When my Morgan Horse, Trucker died a few years ago, I didn’t take much time to grieve. The emotions were so strong that I just put them aside. I didn’t go to the barn anymore; I gave all his things away and I rarely paid any attention to my friends’ horses behind my house. I just couldn’t. And even though I have been horseback riding a few times, I did not entertain the thought of getting another horse when I retired. Trucker was my one and only and to avoid thinking about the loss, I put my mind to other tasks, dog training, quilting, work. I chose not to have anything to do with horses.
So, when our journey took us to Lexington, Kentucky, I was afraid of what I might feel. I didn’t make many plans, but we are now travelling with friends. Julie is also a planner. First on her agenda was the Kentucky Horse Park. And what did I see as soon as I entered the park but a life-sized statue of a Morgan Horse. I wanted to sit down and cry. Instead, that began my journey back into being a horse lover.
The Kentucky Horse Park has three barns that visitors can tour as well as two museums and a visitors’ center. They also offer horseback rides. There are two large stadiums, one inside and one outside that host shows throughout the year.
Of course, this year is a different time due to Covid. Not only were visitors required to wear masks, but two of the three barns were closed for visitors, instead offering opportunities to meet selected horses outside of their stalls. At the Hall of Champions, we met Thoroughbreds, Funny Cide and Go For Gin, winners of the Kentucky Derby. We heard stories about their wins and about their personalities and preferences. We also met Western Dreamer, a Standardbred Pacer, who won the Pacing Triple Crown and set a record for a three-year-old gelding.
Across from the Hall of Champions, we watched a “parade of breeds” and saw a Fell Pony, an Irish Thoroughbred, a Marwari, an Arabian, and a sooty palomino Morgan Horse named Chance. Chance’s coloring is very unusual. He is a dark gold with touches of black. I melted when I saw him performing dressage. My original goal when I got Trucker was to do dressage, but due to my inexperience, we simply became trail riding partners. All the horses were beautiful, particularly the Marwari, a black and white paint from India, but my eyes rarely left Chance. Afterwards, I got to talk to his rider and though Chance was about six inches shorter than my boy, their personalities were very similar.
My love for Chance found a rival when we visited the Big Barn where the draft and carting horses live. There, I met Prince, a Hackney Pony. He was a little smaller than Chance and almost black with dark, knowing eyes. This time, I was not the only one staring as Prince didn’t take his eyes off of me! In truth, he probably just wanted out of his stall, but I like to think he was sizing me up and thinking he might like to take me for a ride in his cart. His caretaker told me that it was like riding behind a Ferrari!
In the same barn, we met Belgians, Clydesdales, a Sussex Punch, Shire, and Percherons. Huge horses standing 16 hands high (a hand is four inches). They were all so loveable and gentle. We heard stories about them, their work, and personalities. We stood amazed as one caretaker lead four of the giants out to pasture with a single lead! We spent a lot of time in this barn as it was the only one open to the public, but also because the gentle giants were so fascinating. They even stood still to be vacuumed and appeared to enjoy it!
By the time we left the Horse Park on the second day, I was no longer a broken hearted former horse owner, but the little girl who drew pictures of the horse of her dreams and begged her parents for a pony. While I probably will never another horse again, I can once again admire them without a deep pain in my heart.