Must-have stops for horse lovers visiting Lexington, Kentucky
By Anne Hardy, Kentucky Equestrian Directory 2021 Issue
For horse lovers anywhere, bucolic Lexington, KY should be at the top of the must-visit list. Rolling hills and farmland abound, populated by generations of horsemen and women and horses of all breeds. In the inner Bluegrass region alone, there is said to be over 450 horse farms; there is a reason it is known as the Horse Capital of the World.
Thirty of these farms and equine organizations are united under the umbrella of Horse Country, a not-for-profit membership organization offering experiences to guests that allow for deep connection and interaction with equine life. Founded in 2014 and launching tour experiences in 2015, Horse Country has hit its stride as a premier attraction for visitors to the area. Access to the local Thoroughbred farms and the opportunity to meet some of the famous faces of horse racing (humans and animals!) has long been a top request at the local visitor centers. Horse Country offers all that - and more. And it’s not just great for the visitors and fans. Offering authentic and transparent experiences and owning the narrative of horse care is transforming the way the farms and equine businesses relate to fans.
“What we have found is that guests are looking for a ‘horse experience’, and when they find Horse Country, they get that, but also an up-close look at the day-to-day life of the many people who make this industry go,” shares Stephanie Arnold of Horse Country. “It’s meaningful because it’s about original stories and it’s about education and it’s about an appreciation for the utter dedication to the care of these beloved animals. When guests leave a tour, typically their satisfaction increases, and they have a greater understanding of the sport in ways they may not have expected to.”
Founded with the mission of fan development, Horse Country has evolved from basic, one-hour tours to offering a variety of experiences for fans at every level: maintaining entry-level tours but also offering private, VIP, specially curated, and elevated tours. Some guests have even purchased shares of racehorses as a result of Horse Country tours. The tourism crisis of COVID-19 recently offered the opportunity for the farms to share virtual tours when in-person wasn’t possible, exposing the organization, locations, and Kentucky to millions of viewers who otherwise would not have been captured. “Silver linings as they say,” Arnold reflects. “But in all seriousness, the organic reach that sprung out of a very difficult time is indeed a bright spot. We’ve heard from many virtual tour participants that now they’ll be visiting the Bluegrass - and these farms - because of the exposure through these live-streamed experiences.”
Typical peak tour season runs March through October in Kentucky, when upwards of 30 locations - stud farms, nurseries, clinics, a feed mill, a sport horse farm, aftercare organizations, and training/track locations - offer varied experiences seven days a week. All experiences are booked in advance on the organization’s website: VisitHorseCountry.com. Guests looking for assistance can connect with the Horse Country concierge with any questions and for assistance planning an itinerary.
“Our ultimate goal is fan development, so that we can share a part of the industry that promotes the sport and the care of the horses,” Arnold says. “Anything that we can do to share our knowledge and assist with planning a wonderful trip, we are going to do that. We’re locals, and we work for Horse Country, but we’re fans first, and we love sharing the best of the sport and the state.”
For more information: www.visithorsecountry.com
Published in the KENTUCKY EQUESTRIAN DIRECTORY - 2021 ISSUE