Who else read the Thoroughbred series by Joanna Campbell when they were growing up?
I was obsessed with these books about a Kentucky horse racing family and religiously devoured every single one to fill the time in between real life riding lessons. Now, over 10 years later, I recently found myself planning my very first trip to the place that I grew up reading and dreaming about in these books.
When I decided on the trip to Lexington for the second week of the Kentucky Spring Shows, I immediately started googling nearby farms with tours available, and ultimately settled on WinStar Farm. There are tons of other beautiful and historic farms out there, but WinStar had the most convenient timing for me for this particular visit – otherwise it was pretty much impossible for me to choose between all of the options. I’m sure I’ll try to tour a farm at least once per visit to Kentucky. There is just so much to see and do here if you love horses.
The tour started at 1pm on Wednesday, but I accidentally arrived around 12:30pm because I was excited. WinStar is 2300 acres and growing, so the tour was only of the Stallion Barn and Breeding facility for the sake of time and also because their training facility is very active and busy. Luckily, the Stallion Barn has a beautiful lobby area to wait in when you arrive early like I did. They had several interactive screens with videos of their horses and various memorabilia on display from races their horses have won.
When the tour begins, you first walk in to the stallion barn from the lobby and are under a skylight with spotlights coming from all directions above. This is where horses are brought out and shown to potential buyers and breeders, so they can inspect them under the best, most natural light possible. It was a stunning display room, flanked on either side by the stallion stalls.
We then got to meet the stars of the show, the stallions. As we went to each stall and bribed them with a peppermint, we learned about their unique story and experienced firsthand each’s personality.
I was expecting the stallions to be much more rambunctious than they were, but their temperaments were mild and they were very friendly and gentle when accepting treats. This may be because unlike most, WinStar keeps the stallions outside most of the time, including all night, which allows them to “just be horses” and come back to the stalls relaxed.
Here were some of my favorites:
This is Super Saver, the derby winner and a huge ham.
After the introductions, we were led along the path to the breeding facility, where there are two large rooms with padding on all the walls where the “magic” happens between the stallions and the visiting mares. The breeding rooms have a vet booth in the middle that monitors each session, and the other side has a full inspection room for the mares.
There wasn’t much of a tour of the actual grounds of the farm, but it’s easy to see the sprawling green paddocks in all directions as soon as you step out of the barn. Another highlight of the trip to WinStar was the drive there from where I’m staying near the Kentucky Horse Park – just miles and miles of fields with horses in them. It’s apparently a great time of year to spot foals, which I have seen plenty of nearly every time I drive somewhere. It’s also amazing how frequently I drive by a group of horses who are literally just laying down on their sides in the grass, totally asleep in the sun and content with life. It’s good to be a horse living in Kentucky.
On a sort of side note, as I write this it’s May 15th, which is exactly one year since I left my apartment in LA to drive across the country and move permanently back to the east coast. If you had asked me 365 days ago where I thought I would be on this day in 2015, I would have never imagined my answer would be “at a horse show in Kentucky.” You never know what life has in store for you. Part of me feels like this was all an accident that I ended up here, in Kentucky, sitting on a picnic table this morning watching round after round of beautiful horses and talented riders- sometimes all of this truly is the very meaning of the word “un – believable” to me. But when I hear that you all can relate to a story I’ve told or picture I’ve taken, or when I chat with you all between rounds and later drive home with my favorite song playing and fields of horses on either side of the road and my legs tired from walking all day, it also feels a little like fate.