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) 583-1433
- 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.
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.