We stopped in Lexington, KY mainly to see an old friend of mine from my National Guard days. Bill Weber was my Operations Sergeant when I was the Operations Officer for Company F (RANGER) 425th Infantry. Bill had lived in Michigan, but moved to Kentucky for his job. Living in Kentucky didn’t stop him from serving in our unit. Every month he would drive to Michigan on Friday and then drive back on Sunday. Talk about dedication! I always considered Bill to be a special friend and it was great to have dinner with him and his wife.
The Kentucky Horse Park was created in 1978 in order to host the World Three-Day Equestrian Championships. After this event, the Horse Park administrators realized that it had to make changes in order to continue to operate. They now host various events and shows from Wednesday through Sunday. The park is also the headquarters for more than 30 national, regional and state equine organizations and associations
We were delighted to discover that the Kentucky Horse Park gives serving military members and veterans a 50% discount on admission. We began our tour at the International Museum of the Horse, a Smithsonian Affiliate. The museum is the largest and most comprehensive museum in the world dedicated to exploring the history of all horses and their impact on human civilization. Through its ever-growing library and archives, it also serves as a resource for scholars and researchers throughout the world. I was very interested to see the roles in which horses were used over the centuries.
Partway through our tour of the museum we left to see the Hall of Champions. Champion horses that have finished their careers have been acquired by the Horse Park and stabled on the grounds. Thoroughbred legends Da Hoss, Funny Cide, and Go for Gin, as well as American Quarter Horse Be A Bono, Standardbred Trotter Mr. Muscleman, and Standardbred Pacers Staying Together, Western Dreamer, and Won The West are shown in daily presentations. We were able to see them in their stalls and then they were presented to the group in a viewing arena where we learned about their race history and, in some cases, their studding history. These horses were absolutely amazing, talk about thoroughbreds!
After this Pat went to watch the Parade of Breeds and I returned to the museum. With music, narration and interaction, humankind’s six thousand year partnership with the horse is brought to life in the Parade of Breeds. From the rare Marwari to the iconic American Quarter Horse, breed representatives perform in hand and under saddle. During the summer season, breed representatives perform in colorful attire that evokes the culture, time period, and customs of their native land. At the museum one of the most intriguing exhibits was the one on the Arabian Horse. I was fascinated by how the Arabian evolved to perform in a desert environment. However, what impressed me the most was that Arabians are used to breed other horses, but no other horses are used to breed Arabians in order to keep the breed pure.
We took a brief horse-drawn trolley tour that showed us even more of the park and we learned about the variety of shows that take place every Wednesday through Sunday.
On our way out we visited the memorial of Man o’ War, probably the most famous race horse in history. On June 6, 1919, ridden by Johnny Loftus, Man o’ War won his first race by six lengths, crossing the finish line at a canter. He showed his desire to be a front runner and never liked to have any other horse in front of him. Legend has it that upon seeing him in action, a spectator asked a groom, “Who’s he by?” The reply was “He’s by hisself, and there ain’t nobody gonna get near him.” He ran only in expensive stake races for the remainder of his career.
His sixth race was the Sanford Memorial and the only defeat of his career. A bad start left him with a ten length deficit and, once he caught the pack, he was boxed in. He was beaten by a horse ironically named Upset, whom Man o’ War beat on six other occasions. In spite of this lone defeat, at the end of his two-year-old season he was selected Horse of the Year.
Not only did he win 20 of the 21 races he ran, but he sired a string of horses that went on to be champions themselves, such as War Admiral, a Triple Crown winner who is also buried in the memorial.
There are many great things to see in Lexington, KY, don’t forget to include the Kentucky Horse Park in your plans.