AWAY IN HORSE COUNTRY
The sound of hoofbeats spurs Kathy Witt through central Kentucky.
Ride along with Kathy Witt as she explores “the horse capital
of the world” in Kentucky.
The actor on the other side of the fence keeps kissing and nuzzling my hand. I remark on how handsome he is. Then I offer him a carrot. I’m in Kentucky horse country, at the Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement Farm visiting Popcorn Deelites, the equine star of the movie Seabiscuit. He’s one of more than 100 horses—including former champions of the turf like 1997 Kentucky Derby and Preakness champ Silver Charm—living the good life here.
My husband, John, and I are Sunday-driving back roads framed by thick stands of trees turning orange and red and russet as fall sweeps through central Kentucky.
Our first stop is Old Friends, located outside Georgetown, an area also known as “Kentucky horse headquarters” because of its abundance of horsey attractions. These include stables, festivals and the equestrian-themed art galleries of well-known photographer John Stephen Hockensmith and painter Robert Clark waiting to be discovered among the locally owned boutiques and restaurants lining downtown Georgetown’s Victorian streetscape.
Kentucky horse country stretches from Lexington to Shelbyville to Oldham County and beyond. We wind our way along country roads lined with miles of black paddock fencing as well as historic drystone fences on our way from Georgetown to Lexington, the “horse capital of the world.” The drive past Thoroughbred Park, with its bronze racehorses poised a hoofbeat away from the finish line, sets the stage.
Our next stop is the Kentucky Horse Park. Picturesque grounds with lush foliage, trim white barns and stables paint a fitting backdrop for monuments to these majestic beasts, including a life-size sculpture of Man o’ War— the most famous thoroughbred ever—rising nobly from his perch.
John and I make our way to the International Museum of the Horse, whipping through millions of years of horse history in the Legacy of the Horse exhibit before
slowing things down at the Al-Marah Horse Galleries and its Black Stallion Experience to see the movie clips, books and other interactive exhibits that feature the Arabian horse in film and literature. Then we head to the George Ford Morris Gallery at the American Saddlebred Museum nearby, where we see this painter’s love of the breed portrayed through his art from the early
20th century that includes portraits of the most celebrated horses of the day—Roxie Highland, Beau Peavine and American Born.
Traveling on, a statue of a thoroughbred sipping water welcomes us to the Henry Clay estate at Ashland. It feels like a secret garden, its iron gates opening to a formal English parterre garden, hundreds of old-growth trees, walking trails and centuries-old outbuildings. The 17-acre estate was home to the American statesman and orator, who was also one of the most respected horse breeders and scientific farmers of his time.
TACK AND TAILS
Heading west from this “capital,” we arrive at another—Shelbyville
Our mission is to find a souvenir that captures the spirit of our journey through Kentucky horse countr .
County, the “American saddlebred capital of the world.” Even more paddocks stretch across gently undulating hills on either side of us as we roll through the countryside, the horses within frisking along the fence line, a sight that never gets old.
A scenic tour of Kismet Farm is our chance to see American saddlebreds, high-stepping show horses known for their grace and athleticism. We make a quick stop at Shelby Horse Supply to browse among the tack (bridles, reins and halters) in a shop known for its handcrafted leather goods. Our mission is to find a souvenir that captures the spirit of our journey through Kentucky horse country. We find it with a chestnut leather keychain with engravable plate.
Because writing children’s books has always been a dream of mine, a visit to LaGrange’s Windy Meadows Horse Farm is a must.
Not only can you learn about horses of all breeds on a guided tour, you get to meet owner Ellie Troutman, who authored the charmingly illustrated children’s book The Tails of Windy Meadows, about a day in the life of a Kentucky horse farm as told through its barn dwellers. Movie buffs will love learning that several Hallmark movies, including 2016’s The Ultimate Legacy, were filmed here, and you'll have the chance to see film locations, props and costume pieces on the tour.
Though I’m a native Kentuckian, I wasn't lucky enough to grow up around horses. Watching them gallop across fields, nicker in the pasture and eat carrots from my hand always feels like a treat— even more so when the pretty-as-apicture scenery has been brushed with autumn’s colorful palette.