Visit our Equine Citizens
Beautiful horse farms have been part of the Bluegrass since the region was first settled—and so have horse farm visitors. Early 19th-century travelers remarked on the beautiful country estates of the Bluegrass, with one even noting that "a handsome horse is the highest pride of a Kentuckian." And you know what? It’s still true today—though some folks with impressive bourbon collections may argue with you on that.
Three Ways to Giddy Up and Go
There are about 450 horse farms in the region (about 150 in Fayette County alone). They're all working farms—which means you should never just drop by—but more than a few allow visitors by appointment or through arrangements with professional tour companies.
Here's how you can revisit racing history, see the world's most fabulous farms and barns, get up close and personal with Kentucky Derby winners, or discover an exciting variety of horse breeds.
There are three ways to visit a horse farm here in Central Kentucky. You can:
- Reserve a seat on a regular guided group tour
- Hire a private guide to conduct a custom tour
- Hoof it yourself by making appointments at specific farms
A Guided Tour: A Quick and Easy Overview
If your interest is general and your time is limited—or if you're shy about calling a horse farm on your own—you can’t beat a guided group tour. The itinerary is planned by the tour company to offer an overview of Lexington and our horse farms. Some farms only allow visitors through tour companies, making this a great way to see some of our most beloved farms.
On the other hand, three hours on and off a bus is probably not the best option for those with restless youngsters. And since horse farms may be just a small part of the itinerary, ask in advance what the tour will include to see if it has enough horse stops to satisfy your interest.
Although offered daily most of the year, reservations are still needed for the tours. Make them as far in advance as possible because tours can sell out, especially during peak visitor times.
- Blue Grass Tours (859-252-5744). Two tours daily at 9:00 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and 1:30 on Sunday, spring through fall, with a minimum of four guests. Tours last about three hours and include a stop at a local horse farm, Keeneland, and other points of interest. Pick-ups available at several hotels. $40; $25 for ages 12 and under. Call for information about longer tours like "Horses, Hooch and History" which includes a box lunch and at stop at a distillery.
- Horse Farm Tours, Inc. (859-268-2906 or 800-976-1034). Tours are given daily at 8:15 a.m. and 12:45 p.m., seven days a week, year-round. Every tour includes a drive by Calumet and two or three farms to see mares, foals and stallions, plus Keeneland, and lasts about three and a half hours. Tours depart from several area hotels. $40 ($50 during Derby week). Children under 12 are $30.
- Thoroughbred Heritage Horse Farm Tours (859-260-8687). Tours offered daily at 8:30 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. year-round, departing primarily from the Embassy Suites. This three plus hour tour includes a drive by Calumet, a tour of Keeneland, an up-close encounter with Thoroughbreds, and points of interest from the movies Seabiscuit, Dreamer and Secretariat. $40 (higher in winter). Children 12 and under are $28.
- Unique Horse Farm Tours (859-213-6653). Departing from several hotels near the Kentucky Horse Park, usually at 8:30 a.m. and at noon, this tour gives you the behind-the-scenes stories about the people and horses that make Lexington the Horse Capital of the World. Tour historic estates and new multi-million dollar farms on this van tour, which takes about three hours. Adults are $40. Children 12 years old and under are $20.
If you like to travel at your own pace, have specific farms, horses and attractions you want to see or want inside knowledge and access, hire a private guide for a custom tour.
This is the luxurious way to go. Most private tour companies have special access to a variety of farms. You can make pit stops or photo stops as often as you like. And your guide can entertain you with all kinds of fascinating facts, legends and lore. In most cases, custom tours are offered as a “step-on service," where the guide joins you in your vehicle. Some companies will provide transportation, especially for groups.
As you might expect, private, custom tours cost more than guided group tours, but may turn out to be a comparably priced alternative if you have more than a few people in your family or group. What you'll pay for a custom tour can vary widely depending upon the tour company, the length and content of the tour, the number in your party, and whether you use their transportation or yours. Minimum prices recently quoted ranged from $150 to $200 for a two or three-hour tour for a few people.
Lexington has plenty of local companies who offer friendly, knowledgeable private guides for custom tours. Give them a call in advance of your visit to discuss possible itineraries and rates and get a sense of which guide’s personality and tour style might best complement your own.
- Blue Grass Tours (859) 252-5744
- Destination Bluegrass (859) 264-7822
- Central Kentucky Tours (859) 492-3413
- Horses of Kentucky, Lois Hill (859) 277-4625
- Kentucky Horse Tours, Mary Anne Squires (859) 312-1124
- Lexington in Touch, Inc. (859) 224-4226
- Lexington Private Tours, John Midbo (859) 278-9488
- Mint Julep Tours (502) 396-5682
- Scott Goodlett Events (859) 361-3539
- Prime Horse Tours (401) 699-4596
- Thoroughbred Heritage Tours, Larry and Linda Miano (859) 260-8687
- Unbridled Horse Tours, Martha Martin (859) 333-8940
Booking Your Own Visits
If you're the independent type--or if you’re short on time and just want to visit one farm—doing it on your own is a perfectly acceptable and enjoyable option. A number of farms, from Thoroughbred showplaces to smaller operations specializing in a range of other horse breeds, welcome individual tourists, families and other small groups. Policies vary from farm to farm, but usually there's no great trick to getting in. Just follow the first commandment of horse farm sightseeing:
Thou shalt make arrangements in advance.
Visitor policies will vary from farm to farm, but none welcome unexpected guests. Some farms allow visitors only on certain days or limit tours at certain times of year, such as breeding season (February through mid-July), Kentucky Derby time, during the horse sales, or during race meets. Some horses may not be on view to visitors, so if you're hoping to see a particular horse, be sure to ask about him or her in advance.
And don't feel intimidated if your horse knowledge isn’t super advanced. Most farm visitors are the same way—and farms understand that! If you want to see the world’s most beautiful horses and farms, and you’re willing to go about it the right way, that’s all that matters. You’re definitely in the right place.
Horse Country, Inc.
Many of the farms in this article can be booked through Horse Country--a great go-to resource when it comes to visiting Central Kentucky’s equine attractions. Through Horse Country, more than thirty prestigious farms and equine facilities, including the famed Hagyard Equine Medical Institute and Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital, have banded together to offer a variety of opportunities for visitors to the Bluegrass.
If you have your own transportation, you can go online and choose a tour from their ever-expanding offerings. Choose from stud farms, nurseries, aftercare facilities, clinics and more. Tickets for adults start at $20 per person, and most tours last about one hour. Gratuity is always included when you book and purchase a tour at visithorsecountry.com. Ask them about planning a unique experience for your small group.
Central Kentucky’s Thoroughbred Farms
Not sure which farm to visit? The Horse Capital of the World is most famous for our Thoroughbreds, so that’s always a great place to start. It’s common for Kentucky Derby winners to retire to Bluegrass farms to begin their second career in the breeding shed. The following farms are excellent choices if you’d like to see just one or several of these living legends, and all of them use visithorsecountry.com as their online booking portal. Note that schedules may change during Derby Week, so if you’re traveling in May, be sure to make your arrangements well in advance.
Coolmore America's Ashford Stud
Located near Versailles, Ashford Stud is home to 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify, 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and 2000 Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus. Many of Ashford Stud's impressive stallions travel to the southern hemisphere after the Kentucky breeding season ends, so they may not be at home July through January.
This farm covers about 2,700 acres of rolling Bluegrass landscape, with divisions for stallions, broodmares, foals and yearlings as well as a racing stable. A top force in the Thoroughbred industry, WinStar bred the 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, who stands at stud there. Tours meet at WinStar’s state-of-the-art stallion barn and include the breeding shed.
Godolphin at Jonabell Farm
Home of the Darley stallions in America, this is where you’ll find 2016 Derby winner Nyquist, 2011 Derby winner Animal Kingdom and 2007 Derby winner Street Sense. The ninety-minute tour begins inside the farm office. You’ll head outside for a stallion viewing, visit the breeding shed, and hop on a shuttle for a drive through the rest of the farm and a chance to get up close to broodmares, foals, and weanlings. You’ll also learn about the global scope of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s international breeding and racing operations.
Taylor Made Farm
Taylor Made Farm was created in 1976 to provide care for mares shipped to central Kentucky to be bred to stallions standing here. The farm, which began as 120 acres, has seriously expanded its scope and its acreage since then—and now covering over 1,000 acres, it is one of the leading sales agencies in the world. In 1999, three Taylor Made graduates won races at the Breeders’ Cup—a feat unparalleled in racing history. 2014 Derby winner California Chrome made this farm his home until December of 2019, and legendary stallion Unbridled’s Song is buried here. Taylor Made offers a variety of tour experiences through Horse Country.
North of Lexington near Paris, Claiborne Farm has a strong and unbroken influence on the Thoroughbred industry. Owned by the Hancock family, Claiborne has been a leading Thoroughbred farm for generations. 2013 Derby winner Orb resides here. Hop on an electric shuttle for a behind-the-scenes tour that includes the simple tombstone that marks the grave of the great Secretariat, winner of the 1973 Triple Crown, and considered by many to be the greatest racehorse of all time. Tours are offered seven days a week.
While the following Thoroughbred farms may not have a living Kentucky Derby winner, they have their own unique history as well as lavish barns and landscaping. Call Normandy and Sun Valley direct; tours of the others must be purchased at www.visithorsecountry.com.
Three Chimneys Farm
Located on Old Frankfort Pike in Woodford County, west of Lexington, Three Chimneys has everything you'd expect to see on one of the world's finest horse farms, and many of the superstars of the Thoroughbred world, including 2017 Horse of the Year, Gun Runner. Three Chimneys offers tours of their stallion complex year-round. This behind-the-scenes experience includes the history and evolution of the farm and its influence on the Thoroughbred industry.
Lane’s End Farm
This beautiful farm has been compared to a national park. Legendary racehorse and sire A.P. Indy spent most of his life here, and the farm features a statue of him. Guests can tour the stallion division of the farm and learn the ins and outs of an elite Thoroughbred breeding operation. Tours are usually on Fridays. Elizabeth II, Queen of England, is fond of this farm; she’s been an overnight guest on more than one occasion.
Normandy Farm on Paris Pike is famous for its unusual L-shaped barn commissioned in 1933 by then-owner Joseph Widener. The barn features a clock tower and its roof, gables, cupolas and dormers are decorated with ceramic cats and other animals. The farm also includes a cemetery featuring life-size bronze statue of Thoroughbred champion Fair Play overlooking the graves of Fair Play and Mahubah, sire and dam of Man o' War. Tours by appointment April through October, Monday through Friday. To book, call the farm directly at (859) 294-9595.
Sun Valley Farm
Sun Valley is a family-owned and operated Thoroughbred nursery on 200 acres. An intimate and hands-on tour allows visitors to get close to mares and foals. The farm residence, built in 1831, has connections with the famous Pepper family who began the bourbon distillery across the road, which is now Woodford Reserve. Two tours are given daily. If you have at least four in your party, ask about a special Twilight Tour. 566 New Cut Road in Versailles. Book direct: (859) 533-5377
This farm specializes in the breeding of unique, Jockey-Club-registered white Thoroughbreds. Reserve your spot in any of the experiences held on their farm, from getting up close and personal with their mares, foals and yearlings to workshops of all kinds. Tours are given by appointment only. To schedule, visit www.megsonfarms.com.
Horses of All Types
You may think that a horse farm is a horse farm is a horse farm, but it just ain’t so—at least not here in Kentucky. Most farms specialize in a specific breed of horse. Most of the farms you see here in the Bluegrass are Thoroughbred operations, breeding and training horses primarily for racing—in fact, Kentucky produces more Thoroughbreds than any other state. But you can also see many other kinds of horses in the Horse Capital of the World.
- American Saddlebreds, used for show and pleasure riding, are Kentucky's only native breed of horse. Saddlebred farms that allow visitors by appointment include Wingswept Farm, 1529 Keene-Troy Road near Nicholasville (859-219-9857) and Blue Willow Farm, 4400 Delaney Ferry Road in Versailles (859- 873-2339).
- For a friendly visit with Morgan horses, America’s first breed of horse, visit Bonnie and Fred Neuville's Burr Oak Farm in Scott County (502-863-0887). Angel’s Acres, also in Scott County, has Morgans, too (502-863-0399).
- Spy Coast Farm is the place to visit to see sport horses, the type of horse used in dressage, jumping and driving. (If you’ve ever been to the Land Rover Three Day Event here in Lexington, you’ve seen a lot of sport horses already.) The farm’s activities include breeding, training, competitions and sales. Book at visithorsecountry.com.
- The Kentucky Horse Park isn’t just a state park—it’s also a working horse farm and much more. The 1,200 acres of the Park have served as an active horse farm since the 18th century. Featuring up to 50 breeds of horses at work and play, including 2003 Derby winner Funny Cide and 1994 Derby winner Go for Gin, the Park offers a variety of equine activities and presentations, along with horseback riding, horse-drawn tours and carriage rides. The Park is open seven days a week from around March 15 to October 31, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. During the winter the Park is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. (800-678-8813 or 859-233-4303)
Champions in Retirement
What happens to our Thoroughbred stars when they begin to fade on the race track or in the breeding shed? Old Friends is a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a dignified and comfortable retirement home for former racehorses. Based at Dream Chase Farm near the Kentucky Horse Park, Old Friends offers an up-close encounter with former champions. Here, you can meet 1997 Derby Winner Silver Charm. Celebrity horse Popcorn Deelites, who played the title role in the movie Seabiscuit, also resides at Old Friends. Tours are offered seven days a week, year round. Tours are at 10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. mid-March through October. Tours in the winter are at 11 a.m. only (November 1 through mid-March). Adults $15; ages 4-12 $10; kids 3 and under are free. Call ahead for an appointment. (502-863-1775)
While Old Friends focuses primarily on stallions, Our Mims Retirement Haven, just north of Lexington in Paris, Kentucky, takes care of retired Thoroughbred broodmares. Calumet’s champion three-year-old filly Our Mims resided on this farm in her later years. Meet many great ladies of the industry: the ex-racers and the mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers of current Thoroughbred stars. Watch the whole herd interacting in the Haven's pastures.
Ready to start planning your equine vacation to the Horse Capital of the World? Check out all of our horse-related resources, guides, and can’t-miss attractions.