Ever seen a horse with curly hair? Or one that stands just 36 inches tall? How about a Spanish Conquistador's mount or a real equine movie star?
All these and more await you at the Kentucky Horse Park's Breeds Barn in Lexington, Ky. The barn is a treasure trove of equines in all sizes, shapes and colors. This horseshoe-shaped facility houses 24 horses, each representing one of the world's different breeds.
Twice daily from mid-March through October, park visitors gather here for the Parade of Breeds, an entertaining and educational presentation complete with music, costumes, and performances appropriate to each breed.
In between shows or during the off-season, visitors can get "up close and personal" with the Breeds Barn residents. Adjacent to each open-view stall is a plaque describing the individual horse and its breed, plus a flag designating the breed's country of origin. You can observe the horses being bathed, groomed and fed--even trained, on occasion.
"Even the cleaning of the stalls can be viewed. We encourage the public to come around to the backside of the barn and see where the elbow grease comes into play," Breeds Barn manager Denny Chapman said. "We want everyone who enters the Breeds Barn to be able to touch a horse, even if we're not having a show."
Here's a look at some of the "regulars" and the breeds they represent:
The park's American Saddlebred representative is an 8-year-old chestnut gelding named Times Up, who is on loan from William Woods University in Fulton, Mo. Nicknamed "Latte," he stands 16.2 hands high and is shown as a three-gaited pleasure horse in the Parade of Breeds. "He also carries the flag in our opening ceremonies, and can be ridden in appropriate Saddlebred Western attire," says Chapman.
When it comes to dramatic entrances, the Park's 9-year-old Andalusian, Maluso III, takes the cake. A striking black gelding donated by Lorraine McDaniel of San Juan Capistrano, Calif., he "...often carries Zorro in the Parade of Breeds show, with whip cracking and everything!" Chapman explains. A majestic yet gentle animal with a flair for entertainment, Maluso is a fitting ambassador of this influential Spanish breed that once served in battle.
The pride of the Nez Perce Indian nation is the spotted Appaloosa. He is renowned for not only his colorful coat, but his easy-going disposition. The Park's Appaloosa is Pretty Boy Floyd, a flashy gelding with white-tipped ears, a mottled nose and the customary white around the eye. A popular attraction when shown in Native American costume, he was donated by Elson and Susan Holliday of Slade, Ky.
One of two Friesian horses in the Breeds Barn, 14-year-old Thomas is a magnificent example of Holland's only native breed, which traces its roots to the primitive European Forest Horse. He was donated by Dr. Don Jacobs of Georgetown, Ky., and is known for his coal-black color, his high knee action and his hairy ("feathered") legs.
"Thomas is shown in several different disciplines, but probably the most crowd-pleasing is when he's shown in medieval attire, either by a knight, a Joan of Arc persona, or a medieval royal lady whose outfit was custom made for our show," Chapman said.
Some of the world's finest sport horses are warmbloods. These are a collection of types that include the Hanoverian, a performance horse from northern Germany with substance, stamina and style. The park's representative is the 15-year-old gelding Carte Blanche. A retired three-day-eventer donated by Mari Okamoto of Chiba, Japan, "CB's" resume includes the prestigious Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, which is held at the park.
For a glimpse of the Old West, check out Kiger Cougar. A 15-year-old Kiger Mustang stallion, he was originally captured in the wild and donated to the park by trainer Bobby Ingersoll of Pleasant Grove, Calif. The Kiger bears the dun and grulla coloring and the primitive markings of his Spanish ancestors. He is also proficient in pleasure and trail riding, endurance, Western performance and even driving.
Kiger Cougar, it seems, is no exception. Blessed with natural "cow sense," he held his own against Quarter Horses in the 1992 World's Championship Snaffle Bit Futurity. "He's probably the best-known Kiger Mustang in the country," Chapman said, "and he's shown here at the Breeds Barn doing athletic movements, like spins and rollbacks, in Western performance."
The Breeds Barn is also home to I Two Step Too, an 11-year-old Thoroughbred gelding who portrayed the famous racehorse Seabiscuit in the blockbuster movie of the same name. A recent Kentucky Horse Park Foundation purchase, his appeal has skyrocketed since the release of the film on video and DVD. "During the Parade of Breeds, he's typically ponied into the ring just like at the track, with the rider wearing historically accurate silks, just like in the movie," Chapman said.
Another must-see equine is 11-year-old Bailey, a Miniature Horse who stands just 36 inches tall and tips the scales at 250 pounds. Donated by Flower Field Farms of Rockford, Tenn., he's the smallest of a group that's sure to make you smile. "Our miniatures have always been a big hit and will be shown regularly," Chapman said. "At the height of the season, we hitch two to four at a time to a wagon and offer mini wagon rides to the children after the show."
Other horses to look for include: Po Go Man, who exhibits the curly hair typical of the Bashkir breed; Bluegrass, a Chincoteague pony like Misty (of the Marguerite Henry books); Joses Royal Lynx, a gifted Quarter Horse; and the list goes on.
For more information on the Kentucky Horse Park, visit www.kyhorsepark.com.
This article originally appeared in Discover Horses magazine. Visit DiscoverHorses.com to get involved in the world of horses.