A visit to the Kentucky Horse Park is a necessity for anyone interested in horses. From horse shows and demonstrations, to the on-site Smithsonian Museum, it’s not only an equine lover’s dream, but a great place to spend the day.
Visitor’s Center/Gift Shop
Enter through the Visitor’s Center to pay admission and receive a map of the park with show times. This combination working horse farm and themed park has a sizeable gift shop with jewelry, clothes, toys, snacks, and horse racing memorabilia. Before leaving the visitor’s center for the rest of the park, we found a photo opportunity at a stand-in picture frame near the side doors. Across the way, there’s a model stable built in 1936 that’s worth viewing.
See the Horses
The best way to see the amazing variety of horses up close is to head into the barns. The Big Barn - which lives up to its name with a seemingly endless row of stalls - houses the draft horses, the largest of the equine breeds, weighing up to about 2,000 pounds.
We stopped at the Big Barn first thing in the morning, where we watched several handlers bathing and grooming the horses. They allowed us to pet one of them, while telling us humorous stories about some of the animal’s quirky behaviors.
The Hall of Champions holds the smaller, stealthier, award-winning racehorses. Paying homage to Kentucky’s horse racing history, the park honors several of its retired racing champions – like Mr. Muscleman. Though most of the racehorses weren’t interested in visitors, Mr. Muscleman was both a winner and a gentleman, friendly with everyone who stopped to pet him.
After visiting the retirees of the park, check out the Mounted Police Barn. This is where officers house and care for their horses, who are also first responders in emergency situations. These draft, and draft crossbreeds, are both strong and agile, and trained to work with crowds. See the individual horses, learn about each one, and view the police uniforms.
I am normally not a show person. During our years of living in central Florida and visiting theme parks, my family and I rarely attended the shows. However, at the Kentucky Horse Park, you won’t want to miss them.
Each of the shows are short enough that you don’t get bored, and close enough together you can see them back-to-back. In the Big Barn, a draft horse show covered the various breeds of draft horses with interesting characteristics about them. Outside the Hall of Champions, we watched videos of several races before a handler showed off the champion horses in front of the crowd.
The largest show with stadium-style seating was the Parade of Breeds show. Here, young women rode horses around an arena while an entertaining announcer told the crowd about each breed. These breeds change depending on the horses they have available. The announcer explained some of the horses are privately owned and lent to the park.
Though the shows were fun and we enjoyed walking through the barns, my favorite part of this experience was the museum. This building held one fascinating display after another, covering the history of horses and their interactions with humans, starting with ancient history and moving toward the present day.
An immersive gallery devoted to the Arabian horse transports visitors from Kentucky to the deserts of the Middle East. Each exhibit was stunning, and we easily could have returned to the museum every day for weeks, and learned something new each time.
For any interested children, the front desk at the museum offers a scavenger hunt. I’d wished my kids hadn’t chosen to do the scavenger hunt. It felt like they passed up a lot of the displays in their search, and I believe they would have enjoyed it more without the hunt.
For the younger folks in your group, the Kentucky Horse Park provides the Kid’s Barn. This horseless building holds educational and hands-on activities in separate stalls. Kids can brush model horses, see the different parts of a horse, sit in a saddle, and learn horse facts.
The horse park offers 35-minute trail rides and pony rides, for an additional fee. Rides are contingent upon the weather. There are no reservations. For scheduling times and information, check out their webpage here.
The Kentucky Horse Park has its own campground. These 55-foot long, back-in sites have water and electric hook-ups with dump stations available. Amenities include a swimming pool, camp store, bathhouses, and a shuttle service to the horse park.
Don’t have an RV? They also have primitive camping available.
For a sweet but somber stop, there’s a horse cemetery paying tribute to the deceased horses from the farm.
Best Time to Visit
If you’re looking to avoid the crowds, you’ll want to visit during the winter months. But if that’s not an option, I recommend getting to the park as soon as they open. The property is serene in the morning. Because we arrived early, we got to pet a draft horse and speak with its handler without the crowds.
When our family strolled through the Kentucky Horse Park, we expected to see more, well, horses. The pastures were empty during our visit. The Big Barn only had a handful of horses (though, to be fair, there is a ridiculous number of stalls in there). For such an expansive piece of property, there were fewer horses than we expected to see at a horse park. I imagine the empty pastures and fields are probably there for special events and camps.
Know Before You Go
Hours: Park hours change depending on the season. Visit the Kentucky Horse Park website for current information.
Fees: Admission costs range from $8 per person to $20 per person depending on age and season. For the most up-to-date ticket prices, click here.
Parking: $6 per vehicle. Paid via cash or credit at the entrance booth. Parking spaces are abundant, and we didn’t have any trouble getting our dually pickup into the lot.
Accessibility: Kentucky Horse Park is wheelchair accessible. They have designated parking available near the front. Visitors will find wide paved paths, ramps, and an elevator at the museum. Keep in mind this property is quite large and everything is spaced far apart. Call the park at (859) 233-4303 with accessibility questions.
Pet Policy: From the KHP Website
Have you ever been to the Kentucky Horse Park? Do you want to go? Drop a comment below. We’d love to hear from you!