I can remember exactly when I first stepped foot onto the soil of the Kentucky Horse Park.

I had moved to Lexington, Kentucky 0n September 12th, 2008.  My father had passed away on September 5th, and following his funeral and wake, I had packed my clothes, my cat, and my college degree and began the 7 hour drive down I-75 to the bluegrass.

I arrived with nothing.  I knew no one in this town, and promptly quit the job I had lined up as a small animal vet tech.  I had about $1,000 to my name that I had saved up as a bar back during the preceding summer, and was as depressed as a person could get.

But what did I have?  I had the Kentucky Horse Park.  Because I had Funny Cide.

I would find myself waking up day after day and climbing out of my bed with one plan for my day – one mission alone – to go visit Funny Cide.

He had become my favorite racehorse after I watched him streak to a victory in the 2003 Kentucky Derby alongside my father.  We had loved Funny Cide because he was the peoples horse.  He wasn’t owned by a Sheikh or a wealthy business tycoon.  He was owned by a group of men who lived just miles from where both my father and I had attended college in upstate New York.  And because of that, we cheered him across that finish line until our voices were hoarse.

And so day after day, I would drive myself to the Kentucky Horse Park to whisper sweet nothings to Funny Cide, and feed him a peppermint.  I didn’t have a horse of my own, and with no job, he was as good of a motivator to wake up as it got.  And by residing in the Hall of Champions – just one aspect of the education department at KHP, he was accessible to all.

funny-cide

Funny Cide and I

Possibly more importantly, he was accessible to me.

And I slowly realized that just as I had campaigned for him during his highest moments in life, Funny Cide was now supporting me as I attempted to reenter a happy life.

This morning I learned of  a strategic planning meeting at the Kentucky Horse Park that had occurred last night. I read mixed reviews about the meeting – both from those who thought that it went well, and those who thought that not enough horse enthusiasts had come. And both speaking of how important it was for our government officials and our fellow equestrians to understand why the Kentucky Horse Park is an important part of our culture.  Our economy. Our lives.

Most of us understand that we currently have an administration in our state government which is not very equine-centic, and they are at odds with those of us who are – and in the middle of this conversation is the Kentucky Horse Park.  It might not profit the state of Kentucky a large amount of funds, but it has always been there for us as riders, horse lovers, and as an educational tool for those millions of Americans who have never even seen a horse up close.

And as I read the statuses about fear of the Kentucky Horse Park morphing into something we don’t even recognize, I couldn’t help but think about Funny Cide. And how many of my friends have a similar story, a similar affinity to a specific aspect of the Kentucky Horse Park. It offers so much to our community, in addition to the world at large.  It is a premier destination to so many  – both equestrians and not – to share one thing, and one thing only – a desire to learn more about, do more for, and work alongside the horse.

But what Bevin, and many people in this state don’t realize is just how  much the Kentucky Horse Park encompasses.  So here are just a few things available to us because of The Kentucky Horse Park, in no specific order:

  1. The Hall of Champions

Just as I spoke of before, the Hall of Champions is an amazing destination for anyone who has any interest in horses.  Stalls filled with the greats – from thoroughbred racehorses to standardbred harness horses, it allows you to interact with millionaires.  As the able handlers bring them out for their parades, you can see the horses chests fill with pride as if they are in the saddling enclosure once again.  It is truly a once in a lifetime experience.

The Rolex Kentucky 4* 3-day Event

The only FEI 4* event in North America, Rolex is by far one of the greatest weekends in Lexington, Kentucky.  Premier riders from around the world travel to our little town to compete for the title of “The Best.”  And yet Rolex is not just for venters, with the shopping, the eating, and the accessory shows entertaining for all.  My entire family loves coming on this weekend, and I have yet to meet someone who hasn’t.

The Horseback and Horsemanship Experience

This is an amazing educational experience for those of us who don’t personally own horses, and yet have craved riding once since birth.  The capable handlers and equestrians of the KHP staff will teach you about general horsemanship and tack, and then lead you on a trail ride throughout the horse park in a once of a lifetime experience.

The Retired Racehorse Project Thoroughbred Makeover

Over 350 equestrians of all disciplines ranging from eventing to barrel racing come to the Kentucky Horse Park to compete for the title of America’s Most Wanted Thoroughbred.  With $100,000 in cash prizes in addition to the bragging rights, it is also a great show for anyone who loves horse racing and wants to interact with the animals that they adore as they transition to a new career.

Lexington Polo

The sport of royalty is brought into our backyard with weekly polo games with players of all levels – from a half goal to 10.  And it is free for any citizen who wants to have their Pretty Woman moment to attend.  So grab a flute of champagne and a floppy hat and go be your best Julia Roberts as you watch some of the most fit and trained horses gallop at breath taking speeds while their riders keep their eye on the ball.

The National Horse Show

What was once a destination show at Madison Square Garden is now located right here at the Kentucky Horse Park.  And the elite hunter and jumper riders travel here to win the most prestigious of year end awards.  In addition to the general classes is the Puissance, an evening of death defying leaps over a (foam) brick wall that keeps getting higher.  Paired with your favorite microbrews from around town, it is an evening that even your husband will enjoy.

The Kentucky Classic CDE (Combined Driving Event)

An FEI event in its own realm, the elite combined drivers travel to the Kentucky Horse Park for a weekend of the highest level of competition. Watch as the drivers convince their teams of carriage horses navigate obstacles that would make most Rolex horses blush at breakneck speeds. Agility and endurance are combined with the most heightened levels of training on this special weekend.

The Egyptian Event: A Premier Arabian Show

One of the oldest and most refined breeds of horse comes to the Kentucky Horse Park for its premier show.  The Eqyptian Event is for the specific horses that can trace their lineages back to the roots of the breed – dating back thousands of years. And they open their doors to explain what exactly encompasses the traits that these breeders are looking for, and how those correlate with their ability as endurance mounts.

Breyerfest 

What horse lover didn’t own one of these statues at a young age?  Breyerfest is literally Christmas Day for the pony-obsessed child, as they get to interact with the horses that these statues are mimicking.  Fun demonstrations, great shopping, and meet and greats for those starstruck children make the event truly one of a kind.

United States Pony Club Festival

The United States Pony Club is one of the oldest organizations that stands upon proper education and safety of all riders, and at the pinnacle of its foundation is the Pony Club Festival.  Riders from all regions of this country compete amongst each other to be selected to represent their club and region at this nationwide event, and it happens right here in Lexington.  Be prepared to see a lot of khaki shorts and knee high socks, but no saddle will have a speck of dust on it that weekend.

High Hope Steeplechase

Lying alongside the outskirts of the Rolex XC courses main field is a turf track that might go unnoticed on most weekends at the Kentucky Horse Park.  But for one weekend in May, it will be adorned with timber and brush jumps and lined with cars.  Twelve hundred pound thoroughbreds will come careening down the turf as they find their stride to the jumps as the crowd of tailgaters cheer them towards the finish line.

 

Road to the Horse: A Horse Starting Competition

A weekend devoted to the starting of usable horses, Road to the Horse is a favorite for many equestrians around the world and fills the stands of the Alltech arena.  Skilled trainers are selected and then matched with young horses with no prior training and compete with each other to show which persons techniques and ability is the best.  By the end of the week, the teams are able to perform at a level that most riders would be jealous of.

Oleika Shrine Rodeo

While you can find the Horse Park full of Range Rovers and wide brimmed hats on many weekends, on this particular one you are more likely to find a dually and a Stetson.  Come watch great cowboys attempt to stick on for 8 seconds, wrestle a steer, or tame great beasts.  Its a fun-filled evening for the entire family, and for a great cause.

Kentucky Classic AQHA Show

For the equestrian in us who loves the American Quarter Horse breed, there is the Kentucky Classic.  A four day show that encompasses all classes from halter, to hunt seat, and western, it is a destination show for so many within the Quarter Horse breed.  So grab your rhinestones and polish your silver, and head down to the Kentucky Horse Park.

United States Mounted Games

Quite often at the Kentucky Horse Park, one will find themselves traveling to their competition arena and pass what appears to be herds of small ponies with abnormally tall teenagers alongside them. If you see these mounts, decked out in matching polos and colorful saddle pads, you should turn around and follow them.  Watching these skilled riders and their faithful companions challenge each other in their mounted games within the Rolex Arena is mesmerizing – a day well spent for any horse lover.

 

khp2

Getting to school XC for the first time at the Kentucky Horse Park

The Kentucky Horse Park means so much to so many of us – from a show grounds for premier shows to an educational tool of our local school system.  It is a part of our trainers and horsemens business plan, a destination for our families vacations, and a place that we as young children dreamed of visiting.

The horse industry in Kentucky has a 3 billion dollar economic impact on the state, and it is understandable that so much of that is in the breeding, selling, and racing thoroughbreds.

But so much of it is also in exactly what the Kentucky Horse Park exists for.  The local jumper trainer.  The 4-H participant.  The little girl whose family can’t afford riding lessons, but who put a Breyer under the tree every year.  And someone like me, who was a little lost in the world, but who knew that her love of horses would guide her way back to happiness.

We need our government officials to understand just how truly special this facility is to us as horse-enthusiasts, and exactly why we need it.  So please, click on the link below and sign our petition to keep the Kentucky Horse Park as a place for all things horses, and then comment below with your story.  What makes the Kentucky Horse Park special for you?  Why do you want to keep horses in the Kentucky Horse Park?

CLICK HERE to sign the petition to keep the HORSE in Kentucky Horse Park

 

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49 Comments on “Keeping the Horse in Kentucky Horse Park

  1. This post leaves me very sad – I have signed the petition!
    Going whenever possible to the Rolex is the highlight of my year. I dream of being able to take a trail ride there (didn’t know this was possible).
    What would the Kentucky Horse Park be without horses??
    I remember ohhhing & awwwing over the hall of champions – what a barn ❤
    And then I watched John Henry cribbing in his pasture 🙂

    • This really upsets me I’v been to the KHP one time, planning another trip in September. The one time I was there it really made me happy it gives you a very wounderful feeling to be around wounderful horses. An to see the great champion’s (Secretariat). An its a beautiful place for the horses to retire an life out there lives happy an free to be a horse.

  2. I work at the HALL and it is my dream job. I couldn’t imagine any better place to work. The horses are my favorite. Go For Gin especially is my favorite.

  3. So I’m sitting here in tears imagining the loss of this place that is so dear to me. I have always wanted horses yet never lived in a place not had the money to afford one. KHP is my access to horses. Some days I get up and say to my husbamd, I need the horses today.” Then I make the 1 he drive just to roam from barn to barn. The Big Barn is always my first stop. Gosh, I love drafts! Quinn will be invariably be sound asleep and snoring. Conner and Jace take me back to my 5 yr old self sitting stop my Grand dad’s Belgian. But Sunny in the Mounted Police Barn is my peace. I can stand nose to nose with Sunny scratching that dosy chin all day. I love the hanging in the farriers’ shed watching them work. I love the peacefulness of the grounds. I love access to world class events, especially the CDE. I love watching eventing even though I know precious little about it. The movement of horse and rider as one leaves me in awe. I’m gaining a greater appreciation of dressage, as well. I was honored to watch William Foxx-Pitt warm up for his dressage event 3 yrs ago at Rolex. Knowing nothing except who he is and how when it’s flawless it shows.
    This is my place of peace. My place that brought me a little piece of the world through the Irish groom and the English volunteer go cart chauffeur I once met. It’s the place that gives me conversations with Gene, the last living man to ever sit on ManO’ War. It’s world class and a Kentucky jewel and I’m afraid I’m going to be robbed of it.
    I want to know when the next meeting is. I want to be there with you.

  4. I cannot even imagine a visit to Kentucky without a visit to the Kentucky Horse Park. I am so shocked this is even a possibility. We cannot let this happen. I signed this petition and would sign it a thousand times if I could. I forwarded to three friends and hope they do the same. I loved visiting and saw the incredible Cigar and others. The show was so entertaining and magnificent. I wish I lived closer so I could visit every week. It is a Kentucky treasure. Some of these events are definitely on my bucket list. This should not and cannot happen.

  5. It is very unclear what this petition is actually petitioning. I love the Horse Park but you need to explain what “an amusement park” means.

    Some of the other comments seem to suggest they were led to believe the park is shutting down completely. (Derlene) Will we never be able to visit the park again?

    • It is not in jeopardy of closing down, at least not to my knowledge. It has been brought up on numerous occasions that many of their educational aspects (the Hall of Champions, their breed demonstrations) are “money pits” and are at risk of future closure. But more importantly, in the last year or so, many changes to the administration at KHP have changed due to the new governor. The new administration is not exactly full of horsemen.

  6. What’s this Governor thinking? This IS Kentucky, known for its horses. The people who work there become part of the KHP. People come from all over just to look at the horses, & attend the many shows.
    I really didn’t know this was on the table.

  7. KHP is an awesome place that I’m saddened to here that it will be over

    • It is not “over”, we are just at a place in time where we need to make it known to politicians that we do not want it becoming an amusement park.

  8. It already is an amusement park of sorts, you go there to see things and do things you cannot see and do on a daily basis. I don’t think the park is in danger of becoming an “amusement park” as far as rollercoasters and such. If anything it is in danger of becoming strictly a show facility. As in, more of a fair grounds that shows and associations can rent in order to host horse shows and competions.

  9. My son attended the Pony Club National Competitionthere several years, and we came to watch, of course. I think it’s good for tourism.

  10. I signed. My first visit to the Horse Park (about 4 yrs ago) was a weekend birthday trip from my husband, who is from N. KY. I cried during both breed shows #notevenalittlebitashamed. Then last year we went to Rolex to tailgate during XC and watch SJ. Even in the rain the park evoked such an emotional feeling inside that I couldn’t contain my excitement and was skipping around like a little girl all weekend. I’m about 40 years away from being that little girl btw. And it was the place where hubby decided he too wanted to get in to this eventing thing (after starting lessons just a month prior). The memories from just 2 trips to the park are some of my favorites. And we will be back for Rolex 2018!

  11. Signed!

    I visited the KHP for the first time in 2015. The purpose of my trip was to attend the Derby, but when I look back I think the most impactful and memorable part of the trip was the afternoon that I spent dragging my Mom and Aunt to every corner of the KHP. From lecturing to them in front of Bruce Davidson’s statue about his importance to US Eventing, to soaking in the excitement of the all breeds show, to trying to get the ‘perfect’ picture of the Man o’War statue, it was really a dream come true. I agree that getting to see the pride displayed by Funny Cide and the others as they paraded at the Hall of Champions was the pinnacle.

    What an amazing resource and treasure for those of you that live nearby. It would be so sad if the focus of the park were to be taken away from the horses. As for myself, I will be up here in PA plotting a future trip to Rolex which may be the only thing that can top my original visit to the park!

  12. They could be financial stable if it was ran properly.. on many of occasions I have been there on big events and went right thru the gates without paying or providing a ticket. I have always said one day that would eventually hurt the park. These has been going on for over 10 years and the events I attend are big ones.. just like road to horse coming up .. yes you have to buy a ticket to enter the alltech building and I’m sure RTTH renting the Alltech pays descent, but honestly what about charging for parking. I would gladly pay 5 bucks a vehicle for parking.. Also camping in the campground , on big events people camp there and go right into the horse park without even paying.. seen it happen. People also will park in the campground (not even buying a site there to camp) and walk to events in the park. This is a lot of money being lost for the park. I’m talking over a year , it could easily add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars.. This would easily keep the economic income for the state up..Doesn’t take a rocket scientist or someone with a college education to figure that out…

  13. I don’t even understand why we are discussing this. There is no other place than the the Kentucky Horse Park where Horse belongs.

  14. I talked to my friend high in the KY government and they knew nothing about this. And to say Bevin has no interest in horses is a fallacy. My farrier takes care of one of the Governers daughters horses, so he does have horse connections.

  15. Amen to every word you wrote!! I agree wholeheartedly with every sentiment you shared here.

    I grew up dreaming of the Rolex Kentucky 3 Day Event.
    I have attended this event and many other events at this amazing “Mecca for all United States (and many abroad) horse people”
    How very horrific to think we might lose this amazing, iconic venue…

    This place means so much to so many!! Anyone who has been there knows that it is a community. A place almost sacred, filled with knowing glances and loving smiles.. and those shared “and his haa” moments …it’s one of the few places here on earth where we, lucky visitors get to have a glimpse of heaven and equine angels…..and, ok sometimes devil’s too. lol

    I live in Southern California now but will continue to visit Kentucky…maybe….because to me, aside from a few old friends.
    There will only be a shambles of Kentucky if there is no KHP.
    Sincerely,
    Julia Spencer

    • “and his haa” moments
      should have been “and ahh ha!” Moments…sorry for auto correct

  16. I am not a citizen of Kentucky, but have visited the KHP for many years. Along with the many other state parks in Kentucky tied to tourism the horse park is a jewel. It started out as a gift and has evolved into a national treasure for equestrians. Citizens of Kentucky, please do not let short term political goals lead to an outcome that would let this wonderful and significant place, made up of decades of peoples efforts and contributions, disappear and lose this valuable asset.

  17. This is a beautiful place for learning and enjoying the history of the horse. There are plenty of amusement parks but nothing like this. Please leave this Horse Park alone.

  18. Anybody like myself who has enjoyed the beauty, history and serenity with excitement of this park understands. I’ve been there from Texas often and intend to return with showing friends. NOTHING should destroy this place, especially by politicians.

  19. I for one think it would be a travesty. The Kentucky horse park is a place that I can go to forget about the pressure of the world.Every time I have been there I have been treated with the greatest respect. So I for one will do all in my power to keep it..

  20. Funny Cide is my favorite race horse too. And I feel your pain in dealing with people who don’t appreciate something that is important to so many. I am trying to save the second oldest race track in the U.S.,Pimlico.

    • It is not at risk of closing down. This was to make the point that it may change. It needs to become
      Profitable for the state, and currently is not. What they will do with it to make it profitable, we are unsure. Currently (to my knowledge) the greatest costs to the park are the horses that live there, specifically for the education department. But that is a huge part of the park, and I am praying that they don’t get rid of it. The executive director, Ms Laura Prewitt has stated she does not want to, so hopefully we are moving in the right direction.

  21. This is a destination for many of us across the country and represents Kentucky to many of us.

  22. As the mom of a special olympics equestrian athlete I can’t begin to tell you the thrill they feel competing at the Alltech arena. I just can not imagine this wonderful place anything but what it is now. Signing the petition.

  23. All my life I had wanted to visit the KHP….imagine the thrill when I learned my son was going to be married in nearby Georgetown. The weekend was filled with activities that required my participation except for the morning before the wedding. So, off I went! My, oh my..it was so much more than I expected!! I almost missed my son’s wedding! Fortunately, I didn’t, but it was only the first of my many visits, some of which I attended with my granddaughter. I am praying nothing happens to this one of a kind place to visit.

    • It is not at risk of closing down. This was to make the point that it may change. It needs to become
      Profitable for the state, and currently is not. What they will do with it to make it profitable, we are unsure. Currently (to my knowledge) the greatest costs to the park are the horses that live there, specifically for the education department. But that is a huge part of the park, and I am praying that they don’t get rid of it. The executive director, Ms Laura Prewitt has stated she does not want to, so hopefully we are moving in the right direction.

    • It is not at risk of closing down. This was to make the point that it may change. It needs to become
      Profitable for the state, and currently is not. What they will do with it to make it profitable, we are unsure. Currently (to my knowledge) the greatest costs to the park are the horses that live there, specifically for the education department. But that is a huge part of the park, and I am praying that they don’t get rid of it. The executive director, Ms Laura Prewitt has stated she does not want to, so hopefully we are moving in the right direction.

  24. This is where I began my career as a physical therapist practicing hippotherapy. It’s also where I fell in love with Lexington- watching polo, symposiums, horse shows and more

  25. I cannot imagine Lexington without the Kentucky Horse Park! It will break my heart if it goes away!!

    • It is not at risk of closing down. This was to make the point that it may change. It needs to become
      Profitable for the state, and currently is not. What they will do with it to make it profitable, we are unsure. Currently (to my knowledge) the greatest costs to the park are the horses that live there, specifically for the education department. But that is a huge part of the park, and I am praying that they don’t get rid of it. The executive director, Ms Laura Prewitt has stated she does not want to, so hopefully we are moving in the right direction.

  26. Although I now live in the US – Boise, Idaho – I’m a retired equestrian journalist from the UK. Sadly, I never got to cover any events at the KHP although I watched the Rolex 3DE on TV whenever it was broadcast in the UK – notably in 2003 when Pippa Funnell won to set up her becoming the first rider to win the Grand Slam. [I was at Badminton and Burghley for the 2nd and 3rd parts of the Slam. Pippa is a close acquaintance as I ran events with her mother.]
    Anyway, to me horses in the US have always meant Kentucky, and through my career, this has come to mean the KPH. I have to admit that I wasn’t aware of the full breadth of events that run there, so to not be profitable is unbelievable. In the UK, events like Badminton and Burghley are profitable without the venues hosting other ‘horsey’ events. TV coverage of the Rolex shows near comparable crowds. Venues for other disciplines vary from popular and successful showjumping venues like Hickstead, to carriage driving which is marginal – but some driving events I covered were run with other activities so profitably.
    I should also add that I was co-organiser of a small but viable one-day eventing weekend that is still running – I’m just the token President.
    So in my mind, the KHP should be more than viable = able to fund more charitable activiies.
    Petition signed.

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