Image source: Flickr - U. Burkhalter
Lexington, Kentucky is a place known for bourbon, bluegrass, Kentucky Wildcats basketball, history, unique dining and tons of Southern hospitality. While all those are definitely draws for the area, this is also the place that claims to be the "Horse Capital of the World." If you want to get immersed in horse culture, this is the place to do it. Here are five horse-themed activities you won’t want to miss.
Keeneland Race Course
This historic track, dating back to 1936, holds daily races throughout the months of October and April, and it’s your chance to enjoy the full pageantry of the horseracing experience. Gentlemen put on your bow ties and ladies put on your dresses (you don’t have to - but it definitely adds to the occasion), grab your program and check out the horses and jockeys in their pre-race parade through the paddock.
There’s usually 20-30 minutes between each race, which allows you time to go to the concession stands for a cup of "burgoo" stew and bread pudding soaked in bourbon sauce - or just get your bourbon from one of the many bourbon themed drinks that are available. Last but not least, go to the window to place your bet before heading back to the grandstands to cheer on your pick.
Not sure how to bet? Keeneland has that taken care of by providing "Betologists," who will take you through the ins-and-outs of "win-place-show" or what it means to hit a "trifecta." The services of these very friendly people are absolutely free, and they’re easy to spot in their special uniforms with fedora hats.
You simply walk up and start asking questions, and a little while later they send you on your way with lots of knowledge, and a small pamphlet for quick reference in case you forget anything. It will only be a couple of races before you feel like you’re breaking down the field like a seasoned pro.
Track Kitchen at Keeneland
This eatery opens every morning at 6 a.m., and while the biscuits and gravy and hot eggs and bacon are reason enough to go, breakfast here will also put you right in the heart of the horse industry. The Track Kitchen is an informal, cafeteria style setting where the regulars include jockeys, trainers, owners, breeders and anyone else you can think of who would be involved in thoroughbred racing.
Sit back and sip your coffee and listen to deals being made or the next great race horse being discussed, or join the conversation yourself in the friendly atmosphere.
Kentucky Horse Park
While Keeneland will let you see what the amazing thoroughbreds can do, Kentucky Horse Park is dedicated to every type of horse you can think of, with over 50 breeds located on 1,200 acres dedicated to the history of the bond between humans and horses.
Besides museums, galleries and theaters, the property is a working horse farm where you can walk through the Big Barn - 463 feet long and 73 feet wide - and see how horses get treated like royalty.
Speaking of royalty, some of the top racehorses in history, such as Cigar and Da Hoss, reside at the Hall of Champions, where you can see them up close and watch video highlights from their careers.
The "Horses of the World" show runs twice daily and features horses from many different countries along with riders in traditional dress from a variety of cultures. There are opportunities after the show to pet the horses and take pictures.
There are over 150 horse farms in Lexington alone and over 450 in the surrounding area. Many of them host tours where they show visitors what goes in to breeding, raising and caring for horses that are worth millions of dollars - and get treated that way. For more information, check out VisitLex.com.
There’s only one "Horse Capital of the World," so don’t miss the opportunity to experience why we humans have fallen so in love with horses.
Where is your favorite place to experience horses?