered nestled within a flower patch.

One of the largest statues on the grounds is a 6-1/2-foot tall tribute to Man o’ War, relocated in 1977 (along with the stallion’s remains) from where it originally stood at Lexington’s Faraway Farm. His sons War Admiral, featured in the recent movie “Seabiscuit,” and War Relic are buried across from him. Directly opposite is the grave of 19th century jockey Isaac Murphy, the son of a former slave, whose 44 percent winning average has yet to be matched. And up at the Hall of Champions, surrounded by horseshoe-shaped rings of green, are the burial sites of such greats as Alysheba (Horse of the Year in 1988) and John Henry (named Racehorse of the Decade in the 1980’s). Dennis Christman, a park volunteer who took over as our guide after Cindy returned to her duties, had been especially fond of Henry, and delighted us with the story of how he used to feed the gelding chocolate doughnuts. But then … I came across the clean and roomy stall of Cigar.

Winner of nearly $10 million during his illustrious, 1994-1996 racing career, the 16.3 hand bay stallion had long been a personal favorite of mine. While I stood staring, open-mouthed, Dennis briefly excused himself and returned with a groom. “Stand aside,” he said cheerfully, and we watched as the door slid open and Cigar was led past us to the paddock area. “Want to have your picture taken with him?”

For a moment, I thought he was kidding. “Go ahead,” Dennis encouraged. Easing towards the animal’s withers (and breathing deeply to hold back sudden tears) I posed for the camera. It was over in a moment, but the memory will last forever.

“You should have seen your face!” Nancy exclaimed afterwards. “You were beaming about as wide as I’ve ever seen!”

It’s no wonder. Horses truly DO change you.

The Kentucky Horse Park is located at 4089 Iron Works Parkway, Lexington, Ky., 40511. It’s open seven days a week through November 6th, and from November 7th through March 14th it is open Wednesdays through Sundays.

For more information or to reserve a spot at the neighboring campground, go to http://www.KYHorsePark.com or call (859) 233-4303.