I can remember it like it was yesterday. It was a brisk Kentucky morning in late-December and we pulled up to a picturesque farm with black fences and horses as far as the eye could see. Little did I know that a trip to the breeding shed, and a 2013 Kentucky Derby winner jumping and playing like a colt in his paddock would ignite a new passion in my life.
Rewind back 30 years ago and I was a little girl growing up in a small city right outside of Orlando, Florida. Growing up in a state known for its gigantic alligators and pesky lovebugs, horses were something I was only exposed to when I visited relatives in Flemingsburg, Kentucky. Nothing made me happier than going to my aunt’s farm to ride quarter horses and frolic in the field with the foals.
My days riding horses were extremely limited however as I frequently traveled all throughout the world to compete in golf tournaments. I ultimately received a golf scholarship to attend the University of Kentucky, but due to my hectic schedule as a student-athlete, I rarely visited horse farms and hardly ever had time to enjoy Keeneland.
After graduating from UK, I moved back to Florida where I accepted a job with the Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA). Golf has always been my number one passion, but all of that changed after discovering Horse Country.
My mom was preparing to celebrate a big birthday (don’t worry mom, I won’t give away your age), and all she wanted to do was go to Lexington and tour horse farms. I couldn’t have been more excited and immediately got on the internet to start booking tours through Horse Country.
The first stop on our tour of horse farms was Claiborne Farm in Paris, Kentucky. Upon arrival, we immediately went and met Grade 1 winner of over $2.36 million, Lea. If you have ever been to Claiborne Farm, you know that Lea is often referred to as the “official greeter” because of his sweet demeanor and eagerness to beg you for a peppermint.
We then headed to the breeding shed where we learned about the complex breeding process.
Next stop on the tour was to visit with resident bad boy and my personal favorite, 2013 Kentucky Derby winner, Orb. Orb was feeling especially frisky on the brisk Kentucky morning and was ready to show off and strut his stuff as he took off running displaying is Kentucky Derby winning speed in his paddock. Before we knew it, Orb got a burst of energy and jumped completely off the ground. He quickly looked around to make sure everyone saw his antics.
To close out the tour we got to see a glimpse of one of the leading sires in the nation, War Front and got a close-up look at Secretariat’s grave that was covered in roses.
The hospitality that Claiborne showed, and the personalities of all the horses was all it took for me to fall in love with the horse racing industry.
Since that tour, I have visited seven different tours on Horse Country. During that time, I have seen and experienced things I will never forget including Winstar’s Revolutionary’s goofy personality as he tilted his head to get in a selfie. And who cannot be impressed by Triple Crown Winner American Pharoah at Coolmore Farm. Trust me when I say, he is stunning and has one of the sweetest demeanors I have ever seen on a horse.
Another standout for me was seeing California Chrome at Taylor Made. His is a beauty, and boy does he know it! After rolling around in his paddock he quickly realized he had an audience and the performance began. He stood as regal as a statue before coming to the fence to pose for the cameras.
I also fell in love with a little filly at Taylor Made out of Mamba Kimbo and Empire Maker. Our tour guide allowed us to take photos alongside her and while taking a picture, she decided it would be fun to try to play with my hair.
The experiences and memories I have made while taking tours is something I will never forget. From seeing a foal running for the first time, to getting an up-close and personal look at the amazing personalities of thoroughbreds, it is an experience of a lifetime.
No matter if it is your first time, or you have been before, you will learn and see something new and exciting.
Keep an eye out on VisitHorseCountry.com for my upcoming blog posts of a couple of my favorite farms, Runnymede and Saxony.