The Kentucky Horse Park: A Complete Guide

Horses grazing at the Kentucky Horse Park

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Kentucky Horse Park

Address
4089 Iron Works Pkwy, Lexington, KY 40511-8400, USA
Phone +1 859-233-4303

The Kentucky Horse Park, located just north of Lexington, Kentucky, is a 1,229-acre equestrian park focused on the relationship between humans and horses. Kentucky’s Bluegrass region is celebrated for its bourbon and the abundance of thoroughbred farms. Lexington claims the title of “Horse Capital of the World,” and the nearby Kentucky Horse Park attracts over half a million people each year. Visitors come to enjoy the museums, live shows, indoor and outdoor arenas, and for a chance to interact with the living legends that reside at the park. Many national equestrian organizations are headquartered within the horse park.

History

Although the same land has been home to horses for more than 200 years, the horse park property was sold to the Commonwealth of Kentucky in 1972, and the Kentucky Horse Park officially opened in 1978. The state of Kentucky owns the horse park, but it isn’t managed as part of the Kentucky State Park system.

In 2010, the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games were hosted at the Kentucky Horse Park; this was the first time the Olympic-level equestrian competition was held outside of Europe. Teams from 58 countries were represented, and around 420,000 visitors were in attendance—more than the total population of Lexington itself!

Things to Do at the Kentucky Horse Park

This is just a sampling of the many things to do at the Kentucky Horse Park. Begin your visit by stopping into the Visitor's Center to grab a map and ask about any special films, demonstrations, and seasonal performances. Before setting out, stop by to see the nearby grave and memorial for Man O' War, the most celebrated thoroughbred to have lived.

  • Parade of Breeds Show: The Kentucky Horse Park is home to more breeds of horses than any other place in the world. Horses from a sampling of breeds are paraded in full pomp and dress from their native lands twice a day. Music and narration complete the show. In summer, the first Parade of Breeds Show is at 11 a.m., followed by another at 2 p.m. Swing by the barn early to see the horses being prepared for the next show.
  • Hall of Champions: Meet some living legends in the Kentucky Horse Park, then catch the late-morning show. The Memorial Walk of Champions is a casual stroll to see monuments and resting places for famous horses, including some Kentucky Derby winners.
  • Visit the Big Barn: The Big Barn itself has a rich history dating back to 1897 and was one of the largest horse barns ever built. The Big Barn is home to some big horses—the mighty draft horses of the park. Visitors can interact with the horses and enjoy a 15-minute presentation.
  • Mounted Police Barn: Enjoy a barn tour and interact with mounted police officers and their horses. These well-trained horses are stout but docile; they are called to participate in shows and parades when not patrolling.
  • Trail Riding: If you haven't been on a horse, one of the leading centers for equestrianism in the United States is an excellent place to start! Guided, 35-minute trail rides are available (weather permitting) for $25. Pony rides are available for children.

Museums

Several museums are located inside the horse park. Entrance is included with admission.

  • International Museum of the Horse: Occupying over 60,000 square feet of beautiful space, the IMH is a Smithsonian affiliate and the largest museum in the world dedicated to the impact horses have made on human civilization. Equestrians come from around the world to enjoy the art and educational exhibits.
  • American Saddlebred Museum: The ASM showcases the rich history of, you guessed it, American Saddlebreds—Kentucky’s oldest native breed and the preferred mount for many officers during the Civil War. The movies, interactive displays, and exhibits (both permanent and rotating) take around an hour to explore.
  • Wheeler Museum: The Wheeler Museum focuses on the hunter/jumper industry and show jumping. Trophies, equipment, and other artifacts are on display.
  • Al-Marah Arabian Horse Galleries: This 8,000-square-foot, child-friendly gallery uses multimedia and interactive displays to share the story of the Arabian breed.
Entrance gates of the Kentucky Horse Park

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Visiting the Kentucky Horse Park

Arrive at the horse park when it opens at 9 a.m. to catch the morning grooming sessions. Visitors usually explore the park by wandering among barns and monuments. Things to see and do aren’t spaced far apart, but some inclines and grassy areas must be navigated. Catching live performances such as the twice-daily Hall of Champions Show or Parade of Breeds Show is a must.

Once the afternoon begins to heat up, go enjoy exhibits and air conditioning inside the world-class museums. The horses are often fed and turned out at 3:30 p.m.

  • Admission: Prices for entrance vary by season. Tickets generally include the next day for free unless a big event is taking place. From April to October: $20; from November to March: $12. Discounted entrance is available for seniors, the military, and children. Parking costs an additional $5.
  • Hours: Open 9 a.m. – 5 p.m.; closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Winter hours are shortened to 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
  • Pet Policy: The Kentucky Horse Park is pet friendly; however, no pets are allowed inside the museum exhibit areas, cafe, or the indoor Alltech Arena. Dogs must be leashed.

Camping

The popular campground within the Kentucky Horse Park is home to 260 paved, 55-foot sites and tent and primitive and primitive-electric sites. Rates can vary based on holidays, weekends, and what events are taking place in the horse park.

Campers get access to an Olympic-sized pool, discounted horse park entrance, and sports facilities.

How to Get There

The Kentucky Horse Park is located at the junction of Interstate 75 and Iron Works Pike (KY-1973) on the northern edge of Fayette County. Plan on around a 20-minute drive from downtown Lexington. Although taking Interstate 75 to exit 120 (Iron Works Pike) is the most direct route, the drive north from Lexington along Newtown Pike (KY-922) is far more scenic. Beautiful farms on both sides of the road can be appreciated along the way.

If you’ve got time and a bicycle, take advantage of the paved, 12-mile Legacy Trail that runs from trailheads in Lexington to the campground inside the Kentucky Horse Park. 

Tips for Visiting the Kentucky Horse Park

  • Kentucky is well known for its afternoon heat and humidity in summer. Wear a hat and drink plenty of water while enjoying the outdoor areas of the horse park. Ragweed pollen levels are often high in October.
  • Some of the events and competitions hosted annually at the Kentucky Horse Park draw large crowds and may affect admission—the exciting Kentucky Three-Day Event is one example. Check the event calendar, especially if visiting in summer.
  • The Kentucky Horse park goes into holiday mode every year with the Southern Lights Festival from mid-November until the end of December. Visitors drive for three miles winding among light displays before parking to see the petting zoo and Christmas market.
  • Although there's a cafe and food truck, plan to eat at one of the good restaurants in Lexington before or after visiting the Kentucky Horse Park.
  • Around a 15-minute drive west, the Old Friends thoroughbred retirement farm is another must-see place for anyone who wants to admire horses. The 236-acre farm provides a "dignified retirement for thoroughbreds whose racing and breeding careers have come to an end." Visitors can book guided tours (reservations required) to see the champions and their lovely home.
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