Kentucky Horse Park offers several attractions for families
LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Now that the weather has warmed up, if you’re looking for something to do during the week or on a weekend, the Kentucky Horse Park has several option for both visitors and locals.
“The park was founded in 1978,” said Jonathan Lang, the deputy executive director.
Lang says the park sits on more than 1,200 acres of pristine farmlands, “When people visit the Kentucky Horse Park, we’re just as much of a stop as a welcome center. So, it is for people of all ages to come out and just have a good time.”
And the good times start at the visitors center where you’ll find International Museum of the Horse which is a Smithsonian affiliate museum.
Museum Director Amy Beisel says their focus is on our relationship with horses, throughout time. And you can spend any amount of time there depending on your interest, “10 or 15 minutes if you’re just walking through, taking a look at everything, but not really digging any deeper. You could spend a couple hours here if you really wanted to.”
Beisel says the museum showcases history through a show and tell format including the Calumet dynasty, “with over 600 trophies in that collection from when Calumet was in their racing glory.”
They’re also home to five sets of Triple Crown trophies from five different winners, which Beisel says is probably the most in the United States in one place.
A new exhibit is the Black Horsemen of the Kentucky Turf which showcases how African Americans helped build the thoroughbred industry in the state.
“We have another new addition to the museum called the Al-Marah Arabian Horse Galleries and they talk about the importance of the Arabian breed in horses because the Arabian breed is found in almost every horse at some point of their lineage,” explained Beisel.
Outside, Kathy Vespazani invites guests to their Parade of Breeds show.
“We have two shows a day at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. during each show we feature different breeds of horses. And these horses dress up in costumes and so do the riders and they put on quite an interesting show,” said Vespazani.
Dozens of breeds are showcased in the show.
Over the next few months, you can also checkout a mare and foal.
“They’re actually Mountain Pleasure horses, the heritage breed from right here in Kentucky. The moms name is Cookie and the foals name is Flash,” said Vespazani.
And while the horses are the focus, sometimes the cats steal the show.
“All of our cats here at one time were feral and they’ve all been neutered or spayed. And they perform several functions here. They’re wonderful ambassadors, in fact, they’re very friendly and like to invite our guests as they come in,” said Vespazani.
And because it’s an active barn, Vespazani says they also help with rodent issues.
Rob Willis, supervises the Hall of Champions.
“We house nine champion residents, we have four thoroughbreds, two Kentucky Derby winners and we have four standardbreds – one trotter, three pacers – and we also have an American racing champion quarterhorse,” said Willis.
Willis says they rotate those horses in their daily shows which run twice a day from April 1st-November 1st at 10:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m.
One of the stars in it is no stranger to the limelight. Willis says Go-for-Gin is, “The oldest living Kentucky Derby winner in North America.”
Nowadays, Go-for-Gin spends his time living it up mixed in with a little work.
“He’s really adapted here at the park and likes his job. And now he works as an ambassador to the board of thoroughbred racing and the state of Kentucky. And being a derby winner, he’s also an ambassador for that where people can come up and meet a Kentucky Derby winner,” said Willis.
Another ambassador and familiar face is Gene Carter, a seasonal equine worker at the park for 15 years.
“Well I come out here 8 o’clock every morning, take care of these horses,” said Carter.
It’s his love for horses that keeps him coming back.
“I started when I was 15 and I’m 92 now. I just like being around them,” said Carter.
Carter’s main job is to show horses in the show ring in the pavilion.
And if seeing horses isn’t enough, you can ride them. For $25, one of the guides will take you on a 35 minute ride which is perfect for beginners.
It’s one of the best ways to see the park in addition to a club, back by popular demand.
“We do a run walk club every Monday night during the summer. We can get on average 500 people that come out on Monday evenings, free of charge, and just run the horse park,” said Lang.
Lang says the park also puts on more than 200 events each year, “That ranges from horse shows to cheerleading competitions, to tractor pulls, you name it.”
And there’s also something new this year.
“This year we’re partnered with Horse Country, based in Lexington. This gives visitors an opportunity, we certainly want them to visit the horse park, but have an opportunity to go and visit some of these unique, pristine farms around Central Kentucky,” said Lang.
Lang says it’s all to support their mission of engaging people and explaining to people our unique relationship over the ages with horses.
For more information on the Kentucky Horse Park, click HERE.
The park is celebrating the 30th anniversary of BreyerFest this year which Langsays is one of the biggest events they put on, with an expected crowd of around 30,000 people. It’s July 12-14th. You can view more HERE.
You can watch part two of this story HERE.