Friday, July 1st, 2011
So, by Monday I was up in Lexington, and mostly over my jetlag (one of my major reasons for flying to the US some days early – a jetlagged academic does not a good conference attendee make, at least in my case), and had a good half-day left to do things in. My plan was to get close to or to Bloomington, IN by nightfall, as the conference that was my reason for being in the States in the first place started after lunch on Tuesday.
So, seeing as I come from a family that currently owns three horses, and that has a professional horse rider in their midst (my sister), I decided that in a region that is not called “horse country” for nothing, I might as well go and look at some horses. And since I was short of time, the Kentucky Horse Park, the “Epicenter of Equestrian Life” (ha!) with its promise of 50 different breeds of horses and lots of information and parades seemed like a good idea. Well … yeah. Some ideas that seem good at the time … really aren’t. I suppose if you’ve never seen a horse in your life its an interesting enough place, but if you have actually spent some time around horses a “horse show” that consists of five horses, each being ridden around a small rink three times by their atrociously clad riders (a princess, a knight, a flamenco dancer, …) and hearing such edifying commentary as “A female horse is called a mare, and a male is a stallion!” … really isn’t all that exciting. Also, their much lauded “mares and foals” show consisted of, uh, two each. Yeah. Right. Buy a plane ticket, come to Marbach.
The most interesting thing I found in the whole place was in a huge deserted stable, and it consisted of a poster that depicted the different carriage types used in Regency England. And their museum was okay. But other than that … well, not so much.
So I decided to spend a lot less time there than I had planned, and since I was both horse-frustrated (not that I usually seek horse related information out, but once I had made the decision to do so, I darn well wanted to see something interesting that was vaguely related to horses), and now had these free hours, and it wasn’t too far out of the way, I drove to Bloomington via Louisville and managed to make it to the Churchill Downs (the race track the Kentucky Derby is held at, and arguably the most famous racetrack in the US) about 90 minutes before they close for the night, and in time to catch a guided tour of the race track, and to spend some time browsing their museum. Suffice to say, here was a great amount of horse-related obscure lore I’d not heard of before, and I was at peace with the day again, and happily drove off to find a motel close to Bloomington where I could do some loads of washing before the conference.
Some further links, where you can see the track itself &c: