Once basketball season ends in Kentucky, life turns towards Kentucky’s other sporting passion, Horse Racing. Kentucky is known as the horse capital of the world, known for its picturesque plank fenced horse farms sprawling over rolling hills of Kentucky Blue Grass.
In Kentucky, horses are raced, trotted, shown, jumped and danced. Horses of all breads and pedigree can be found on farms all across the state. There are however two major concentrations of Equine activity: Lexington and Louisville.
Lexington’s sphere of influence includes Keenland, a popular thoroughbred racing track and home to the annual Yearling Sales, where the best 1 year olds are auctioned off from the breeding farms to the owners who will eventually race them. The Kentucky Horse Park is located just north of Lexington and while a state park, it is home to various major equestrian events and has hosted the US Olympic Horse Trials and will be hosting the FEI World Games in 2010. Lexington is surrounded by horse farms. The major equine research facilities and horse database companies are located there as well.
But this time of year, the attention turns to Louisville when the greatest of horse races is run on the 1st Saturday in May, the Kentucky Derby. Ran at historic Churchill Downs in the center of Louisville, the Derby is led up to by a two week festival for the race.
My wife and I have traveled to Louisville to participate in these events and today, we chased hot air balloons during the “Great Balloon Race”. You can read about the chase at http://www.robmiracle.com. The chase carried us to an area with several horse stables north east of Louisville.
One of our missions this week is to photograph horses when and where we can and well, I had a camera and there were horses. With the Balloon race over, and before having to travel two hours south to visit with my family, it was horse photo time. Strapping on my telephoto lens to shoot horses at a distance, I snapped a few shots of a group of horses in one field. I then moved to a small black plank fenced field that contained a couple of horses, one white, one chestnut.
Immediately, the white horse took attention to me and decided I was interesting, perhaps it was my bright red Carolina Hurricanes shirt (I write this from a sports bar watching the Canes play the Devils) or perhaps it was my movement, or the horse was naturally curious or a camera hog.
He got within petting distance and turned his left neck toward me, obviously wanting petted. This horse has spent a lot of time around people. I obliged, petting his neck for a few seconds and as I pulled my hand away, he turned his head toward me and nuzzled me square in the face with his big and very wet nose.
I had been slimed . . . by a horse.
I was stunned for a moment as this came completely out of the blue.
The only thing I could think of was “Lucy” from Peanuts and the dog kisses Snoopy laid on her over the years: “Oh horse kiss. Gross. Bring the disinfectant.” Sherry, my wife was laughing hysterically at the scene and retold the story dozens of times to family and total strangers as the day progressed.
The white horse and his stable mate stayed near by. I regained my composure, switched over to a wide angle lens and shot the horses close up.
We wanted to see some horses and this was definitely “seeing” some horses.