Lexington and The Kentucky Horse Park
By Lauren R. Giannini
The Kentucky Horse Park, dedicated to horses and their relationship with humans, is nestled north of Lexington. A veritable jewel, it comprises bluegrass, rolling pastures and paddocks behind white board fencing with tree-lined lanes that wind through its 1,224 acres. In 2010, the attention of the global horse world focused on the Kentucky Horse Park when it served as the venue for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, contested by 800 competitors from 57 countries.
Described as an educational theme park and working horse farm, the Kentucky Horse Park offers a wonderland of equine-related attractions, including the International Museum of the Horse (a Smithsonian affiliate), Hall of Champions Presentation, Breeds Barn Show, educational programs, demonstrations and competitions. Visitors can take a walking barn tour that features famous horses retired at the park. Photographic opportunities abound, including the memorial to the great Man o’ War. More than 30 national, regional and state horse organizations, including the U.S. Equestrian Federation, are headquartered in the National Horse Center at Kentucky Horse Park.
World Class Shows
In 1974, the U.S. Equestrian Team and Bruce Davidson won Team and Individual Gold at the World Three-Day Championships held at Burghley, England. This gave the U.S.A. the option of hosting the next World Championship and site choice was easy with the horse park already in the planning stages. The first horse trials took place at the new facility in 1976. Two years later, the Kentucky Horse Park welcomed the world — Bruce defended his Individual Gold medal and Canada won Team Gold, West Germany Team Silver and U.S.A. Team Bronze. This set the stage for the annual event, now known as Rolex Kentucky, to grow exponentially and, in 1991, became the one and only four-star international three-day competition in the Western Hemisphere.
The Kentucky Horse Park’s calendar is filled year-round with competitions and shows from hunters and jumpers to dressage, reining, saddle seat and more. The park also hosts the annual USEF Pony Finals, North American Junior & Young Rider Championships, the High Hope Steeplechase and, for hobby enthusiasts, Breyerfest. In 2011, the National Horse Show, founded in 1883, moved to the Kentucky Horse Park. Even without an interest in equestrian competition, the park is a beautiful destination enjoyed every year by about 800,000 visitors from all over the world.
Roots in Americana
In 1777, Patrick Henry (“Give me liberty, or give me death.”) granted 9,000 acres of land located in the Kentucky territory to his brother-in-law. In 1792, the territory became the 15th state of the Union. That land passed through several hands, albeit always populated by horses, until 1972 when one vital parcel was sold to the Commonwealth of Kentucky. It became the first park ever dedicated to the relationship between horses and humans and the rest, as they say, is history.
The Kentucky Horse Park boasts a complex of buildings and amenities including a campground with RV parking pads and primitive sites which, combined with the equestrian improvements such as the Rolex Stadium (outdoor) and Alltech Arena (indoor), the original indoor arena and several outdoor rings, add up to a great place for equestrian competitions, garden shows, trade fairs and conventions. The Lexington area abounds with great restaurants, lodging and its own attractions, including museums, distilleries and breweries (think Kentucky bourbon and ale), visual and performing arts, and graceful carriage rides through historic Lexington.
For more information visit kyhorsepark.com and www.visitlex.com.