Guests often ask what the horses do during the “off season” at the Kentucky Horse Park. With daily shows and the hustle and bustle of the tourist season, the resident horses enjoy a slower pace during the winter months.
Hall of Champions
While the residents at the Hall of Champions still maintain a daily schedule during the winter seasons, the priority during the winter months is to provide the horses time off from performing. “The horses are still brought into their stalls and are available for visitors, but on a more relaxed schedule”, explains Rob Willis, Hall of Champions’ Manager. He continues, “The Champions are given more time to enjoy their retirement. The time that they are being handled, groomed and in a stall is kept to minimum.” Rob is committed to allowing for time to mentally refresh-and plenty of good, muddy rolls!
During the winter the staff focuses on making improvements to the visitor’s experience for the upcoming season. When asked what Rob looks forward to most when the spring season opens, he shared, “Daily baths. Grooming clean horses and getting back to slick summer coats on the horses!”
Mounted Police Barn
Winter for the Mounted Police Barn means more time to train and do arena work. “Although we consider it a training session every time we ride, the winter months allow us to receive instruction with outside trainers,” explains Jessica Lyons, Equine Operations Coordinator for the barn. “We focus on a variety of skills, from obstacle work to dressage,” noted Jessica. She added that the winter season allows the officers to expose the younger horses to elements in a quieter environment. Currently they have an American Drum Horse, named Legend who will be experiencing his first season with the Mounted Police.
The slower pace at the Park also gives the team time to focus on demonstrations for Land Rover Kentucky Three-Day Event and Breyerfest. The Mounted Police perform daily during these events and are a guest favorite to watch. “We look forward to both these events and seeing green grass soon!” exclaimed Jessica.
Parade of Breeds Barn
Home to twenty-four horses, the winters can be just as busy as the regular show season at the Parade of Breeds Barn. Between caring for, exercising, and doing stall-side chats with the horses, there’s a lot of activity. “During the winters we deep clean the barn and tack along with training the newer or younger horses in the herd,” explains Mindy Welch, Parade of Breeds Manager. As for the more experienced horses, the staff focuses on exercising the horses outside of the arena since they perform exclusively in an arena during the show season. The horses also get turned out in large fields to give the paddocks by the barn a rest, and the group enjoys the room to roam and play. “We look forward to warmer weather and can’t wait for the new horses to debut this spring in the Parade of Breeds!”
The Draft Horses are given December through February completely off from work, besides an occasional trail ride. The teams’ horseshoes are pulled during the winter to promote healthy hoof growth, and they are turned out on their own exclusive field. You can often spot the herd from Iron Works Pike or as you leave the Park rolling and playing.
Guests still get to experience the “gentle giants” during stall side chats and strolling through the historic “Big Barn”. “We enjoy being able share our horses’ stories and interact with guests on a more personal level during the winter,” shared Andy Freitag, Equine Operations Manager. The staff also concentrates on deep cleaning and conditioning the harnesses, along with making any necessary repairs. Come March the horses will start getting in shape to pull the Trolleys.
The start of the season is always exciting, and there’s no place like the Bluegrass and the Kentucky Horse Park during Spring. We look forward to seeing everyone for the 2022 season!