The Kentucky Horse Park is a sprawling 1,200-acre equestrian theme park and competition facility set amongst the dry-laid rock and wood-planked fences of the famed Bluegrass State. The center is home to around 50 different breeds of both large and small horses, along with some mules, and visitors are allowed to experience every bit of a real working farm. Throughout the year, live presentations, competitions, horse shows and miscellaneous events are held.
The horse park is home to the National Horse Center, a collection of more than thirty national, state and regional equine organizations and associations. Ranging from the American Association of Equine Practitioners to the United States Polo Association, the centralized collation represents a varied number of subjects.
The Kentucky Horse Park is also the residence of the International Museum of the Horse, the only one of its kind in the world. Inside, one can explore the various exhibits that trace the 50-million-year history of the mare, and view numerous racing trophies, artifacts, carriages and more. There are many permanent collections and rotating exhibitions, and for the 2007 season, it includes a rare series of Currier and Ives prints, exotic souvenirs like an inkwell made from a hoof of a Kentucky legend, and near-abstract photography from a renowned New York artist.(1) There is also the Trail of Painted Ponies, whose origin dates back to 2001 as a public art project in Santa Fe, New Mexico. From there, the trail grew into a national phenomenon, with the equestrian-themed art appearing in many cities throughout the states. The enduring symbol of beauty, strength and freedom, it has become quite the American Icon.(2)
The preserve is host to the Hall of Champions, where equine legends such as John Henry, the winningest gelding in the history of Thoroughbred racing, and Cigar, who tied Citation’s 1950 North American record for the most consecutive wins at 16, graze in splendid delight. It is also home to Staying Together, who retired only a few years ago as the world’s fastest race-winning Standardbred, as well as Canadian Hall, the first gelding in 99 years to be named U.S. Harness Horse of the Year, and Western Dreamer, who became the first gelding to win the Pacing Triple Crown in 1997. Gypsy Supreme also calls the Hall of Champions home, and is a five-gaited American Saddlebred who is also a world-renouned champion. The Hall of Champions is located only a short distance from the Breeds Barn.
The park also features the Parade of Breeds, where numerous horse breeds are placed on display, decked out in lavish garments. A new attraction during the demonstrations are the Breeds Barn Shires that demonstrate traditional medieval jousting.(3)
Near the front of the park is the Man o’ War burial site and memorial. Dedicated to the legendary Thoroughbred, the dignified horse won 20 of 21 races and earned $249,465 in purses, and set three world records, two American records and three track records. His most famous son, War Admiral, is buried at the site as well. Opposite of the memorial is the Salyers House, one of the original buildings from the Walnut Hall Stud Farm prior to the Kentucky Horse Park’s acquisition. Built in 1866 by S. J. Salyers, it was constructed on the foundation of an earlier house that dates pre-Civil War.
The horse park is also an on-site art gallery, where various paintings, photographs and sculptures are often displayed on rotation throughout. Elsewhere, the American Saddlebred Museum offers insight on the commonwealth’s first native breed of horse.(1) Developed by plantation owners for use on the farm, they are almost used exclusively today for the show ring, as well as barrel racers, hunters, jumpers and parade mounts.
Guests are also allowed to wander throughout the park on the paved and graveled paths that meander from paddock to pasture and take in the beauty and breadth of the graceful horse that is only too eager to come up and pay a visit. A trolley ride allows visitors to tour the park from the comfort of an old fashioned tram, powered of course by two horses. There are also guided trail rides for those aged 7 and above. Pony rides are available for children ages 2 to 12. The children are able to pet a gentle pony and are able to sit on its back as it is being led around a paddock.
- Scott, Laurel. “All Breeds Great and Small.” Discover Horses 2007: 28-33.
- Scott, Laurel. “Old Meets New.” Discover Horses 2007: 36-41.
- Breeds Barn Shires. Photograph. 2007. Discover Horses: 26.
- “2010 Games.” Kentucky Horse Park. 24 Sept. 2007 Article.
- Jordan, Jim. “$38 million urged for Horse Park.” Herald-Leader (Lexington) 2 Feb. 2007.