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!