No matter what brings you to the bluegrass state, there are some places that should be on every equestrian’s bucket list. Here are the must-see equestrian destinations in Kentucky for your first trip—or your fortieth.
Visit Horse Country Tours
With tours of Thoroughbred breeding farms and nurseries, sport horse farms, feed mills, retired racehorse facilities, training tracks and equine clinics, you will find a tour for even the pickiest sightseer.
Red Mile Racetrack
Though the state is best known for Thoroughbreds, Standardbred racehorses rule at the Red Mile Racetrack. The second-oldest harness track in the world, visitors will love getting close to the horses in the paddock and watching live racing set against the backdrop of downtown Lexington.
The Kentucky Horse Park
With 1,200 acres devoted to celebrating the history of human’s relationship with the horse, the Kentucky Horse Park is a massive theme park for horse lovers, and it’s also a working horse farm.
It is jam-packed with special events and competitions and educational options—museums, exhibits, tours, sculptures, and live horses who live there. You’ll need multiple hours (if not days!) to see everything that interests you. On your don’t-miss list: the Parade of Breeds, trolley tour and the Hall of Champions.
Keeneland Race Course
Without a doubt one of the most beautiful racetracks in the world, Keeneland should make your to-do list even if the horses aren’t running. Races are held only in April and October, but horses train on the grounds year-round.
The Keeneland gift shop is perfect for souvenir hunting, and the world-class Thoroughbred auctions offer jaw-dropping sales prices on horses ranging from blue-blooded weanlings to Breeders’ Cup champions. Check the calendar for racing and sales dates.
Though Churchill Downs is the iconic home of the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May, its location may surprise you. Set in Louisville, the track is surrounded by homes and businesses, smack-dab in the middle of the city.
Make sure you block off enough time to visit the interactive Kentucky Derby Museum and schedule a tour of the racing complex. With everything from historic walking tours and breakfast experiences to racehorse workouts and backside tours, there’s sure to be at least one (and probably more!) that strikes your fancy.
If a small-town feel is more your scene, head to Bourbon County, Ky., home to some of the state’s most iconic Thoroughbred breeding farms. The quaint downtown offers shopping, dining and the Bourbon County Horse Walk of Fame.
Encompassing nine blocks on Main Street, the walk has 60 concrete markers boasting a Bourbon County horse’s name, its farm, its accomplishments and a pair of its shoes. Be sure to snap a pic of number seven: Secretariat.
The Louisville Slugger Museum
Break away from the horses with a stop at the Louisville Slugger Museum—we promise it’s a worthwhile pit stop.
Learn the story behind the world-famous “crack of the bat” and the family that has created baseball bats since 1884. With behind-the-scenes tours, ever-changing curated exhibits and a factory outlet, you’ll be amazed at what you didn’t know about the great American pastime.
Kentucky Cuisine & Beverages
Kentucky is famous for more than Colonel Sanders’ KFC—although the chicken IS tasty, and the café and museum are worth a visit if you’re headed through Corbin!
But no one does “local” quite like Lexington. If you’re interested in the who’s who of Thoroughbred racing, be sure to check out Wallace Station, the Track Kitchen at Keeneland, Carson’s Food and Drink, and the Merrick Inn.
No matter where you are, check the main menu for favorites like burgoo, hot browns and Benedictine spread; the dessert menu for Derby Pie, bread pudding, and bourbon balls; and the drink menu for anything bourbon or locally brewed beer.
Want to make a day of it? Kentucky offers world-class tours of numerous bourbon distilleries on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. There’s also the Brewgrass Trail, the Coffee and Donut Trail, and the Beer Cheese Trail.
If nature is more your thing, there are some of America’s best hiking trails at places like Natural Bridge, Red River Gorge and Mammoth Cave, home to the world’s longest known cave system.
This article about equine destinations in Kentucky appeared in the June 2021 issue of Horse Illustrated magazine. Click here to subscribe!