Summer’s now in full swing and what better way to celebrate than a road trip with the girls in your family? I just got back from two weeks on the road with three of my favorite ladies: my mom, oldest sis, and darling niece. Our starting point was suburban Chicago and final destination Florida, to see my middle sister and her family in Jacksonville. We drove strategically through Lexington so we could revel in the equine awesomeness that is Kentucky Horse Park.
We have all been to Kentucky Horse Park before, so we thought we’d only stay about half of the day and then drive to Asheville, North Carolina and see the Biltmore Estate the following day. Instead, we got sucked in for the entire day, skipping the former home of the Vanderbilts so we could see the current home of Funny Cide, the Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner of 2003.
I interviewed my fav females in our rented mini-van as we headed down the interstate; the following blog entry is basically a re-cap of our post-Horse Park conversation.
Road Trip Cast of Characters
Marlene, the Mother–Loved horses since she could walk, but dairy farmer father called them “hayburners” and they were “unpredictable.” When my mom was a little girl, her father had just gotten a tractor and didn’t want to be bothered with horses anymore, therefore she was not allowed to have one. Although she remembers riding one of the horses from their workhorse team of Tony and Daisy when she was a wee lass.
Linda, the Sister–Always wanted a horse but couldn’t afford one. She spent one idyllic summer during college working as a wrangler at Timber-Lee, a Christian camp in Wisconsin. There she was responsible for the care of six horses, including her horse for the summer, Duke, who had been a competitive barrel racer. After that she became the primary rider of my second horse Chassy, the one I won through a 4-H essay contest.
Mattie, the Niece–Her Grandmother (herein referred to as Marlene) would tell her when she was a baby in a car seat, “You WILL love horses. You WILL love horses.” When she was born I gave her a yellow onesie with tiny horseshoes, as a more subtle form of brainwashing. She is 15 and currently saving money for the “Mattie Needs a Horse Foundation.”
Question: How would you describe Kentucky Horse Park to someone who’s never been there?
Linda: Wholesome family fun, conducive to horse lovers and the equine-challenged (but probably not high school boys).
Mattie: For anyone who doesn’t know much about horses, you don’t feel stupid. The volunteers are personable. There are gorgeous acres of lush pastures. It’s 1200 acres of pure horse heaven!
Linda: You can see all levels of shows. The grounds are used by the public for shows. It was the site of the World Equestrian Games in 2010.
Susan: Yes, I wanted to go to that but it happened shortly after my wedding. I didn’t think I should up and leave a few weeks after my honeymoon in the middle of our home renovation project.
(While we were at the Park a Pony Club one-day event was going on as well as a Quarter Horse show.)
What else should people know about a visit to Kentucky Horse Park?
Marlene: The park entrance fee is very reasonable. They have a veteran discount. We paid $15 per person.
Susan: That’s a whole lot cheaper than Disneyland.
Linda: And there are rides there. You can go on a trail ride or a fake horse ride. Or a tram ride.
Susan: Yes, the tram. Mattie especially liked that. <wink, wink> Last time we did the trail ride. It was just walking, but it gave a good overview of the property.
Marlene: They offer tours of the race horse farms in the area. We did that last time.
Susan: Those breeding farms were so gorgeous, and I remember the tour guide stopped so we could all get ice cream.
What was your favorite part of the day?
Linda: The golf cart ride (just kidding). I liked seeing the breeds because some of them I’ve never heard of. Learning new things, especially about the breeds. Being able to talk to the person and touch the horse. It was hands on.
Marlene: Seeing the 8 week old miniature horse and its mommy. I had no idea how tiny a miniature horse is as a baby! They said it’s the size of a large cat when it’s born. And within an hour they’re on their feet and within a day they can run with mom. Within two weeks they start nibbling on grass.
Susan: You’ve got a good memory!
Mattie: Seeing all the retired racehorses and talking to the workers and volunteers to get each horse’s story, the inside scoop. And I got to touch the halter hanging outside Cigar’s stall. And I dropped it. I didn’t realize you could buy the ex-racehorses’ leather halters.
Susan: That volunteer said the horses only wear their halter for two weeks and then the halter gets sold. There’s a huge waiting list for Cigar’s halter.
Linda: I was also impressed with how fit those retired racehorses were.
Susan: I couldn’t believe Cigar was 24. He looked magnificent!
Linda: They must exercise them.
Any closing thoughts about a day at Kentucky Horse Park?
Marlene: Worthy of repeat visits.
Linda: Facilities are not crowded.
Marlene: 1,200 acres meticulously maintained with a cute tram driver.
Mattie: Oh gosh! He was attentive to us. Like a puppy dog, but cuter than a puppy dog.
Even though the grounds are vast, we were not tired at the end of the day because the tram driver popped up four different times in different locations during our visit, asking us where we’d like to go next. Marlene was convinced he felt like he needed to give an “old lady” a ride. I have my suspicions he thought Mattie was cute.
In spite of the fact that I’m old enough to be mature, I couldn’t resist saying, “Hey! I need to take a picture of you guys,” as I hopped off the tram (smirking).
Mattie, you can thank me later for preserving this moment for eternity.
Have you taken a summer road trip with family or friends before? What adventures from that journey stand out in your memory? Comment freely. 🙂