|July 28, Wednesday: We went back to the Kentucky Horse Park today. We had been there as part of the tour we took at the Rally. Today we could stay as long as we wanted to and see a lot more.
We went back to see some different breeds showcased. Today they were demonstrating some of the events that would be part of the World Games to be held here in August and September – the first time they have ever been held outside of Europe. The first event was jumping, and that was the American Morgan horse again. The next event was endurance racing where you are required to cover up to 100 miles in one day. That horse was the Arabian, which has been bred for the desert and endurance.
The dressage event was demonstrated by a Friesian, the large, almost draft horse we saw before. Dressage is training the horse to respond to very subtle movements of the rider. I was surprised that they used the bigger horses for dressage. I would have thought the smaller Morgan or Arabian horse would be better. But Larry explained that it does require the bigger horses.
The next event was reigning, where the horse must respond to the rider’s use of the reigns. This is the American contribution to the games. This event was demonstrated by the quarter horse. Back in the old west, they liked to race their horses and usually it was down the main street in town, which was the longest and straightest and about a quarter of a mile long. The fastest horses became known as quarter milers and thus we have the quarter horse.
Next they brought out the mares and foals. Actually, they were miniature horses, two mares and their foals. The one mare rolled and rolled in the dirt – so much it was really funny. The dirt keeps the flies away.
Miniature horses are true horses and not ponies. Ponies have an entirely different metabolism and tend to get sort of chubby. These are true horses, just small – maximum height is 34 inches. Miniature horses were first introduced into the US in the mid 1800s for use in the coal mines because of their size. They are also used as seeing eye aids (like dogs) with the advantage that they live longer than dogs. The announcer talked about a woman who keeps a miniature horse as a pet. She has a Great Dane doggie door that it comes in and out of, is house broken like a dog, and sleeps with her. To each his own.
We learned that a mare is pregnant for 330-340 days and usually foals at night when it is calmer. When the foal is born, it is up and walking and nursing within about an hour. The new foal will nurse about every one or two hours for the first weeks and then lengthen to about every 4 hours. Foals are weaned at 4-6 months even though it may be eating regular food for some time. In the wild, weanlings stay with the mare until the next foal comes along.
We stopped at the farrier’s shop and saw a huge horse shoe. It must have been 12 – 13 inches in diameter. I thought it was for an elephant. We asked the farrier, and he showed us a picture of the horse that wore it. He was a draft horse, weighed 3200 pounds and stood 19.2 hands, about 77 inches tall at the withers. He was huge!
One of the premier exhibits at this time is called A Gift of the Desert. It traces the art, history, and culture of the Arabian horse. There were artifacts from the time of Egyptian pharaohs and before and many items from the Ottomans and Arab cultures. They began the tradition of treating their horses like royalty. The foals were cared for and raised by the women and children and even lived in their tents. The Arabian horse has influenced virtually every modern breed of horse, including the Thoroughbred.
We also went to the Hall of Champions where we saw some former Derby and other champions. One was Funny Cide, the 2003 Derby and Preakness winner. We were interested in that horse because relatives of our neighbors in Laura were part owners of the horse. Funny Cide was the only NY bred horse ever and first gelding in 74 years to win the Derby. Another horse we saw was Cigar. He ran and run 16 races in a row, was named Horse of the World, and earned just under $10 million. The owners had thoughts of earning even more in stud fees. Unfortunately, Cigar proved to be sterile, and the insurance company had to fork over $25 million.
But the best horse, which was there but not brought out for showing, was Da Hoss. He was a mediocre horse and had some injuries. He didn’t race for 2 years, and then came back to race on the turf. They had video tape of his one race where he won by a nostril, literally. The announcer was going wild and called it “the best come back since Lazarus.” Larry and I were the only ones to laugh, so I have to assume we were the only ones who heard it.
Our last stop was the American Saddlebred Museum. The Saddlebred is a breed of horse that can be taught to do almost anything. They are the high steppers you see in horse shows, pull show carts, and can compete in many other events, including the Roman something or other. There was a team of 6 horses hitched in pairs. The circus lady in all her finery was standing on the backs of the last pair of horses, one foot on each horse. She rode around the ring and on the last lap had the horses jump three successive fences placed so that as the first pair went over the second fence, the second pair was going over the first fence, etc., if you can picture that. Anyway, I admired her flexibility as her knees and thighs were in constant motion matching the motion of two different horses. I don’t know if they do that any more.