Sunday, 10 April 2016

The Grass is Green in Bluegrass Country

 

We were lucky with weather and clear roads as we headed towards home from North Carolina.  We decided to stay below the frost line a few days longer.  The scenery was gorgeous with the highways lined in various spring blossoms.

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We overnighted in a beautiful valley in Tennessee beside the Pigeon River where Dixie could finally swim without gators.

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The camp owner explained that when hurricanes make their way inland and they meet the mountains in the area the storms collapse, huge rainfalls cause landslides.  The section of highway above the RV Park had been washed out the previous year.  We saw a similar scenario on our way northwest where a huge heap of pine trees, rocks and debris lay at the base of a bare mountainside, freshly sheared.  Construction crews were busy rebuilding a portion of highway i75 just north of Knoxville that had been taken away in the slide after some recent storms went through the area.

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As soon as we crossed the Kentucky border, the gorgeous fencing and beautiful barns and homes began.  Kentucky Horse Park Campground near Lexington was lovely.  There were a few families camped for the Easter Weekend but by Sunday we were almost alone.  The bike paths leading from the park went past a few farms where horses grazed and spring blossoms glowed in the sunlight so we took advantage of them each of our four days at the park.

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Banners along the bike path at Concrete College.

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The Kentucky Horse Park was next door to the campground so set out there our first day.  The many acres there house barns, museums and competition venues for everything related to The Horse.  Inside and out are beautiful sculptures and plaques honoring famous equines and various breeds.  Man O’ War and Secretariat were represented at the entrance to the park.  History and lore about the horses, their breeding, owners, riders and accomplishments are noted.  Man O’ War’s children are buried around him and his famous jockey, Isaac Burns Murphy, has a grave within site of the great horse.

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It was easy to spend a few hours in the many museums on the grounds.  We had our fill in the International Museum of the Horse which covered the history of the horse in various cultures, horse anatomy, biology, genetics, abilities and achievements.   Characteristics of the many breeds were explained and the horse in art, painted, carved, sewn into quilts and  decorating housewares, weapons and furniture were displayed throughout the museum.  A variety of horse-drawn carts, carriages and vehicles as well as rooms filled with awards and wonderful champion cups and trophies inspired.  The different genres of horse activities were all well represented; the cowboy era, the horse on the farm, riding for pleasure and competition were all explored.  One of my favourites, were the dioramas of horse activities throughout the ages.  There is really something for everyone at the museums.

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        When I take you out in my surrey with the fringe on top!

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Other galleries concentrated on particular breeds like The Arabian and The Standardbred as well as aspects of horse maintenance such as the Blacksmith Shop showing the shoeing process.

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There are many places to view live horses, in the Breeds Barns which display over forty breeds in the high season, the Draught Horse Barn, the Riding Stables, the Children’s Barn and the Special Event Stadiums.  We watched a show that introduced a few breeds and had their unique traits described.  Riding and caring for those horses must be a coveted job for young locals with the equine passion!

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Rain was predicted on our second day but we boarded the small tour van anyway for a Special Farm Tour.  Shawn, our tour guide, has lived in Lexington his entire life and was a chauffer for a local stud farm owner for 20 yrs. He was brimming with anecdotes and personal tales about the farms, horses, owners and trainers in the area.  The sun came out as we visited three farms and passed many more on the four hour trip.  As we saw in Australia, the majority of stud farms are owned by Arabs who sink millions into the horses, staff and properties.  Many of the barns are much more posh than many people’s homes.  The owner’s mansions are gigantic yet sit empty most of the year.

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                   First Stop: Gorgeous one hundred year old barn.

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                                                         Yearlings

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Next visit was to the high end Shadwell Stud Farm where we learned about the breeding process and met a couple of the superstar stallions.

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After a pit stop for homemade soup, sandwiches and baked goods in a lovely small town,  Shawn took us to  Katierich Farms where we toured the barn, saw grooms training a couple of horses and got close up to some new spring  foals.

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                                                 Katierich Farms

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We enjoyed a special meal out in downtown Lexington.  Among an array of gorgeous southern century homes, we had a fabulous dinner at the beautiful Merrick Inn.

On the last day before our departure for home, we visited the Shaker Settlement.  The weather was sunny and warm and we almost had the place to ourselves.  Many restored buildings are open to explore. They hold a variety of beautifully crafted furniture and implements fit for a simple life style.  Shakers are known for their unique culture, their construction of brooms, oval wooden boxes, modest functional cabinets and the practice of hanging chairs along their walls.

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After a few hours soaking up the essence of the Shaker puritan lifestyle, we were very ready to switch gears for our tour of The Buffalo Trace Distillery.  The old buildings were incredibly gorgeous.  The tour took us through the history of Bourbon’s popularity, the production process, the aging marvels in the barrel warehouses and the bottling.  The tour concluded in the rustic party room decorated with historic photos and artifacts about Bourbon.  We “warmed our cockles” with samples of two Bourbons and a Bourbon Cream “for dessert” amazing!

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                       Goodbye Buffalo Trace Distillery

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                        Goodbye Kentucky Horse Park Campground

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Here are a few sights from the coach as we motored north for a day; arriving home in Bayfield on March 31.

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We breeze through border customs in literally 1 minute and the evening we arrived home the snows came.  And the snow continues to fall now as I write this on April 10.

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                                                       Pure joy!

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                   Trusting that the snow will be melted by May 24!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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