I amazed by the beauty of America. Even just driving up North I-35 through the ranchland between Austin and Dallas, or through the vast Hill Country to Lampasas, or down 290 to Elgin, or the short spurt of oak forest to the get to the barn - places I'm familiar with - the beauty of it blows me away. The enchanting desert of the Southwest, the feeling of stun and amazement and humility peering into the Grand Canyon or driving through the Rockies, the peaceful quiet felt watching a herd of elk from the other side of a crystal river in Yellowstone, looking across the beautiful Southern Appalachians from Lover's Leap in Chattanooga, or driving through the Smoky Mountains on a cool morning with old pines and carefully crafted stone walls rushing by you - all of it fill me with a love for this country.
Because this blog is about ponies, I thought I bring to you some pictures of another place of beauty I found myself in: the lush bluegrass region of Kentucky. If you've never drove through the backroads outside of Lexington, alongside Scottish stone walls and white and black wooden fences, or sat by yourself on a cool misty morning at the Keeneland Track while the lone jockey and horse warmed-up on the track before you, or awed at the golden roof and extravagantly detailed gate of a sheik's stables, or sat under the shade of some old trees at Claiborne Farm paying your respects over Secretariat's grave... then you are missing a truly enchanting and restorative experience. The horse country of Kentucky is a wonderful mix of grandeur and simplicity. It is simply beautiful.
First, some theme music from one of my favorite movies which takes place in Kentucky, and NOW....
Here is some equine Americana from 2008:
Scenic drive to Versailles. Many towns in Kentucky were named after French towns, cities, and nobility as a sign of gratitude for French aid during the American Revolution.
Almost all of the famous stone walls that line the back roads of the bluegrass region were hand done by hired Scottish masons. Most have been in place since the 1700s and 1800s! When some of these roads were widened less than a decade ago, the walls were carefully taken apart and redone once again by Scottish masons.
The polo fields and banquet tent at the Horse Park. There was a couple of polo tournaments being held at this time, although they were not open to all!
Riders awaiting their turn during a Saddlebred breed show at the Horse Park. Saddlebreds are a signature Kentucky breed, and an original American breed as well. What an honor it would be to compete there!
The Horse Park's Secretariat memorial. Big Red himself is buried at Claiborne Farm a few miles away in Paris, KY, where he lived out the rest of his days as a stud. His stall still remains uninhabited as they wait for a suitable successor. Such a great American stallion will be extremely hard to live up to. There was an even grander War Admiral memorial a few steps away. Both are popular spots for wedding photos.
Two Freisian horses on vacation at the Horse Park graze on a cool, misty Kentucky morning on green Kentucky grass.
Forego, a racing great, is buried at the Horse Park along with many other great horses, such as Bask and Bret Hanover. It is also the current vacation home for greats like Cigar.
The Buck Davidson statue at it's original location near the entry to the Horse Park. The amazing new stadiums were still under construction for the WEG 2010 at this time, and once they were completed this statue was moved to the entry of the new outdoor stadium, where American greats like Steffen Peters rode and brought home a bronze for his adopted country after some tough competition. Read the quote by Akiko Yamazaki, owner of Peter's WEG mount Ravel, about the opportunities she and Team Ravel found and made true in America.
More lovely Kentucky scenery. Wouldn't you like to be the person who woke up to such beauty in that house every morning?
Grazing Thoroughbreds. Many farm owners made the move from traditional white fences to black fences to save money on maintenance. They still look classy!
The Keeneland Racetrack, home to some of the largest Thoroughbred auctions in the country. I love going to this track, because it's free to watch the jockeys warm-up (very) early in the morning and to go to the big auctions! You can rub elbows with sheiks and millionaires, and even though you probably won't be able to buy any of the yearling stock, it's an amazing experience.
The Keeneland courtyard. This track was used to film the match race scene between War Admiral and Seabiscuit in the 2003 movie, because it is one of the few American tracks that still retains it's original turn-of-the-century design. A very classy and well-groomed track.
The Keeneland track in the late morning. On my 2008 trip, I had gotten to the track too late in the morning to see the jockeys warming up. But on my first trip in 2005, I got to watch them and, like I have said, it beats watching the Derby any day.
The signature Keeneland jockey statues. You'll find these all over Kentucky, sometimes painted with a stable's silk colors, and often just for decoration. But they were first made popular at the Keeneland track!
Rolex also made big clocks like the ones seen at the Horse Park for the Keeneland track as well. They are huge in person and seem to be all over the place. I'd much rather these all over the place than Starbucks shops! And because they are Rolex quality, they rarely need maintenance, which is good because I can only imagine the cost to fix one of these