Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Vacationing in Horse Country: Keeneland Breeding Sale

Last week the big red pony had a bit of training break while I went on a quick vacation to Lexington, KY. He was working so beautifully, I have my fingers crossed the break did him good and we come back to work as strong as we left. I certainly feel refreshed and ready to dive back into training!

While this year seems like one full of traveling (remember my quick trip to Chincoteague earlier this year?), in reality I rarely take real vacations. With my husband in medical school, long vacations are completely out of the question. Instead, I'm constantly looking for quick and semi-local getaways for us to take advantage of. Enter: Lexington Kentucky

As a vacation spot for a horse lover, Lexington is hard to beat. There's the Kentucky Horse Park for riding horse lovers, Keeneland Racetrack for race horse lovers, all the lovely breeding farms for those interested in bloodlines of top thoroughbreds, Arabians, saddleseat horses, and more. Add to all of that the general horse culture that pervades almost every part of life in Lexingon, and you have a pretty special trip. For me, the best part about Lexington is that you can customize your weekend based on your interests. An eventer? Come down during Rolex or May Daze and enjoy watching the competition. A thoroughbred lover? Check out the Keeneland sales and geek out over breeding lines!

We chose last weekend for our trip for a couple of reasons: 1) Our anniversary was Wednesday, and we wanted to celebrate. 2) The U.S. Dressage Finals were going on at the KHP all weekend, and we could catch up on some quality U.S. dressage in person. 3) Keeneland Racetrack was having its annual Fall Breeding Stock Sale.

Now the really fantastic thing about Lexington is that it has a little of something for everyone, including the non-equine obsessed of your family. On our trip, we planned to hit some of Lexington's amazing restaurants, breweries, distilleries, and local shops. Some other options include fantastic golf courses, historic village and house tours, and an awesome aviation museum. A quick search of Tripadvisor should give you a ton of options to keep your horse-tolerant, but not obsessed, family member enjoying themselves. Outdoorsy and historically-minded types will especially enjoy the trip.

Over the week, I'll go over how our favorite stops stacked up, complete with ratings and tips for each stop. First up:

Keeneland Racetrack Fall Breeding Stock Sale | Horse-Lover's Rating: **** | Non-Equine Rating: **** | Cost: $0 (Your mileage may vary. Don't wave.) | Time spent: 2.5 hours

Looking at the auction block, from the safety of the hallway.
We loved everything about Keeneland. From the moment you arrive, everything on the property exudes efficiency and class. It's obvious that a lot of careful thought has gone into every aspect of the property and the process behind the sales.
 
Watching the sale itself is an experience. My husband got a kick out of watching the auctioneer banter with the crowd, and seeing the spotters develop their communication with bidders. The whole process was completely fascinating. In the hour we watched the sale, we saw everything from weanlings to confirmed and pregnant broodmares come through. The prices were anything from $2,000 to $300,000, with an average sale price of around $60,000. My limited thoroughbred breeding knowledge could only let me keep up so much, but I definitely learned a lot about up and coming racing lines. My sporthorse-tuned brain kept picking out lovely prospects with uphill build, straight legs, and nicely tied on necks. It always floored me when these horses would often go for cheaper than I thought they would.  Lesson learned: Sporthorses do not necessarily make good racehorses.
The radiography viewing area (please note: photography of radiography is prohibited. I didn't realize that when I took this photo.)
For my husband, currently working through his radiology rotation in med school, the radiography viewing room was some sort of medical student Mecca. Here anyone (ANYONE, even you and I!) can have a sales horse's radiographs pulled up to investigate prior to the sale. I can't even imagine the cost that goes into this. As someone who owns an OTTB and been privy to plenty of OTTB sales in the past, I wish these radiographs followed the horse out of the industry. This would be such a boon to sport horse buyers! In addition to viewing the radiographs, anyone at the sale can request that a horse be taken out of its stall to be checked out, and request to speak with a vet about the horse. How cool.
A sample of the amazing art available at Keeneland.
To my delight (I'm an art history buff), there was also an Equine Art Auction running concurrently with the Breeding Stock Auction. All the art was on display throughout the sales pavilion, complete with appraised values and historical information. I drooled over so many gorgeous Baroque style paintings, I'm surprised I didn't get drool on any of them! This was so cool!
The out-of-season grandstand and track.
Unfortunately for us, Keeneland's racing season had ended the weekend prior, so there was not any racing to see. However, if we'd been there just a little earlier, we could have caught some workouts on the track. By the time we made it up to the grandstands, the tractors were dragging the last of the hoofprints out of the track. An abandoned grandstand and racetrack is both beautiful and mildly creepy. However, the closed state of the track meant that we could wander around the winner's circle and other places we otherwise would not have gotten to go. I totally suggest checking this out.
 
All in all? Keeneland during the sale was a totally worthwhile trip!
 
Things to Know When Visiting:
1. Casual dress is okay during the sales. We saw people dressed in everything from expensive business casual to jeans and ratty jackets. I got the feeling the people in ratty horse clothes were probably the ones throwing down the biggest money.
2. Parking is terrifying, but fairly close. While you can usually score a parking spot fairly close to the sales pavilion, you may end up parking the grass. If someone could explain to me why the parking spots in the nice lot are half grass and half asphalt, I'd like to hear.
3. There's free coffee if you get there before 10:30 a.m.
4. If you grab a sales book and dog-ear the edges, you're on your way to looking like you belong at the sale. With one of these in hand, you can pretty much wander wherever you want on the property, and no one will look at you twice.
5. If you go into the auction room, sit on your hands. The spotters are trained to watch for deliberate bidding moves, but that doesn't mean mistakes don't happen. We heard the auctioneer verify bids on more than one occasional, and once a bid was even missed. Auctions are run by people, and people make mistakes. Don't accidentally buy a horse!
 
Hot traveling tip! The bathrooms in the sales pavilion of Keeneland are some of the fanciest bathrooms I've ever been in. If you have to go, I'd make sure to go here!

14 comments:

  1. haha 'don't accidentally buy a horse' ... "i swear honey, it was an *accident*! but, uh, can we keep him anyway??" sounds like a fun time :)

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    1. For sure! I wasn't allowed to step foot into the auction room. Probably a preventative, see there was this one lovely mare ... :)

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  2. So cool! I love Keenland and it sounds like you guys had a blast! Seriously you could eat off the floor of the bathrooms there lol!

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    1. No kidding right?! Those bathrooms were a glorious sight after a 3 hour drive filled with coffee drinking! :)

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  3. Lol I'm giggling at the "Don't wave" part :)

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    1. At one point, we were crowded at the entrance to the auction room, and a man came up to us saying "Come on! Come inside. You can sit in here... just don't wave. That's how they get you." We cracked up.

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  4. Sounds like fun! Especially the radiograph room... Coolio :)

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    1. Seriously awesome! Makes me wonder what kind of interesting radiographs are out there for my horse!

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  5. Made me laugh about the bathroom - but totally true! The Keeneland auction was top of my list favorite things we did last year. And I too was surprised how you could wander all over the place and no one said a thing.

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    1. It was so surreal! I guess they really don't know who is going to be buying, right?

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  6. Kentucky has been on my bucket lost for years!
    I used to work at TB sales I'm Ireland while i was at uni. The amount of prep that goes into walking the horses & preparing them for all the walking they'll (hopefully) be doing of lots of interest in their pedigrees. I mostly worked with weanlings - adorably cute but unpredictable beggars!

    Thanks for your comment on my blog, I am always in awe as to how you isolate individual body parts (like hips)! Have you any tips to help me get better at noticing what is out & how to fix it? ;-)

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  7. A friend of mine used to work the sale at Keeneland. Made me realize I never want to work with baby ponies! :) Hopefully you get a chance to make it out to Kentucky, it's certainly one of those places that horse lovers everywhere need to experience once!

    Isolating body parts takes a lot of experience, I think. Here's how I think of it: The hip controls the hind leg. So, when one hip is forward, you're allowing that hind leg to step up further. You want the inside leg to have more freedom to step forward and under. Right? Say you're circling left - You'll want to sit up, lengthen your left leg down, keeping it on for the horse to bend around. Then, think about pushing your left hip forward towards the pommel of the saddle. My trainer gave me the visual of slamming closed a door or drawer with your hip (like you would do when your hands are full of groceries!). That's going to pull on your hip flexors and your abs. Often, if you're stiff like me, you will need to pull your outside shoulder back some to help you get that hip far enough forward. Don't forget to keep sitting on that left seaborne, even while it's forward. If your horse is still resistant to tracking up, you'll find it helpful to kick them forward with that long and relaxed inside leg, catching their forward leap in your abs and reins. Eventually they'll figure out that with your left hip forward, it allows their hind legs to step up more forward and make it easier to balance.

    This is how I push my horse into the outside rein. With my hipbone forward like that, I push him over with my upper thigh and subtle weight aids. Once he got really good at this, I found I was able to change bend easily, just by changing which hip was forward. This has also been the building block for us to start half passes and work towards flying changes. It's really been the fundamental start to a lot of our progress.

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    1. Thank you so much for taking the time to explain this and type it all out for me *hugs*
      When I'm back at my desk i am going to copy this into a word doc & print it so i can take it with me in my pocket to practice next time my butt hits the saddle ☺

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    2. I hope I made some sense! I'm interested to see how it works for you!

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