I’ve discovered some things since moving to Kentucky. They call it bluegrass, but the pastures of Kentucky are bright green. A hot brown sandwich tastes pretty good considering it’s the bottom of a turkey sandwich with a pile of gooey stuff plopped on top. Drive-thru liquor stores are open on Sunday. And two things folks in the Lexington area are very serious about: Wildcats (college humans of the athletic variety) and Horses (large animals of the fast variety).
When some Tulsa friends stopped for a visit while traveling, they mentioned they might like to see some of the famous Kentucky thoroughbreds. I don’t usually think of myself as a horse person, but thought it would make an interesting outing, nonetheless. We were happy to include them on a trip only ten minutes from our home to a place full of horses and history.
Write Anywhere #78: Kentucky Horse Park
My foot and ankle have been improving steadily, but this was the first test drive where I’d do a lot of walking. Fortunately it didn’t swell too much and there were plenty of places to sit while we explored the Kentucky Horse Park.
The Kentucky Horse Park is both a working horse farm and an educational theme park. The park hosts many equestrian events and some of the attractions include horse drawn trolley rides, shows, the International Museum of the Horse, and the American Saddlebred Museum.
We rode the trolley to a covered pavilion hosting the Hall of Champions presentation. We met Da Hoss, one of the many champion thoroughbreds that live on the farm. He at first seemed to enjoy trotting out to meet the people, and stood regally while one of his championship races played on the big screen television behind him. After a bit he seemed bored with it all, and instead of focusing on his adoring public, concentrated on flicking flies off his backside with a swish of his well-groomed tail.
Then we checked out the entertaining Horses of The World arena show where we saw different horses with their riders in traditional garb. The gypsy Shire horse stood out as my favorite, and even let me pet him at the meet-and-greet afterwards.
The humidity rose as the sun neared midday, so it was the perfect time to move to the air-conditioned comfort of the International Museum of the Horse. There are too many exhibits to list here, but some of my favorites were the Al-Marah Arabian Horse Galleries, the exhibits on Man o’ War, and Angels for Horses about the history of the ASPCA.
We ended our visit at one of the horse park’s cafes. My friend is an accomplished author, so we talked a little writing, laughed a lot, then went our separate ways, as they continued their tour of the park while Keeper Hubby and I went home to ice my swollen ankle.
The horses reminded me of Stormy and Beauty, my grandfather’s horses. He was a weekend farmer, with a small acreage in southern Illinois, where he meticulously worked to build a farm while commuting to St. Louis as a welding foreman during the week. Why he had the horses, I’ll never know. They were a handful. Stormy and Beauty had thoroughbred looks: Stormy’s coat was chocolate brown, and Beauty a shiny black. Their temperaments matched their names. Stormy, an unpredictable terror, bucked and nipped at will. Beauty was queenly and aloof, and wanted nothing to do with most people, and all horses. My sister, cousins, and I could never go near them. But the summer I turned seven, Grandpa’s herd expanded.
Sugar, a Shetland pony, got the third stall in Grandpa’s barn. She loved apples, carrots, and sugar cubes. Grandma kept the cubes in a Domino Sugar tin on the shelf over her percolator, and we filled our pockets at riding time. Grandpa taught us not to make sudden movements, to hold our hands flat while waiting for Sugar’s spotted tongue to wrap itself around the sweet squares, and how to hold the reins in the saddle. Sugar never bucked or nipped, and she let me hug her neck more than once.
I felt so grown up walking the farm with Sugar, turning her this way and that. She had three commands: Giddyup, Whoa, which meant slow down, and Stop. We’d stroll by Grandma and Granny digging in the garden, and I’d wave like the Queen of England. Once in a while Grandpa took us outside the farm gate and down the blacktop road. I imagined Sugar and I galloping across fields, over the wooden bridge that led to town, galloping down the interstate back to my sweltering city neighborhood, where all my friends would line up begging for a ride on Sugar the Wonder Pony.
By the time I was twelve, the horses and pony had been replaced with more practical cows and chickens, and I switched from riding ponies to reading about them: Misty of Chincoteague and Brighty of the Grand Canyon. Sugar became a warm memory, a childhood friend that kept me company all those summers spent in the countryside. Now that I think about it, I guess I’m a bit of a horse person after all.
I didn’t do any writing that day at the horse park, but about a week later these memories formed the basis for a short story my grandson may enjoy one day.