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The Kentucky Horse Park (KHP) in picturesque Lexington is the only theme park in the country dedicated solely to horses. Horses come in all shapes, sizes, and breeds, and you can see a wide variety of live horses, museums, and championship events at the park.
You can even take a trail ride, enjoy a riding lesson, or let your children enjoy the ultimate, a pony ride! And like all theme parks there is a regular schedule of events that parkgoers can enjoy throughout the year. March 15 marked the beginning of the spring/summer season when the horses and activities come out of the their winter mode. There is even an RV campground with complete amenities.
Lexington, dubbed the “horse capital of the world,” not only boasts the KHP nestled in the “heart of the Bluegrass region,” but also the legendary Keenland Race Course. Because of the strong Thoroughbred breeding and racing tradition in the area, the Hall of Champions exhibit is not to be missed.
Currently, at least eight retired racing champions from a variety of racing sports make daily visits with fans. From Thoroughbreds Funny Cide (the 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner) to Da Boss (two-time Breeders’ Cup Mile winner) and Standardbreds from Mr Muscleman (a trotter with lifetime earnings of more than $4 million) and Staying Together (a pacer and US Harness Horse of the Year in 1993) will entertain horse lovers with their individual personalities.
Every day at 11 am and 2 pm you can enjoy the Parade of Breeds at the Breed Barn. The list of breeds is quite extensive. Since the racing breeds are at the Hall of Champions, these breeds include other lesser-known rare breeds as well as some pleasure riding favorites. Currently in the parade you will see American breeds like Miniatures, Morgans, and Mustangs as well as Paints and Pasa Finos.
And for pony lovers, you will see a Chincoteague Pony and Fell Pony. There are Saddlebreds, Lippizanners, and let’s not forget the Quarter Horse.
There is also the Big Breed Barn, which houses the horses as big as houses! The Clydesdale, the Percheron, the Belgium, and the Shire draft breeds. You can take a trolley ride pulled by these gentle giants between the Kids Barn and the Mounted Police Barn or stay and watch some demos.
Rolex & The National
Two of America’s premier equestrian events held in the Eventing and Hunter/Jumper disciplines are held at the Kentucky Horse Park. The Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event features dozens of riders from countries all over the world during the last week in April. “Rolex Kentucky” is one of the world’s most prestigious equestrian competitions, and is one of only six four-star three-day events in the world and the only one in the Western Hemisphere. In late October/early November The National Horse Show is featured in the Alltech Arena. This show got its beginnings in Madison Square Garden in 1883. Many equine organizations are also headquartered at the KHP in the National Horse Center. National groups dedicated to Hackneys, Saddlebreds, Hanovarians, Friesians, farriers, and carriages. There’s the United States Equestrian Federation, the US Pony Club, the US Hunter / Jumper Association, and The Maker’s Mark Secretariat Center, a premier reschooling facility that trains and showcases adoptable Thoroughbreds.
If you visit, make sure to spend time at the International Museum of the Horse. This venue explores the unique relationship between man and horse over the millennia. Its mission “is to educate the general public, equestrian and academic communities about the relationship between humans and the horses throughout world history.” That is one huge swath of time. Some of the permanent exhibits include: “All the Queen’s Horses: The Role of the Horse in British History,” “Imperial China: The Art of the Horse in Chinese History,” and “A Gift from the Desert: the Art, Culture and History of the Arabian Horse.” For more info visit imh.org.
Next up, the American Saddlebred Museum, Gallery and Gift Shop is the ultimate “Showplace for Saddlebreds” and features the history of the breed in our culture and its journey to becoming wonderful athletes. The museum features artwork, tack, trophies, photos, and a 3,000-volume library for bloodline research of the breed.
The preeminent museum dedicated to the hunter/jumper discipline is The Wheeler Museum. It can be found in the United States Hunter Jumper Association headquarters. It boasts equestrian memorabilia including trophies, ribbons, books, and equipment from all aspects of the hunter/jumper industry as well as a collection of artifacts from the Show Jumping Hall of Fame. It was named after legendary owners/trainers Sallie and Kenny Wheeler of Keswick, Va., who earned the AHSA Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999.
For more information about all the Kentucky Horse Park has to offer, including a complete list of all the famous horses buried at the park, visit kyhorsepark.com.