It is all too easy for someone as impatient and restless as I to overlook some of the best things our country has to offer that are right under my nose. The Kentucky Horse Park would certainly fall into this category. I round out the 2018 travel season for a couple of weeks at the Horse Parks’ campground.
There have been horses on this ground for more than 200 years.
In 1777, Patrick Henry, then Governor of Virginia, granted 9,000 acres of land in the Kentucky Territory to his brother-in-law as a reward for his service in the French and Indian War. William Christian moves his family to Kentucky in 1785 and establishes a farm here. It’s part of this land that the Commonwealth of Kentucky later repurchases to establish the Kentucky Horse Park in 1972.
It is the world’s only park dedicated to man’s relationship with the horse. The horse park is a crowned jewel of Central Kentucky. Along with museums, walking tours, pony rides and a hall of fame, they also sponsor many events throughout the year. Events include 5k races, Christmas Southern Lights, Breyerfest, and Halloween celebration and, of course, many equine shows and competitions.
During this early foggy October morning routine of taking Murphy for a walk, we find we are in the midst of the Thoroughbred Makeover and Symposium. Many of the event competitors are up early and warming up their horses for the days event.
The Retired Racehorse Project, a charitable organization, created the Thoroughbred Makeover to showcase the trainability and talent of off-track Thoroughbreds.
The competition intention is to inspire good trainers to become involved in transitioning these horses to second careers. This is the only national gathering of the organizations, trainers, and farms dedicated to serving these horses when they retire from racing.
Hundreds of off-track Thoroughbreds, each with 10 months or less of retraining gather for three days of competition in 10 different disciplines, vying for a share of $100,000 in prize money. Thousands of spectators watching online and in person. And at the end, one overall winner is crowned America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred.
I don’t understand the rules of the events nor do I get Dressage or Eventing. Heck, I can’t even discern a Hunter from a Jumper but I have been around enough thoroughbreds to know they are powerful, unpredictable and intimidating.
I can really appreciate the athletism of the breed and the skills of the trainer and riders. Ainslie and I venture into one of the stadiums to see an event called Ranch Work. Here a chestnut gelding named Nasdeck with 1 career racing start and a mere $65 in earnings nearly bring me to tears. He dutifully navigates the course that is used to simulate that of a working ranch horse. Obstacles include a gate, bridge, sidepassing, backing, and walking over and hauling logs and poles. Most of the horses are available for adoption and if I had a horse trailer he probably would’ve have come home with me.
All Hallows Eve
Halloween is a big event in the RV’ing community. It’s the last hoorah of the season. Most campgrounds book well in advance, often a year out. It was a bit of serendipity to get 2 weeks here. Ainslie and I divide time between horse events and campsite activities.
As luck would have it park officials enlist our help in this year’s costume judging. It’s quite simple. Stand in the middle of the field and let the various genders, ages, pets, and groups parade around you and pick the top 3. All goes well during the pets, infant and groups categories.
Applause erupts as the winners pick up their toy prizes. Then enters the 4-8 year old girls. The competition gets a bit tougher now.
This is what it sounds like when Peacocks cry.
The first contestant to catch our eye is a young lady in a blue body suit, tutu and peacock feathers. She is bright and festive and has my initial vote. Then a feisty can of play-doh enters the parade, followed by a 40’s era baseball player and a ghoulish Elvira with piercing contact lenses. But the show stopper was the cutest box of Mac-N-Cheese ever, complete with dozens of yellow toilet paper rolls.
After announcing the 3rd, 2nd and then 1st prize winners, a stunned peacock glares at us judges in utter contempt. Baffled on how she couldn’t have placed in the top 3. This glare is soon replaced with tears as momma nurtures the fledgling and assumes the glaring duty. It’s at this moment we notice that we have lost the crowds support too. Once applause for the winners is now replaced with doubt and uncertainty in the judges’ ability to effectively carry out our duties. I now see first hand how Judge Kavanaugh must feel.
The afternoon wraps up with trick or treating through the campground. The endless parade is a joy to watch as we disperse thousands of pieces of candy. The frivolity only briefly interrupted when the aforementioned peacock drums up another pout and skips our site.
Despite keeping one eye over our shoulder for the duration of the evening, Fall at the horse park is a treat with few tricks. We booked the site again for next year, a good thing as they are booking fast. Word to the wise, if you go, dress like a peacock your not likely to get shut out 2 years in a row.