Not long after we crossed the northern border of Kentucky, it was obvious we were in equine territory. Horses galloped and snoozed on bright green rolling hills bisected by white picket fences. We've read that the rock below the soil leaches minerals into the grass that are especially beneficial for horses. In olden times tourists like us would visit the farms and hang over those fences to admire those horses. But in these litigious times as the horses have grown ever more valuable, their owners have blocked off the entrances to their estates with elaborate wrought iron gates. Those who want to see the horses up close and learn more about them go to Kentucky Horse Park. For the last forty years this 1,200 acre facility has grown into a spot which honors great race horses like Man O War, demonstrates and preserves rare breeds of horses and provides opportunities to be up close and personal with these awesome creatures. We are camped on the grounds. We're used to camping next to trailers, but not trailers full of horses. We can hear the PA announcements from the stadium nearby where competition is taking place.
Judging by the massive empty parking lots and our reduced admission price, the main season is over. But there was lots to do and see and we were glad to have the animals and their caretakers to ourselves. After taking a horse drawn trolley ride to get the lay of the land, we went to the Hall of Champions, where we met retired Kentucky Derby winners and watch film clips from their glory days. At the Parade of Breeds, we saw exotic varieties we had never heard of before, some on the endangered list. One Puerto Rican breed pranced around as if it was wearing high heels. Its rider said this is a natural gait; no training needed. We stood next to draft horses whose withers were easily a foot taller than we are. There is a large group of Rocky Mountain breed horse owners rallying here. In a covered stadium, they demonstrated their grace and agility while an announcer described their accomplishments. The barns are immaculate and so are the horses. They are groomed every day and their manes and tails are fluffy and bright. Outside another group was competing in fence jumping. In a beautiful stadium we had front row seats as we tried to figure out how this competition is scored. Because we know next to nothing about horses, even after a day here, we still have more questions than answers.