A female rider on horse at show jumping competition

Horse Mania: A Day at Kentucky Horse Park

A female rider on horse at show jumping competition

Horse Mania: A Day at Kentucky Horse Park

Open year round, Kentucky Horse Park in Lexington offers equestrian fun for visitors including horse shows, rodeos, festivals, museums, shopping, and more.

Lexington, Kentucky, attracts equestrian competitors, breeders, and fans from across the globe to its horse-related events and attractions. At the center of the city’s horse scene sits Kentucky Horse Park, a 1,224-acre working farm, equestrian event center, and educational theme park. “We are one of the largest attractions in the state,” says Lisa Jackson, director of public relations for the park. “Created in 1978, our park provides a place where you can get up close and personal with horses.”

Daily Horse Shows

Start off your day at the park by attending one of the daily horse shows. Head to the Hall of Champions to watch current Thoroughbred legends on parade, typically twice each day from March through November. After the show, take a stroll down the lane behind the Hall of Champions barn to visit the graves of racehorse champions from the past, including Bold Forbes, winner of the 1976 Kentucky Derby.

A white Andalusian horse being petted at a horse show
Source: Adobe Stock

The Parade of Breeds also takes place twice a day from March to November. An interactive experience incorporating music, narration, and cultural costumes, the show allows visitors to see a variety of horses in action, including the ever-popular American Quarter Horse and rare breeds such as the Marwari from India.

Museums

During your visit to the park, be sure to check out the impressive set of horse-themed museums. “The International Museum of the Horse is a Smithsonian affiliate, and the American Saddlebred Museum is dedicated to Kentucky’s famous breed,” Jackson says. “In our museums, visitors can actually trace more than 50 million years of equine history.”

The Al-Marah Arabian Horse Galleries, an 8,000-square-foot addition to the International Museum of the Horse, focuses on the Arabian horse breed in film, art, and written works. A multimedia exhibit, the gallery is a particularly big hit with young visitors.

With a focus on show jumping horses and equine competitions, the Wheeler Museum displays a large collection of equestrian trophies and memorabilia.

Up Close and Personal

Hop on a trolley pulled by draft horses to enjoy a quick tour of the park’s grounds. If you have children with you, don’t miss the Kids’ Barn, where they can help groom a horse, join in a scavenger hunt, and visit the ponies on display. If they need to burn some extra energy, a miniature show jumping course gives them the opportunity to experience some scaled down horse jumps (minus the horses).

Fenced pasture with bright green grass leads the way to horse barn on a farm with blue sky.
Source: Adobe Stock

At the Mounted Police Barn, interact with Kentucky Mounted Police horses and officers and learn about their role at the park and in state law enforcement. Daily barn tours are available.

The Big Barn is home to the park’s draft horses and offers daily interactive sessions. Learn about the history of this giant working breed, and how the horses are harnessed and prepared for work and shows.

Special Events

In addition to daily events for park visitors, Kentucky Horse Park hosts some of the largest equestrian competitions in the world. “We host close to 200 different special events and horse shows throughout the year in our facilities, which include a climate controlled arena, outdoor stadium, cross country course, polo fields, and more,” Jackson says. “We’re able to host all breeds and disciplines.”

Before you visit the park, be sure to check out the event calendar to see what’s going on during your planned visit. Most shows are included in the price of general admission, and special events sometimes take place throughout the year. For example, during the 2017 season, the park is celebrating the 100th anniversary of legendary racehorse Man o’ War’s birth by hosting a variety of special events in his honor. You can also check out “Man O’War: The Mostest Horse That Ever Was,” a special exhibit at the International Museum of the Horse.

Each fall, the park hosts the CP National Horse Show, the longest-running indoor horse show in America. “It started in Madison Square Garden in 1883, when high-profile guests like the Vanderbilts would attend in top hats and tails,” Jackson says. “This show has a rich history.”

Trail Rides and Good Eats

If your thirst for equestrian fun isn’t satisfied after visiting Kentucky Horse Park, check out nearby Big Red Stables, located about 45 minutes southwest of Lexington. This attraction offers relaxing trail rides through Kentucky’s beautiful bluegrass region. In Paris, Kentucky, a century-old horse farm known as Kenridge Farms offers riding lessons, guided trail rides, and camping.

Whether you are on horseback or on foot, exploring Lexington’s equestrian attractions will help you rustle up a good appetite for some delicious fare. Kentucky Horse Park offers a variety of sandwiches, burgers, and local fare onsite. If you prefer to dine elsewhere, enjoy a down-home meal at BlueDoor Smokehouse, which features daily smoked barbecue and a variety of side items. If you’re in the mood for more formal fare, check out the top-rated Rodney’s on Broadway in nearby Georgetown, where you’ll find a selection of steaks and seafood in a restored historic house.

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