Eight hours. Eight long, hot hours. This is how long it took my mother, me and my younger brother to drive to Lexington, Kentucky from our home in North Carolina for the oh, so exciting AAU Boys U-12 Basketball National Championship. But lucky for me, aside from Kentucky being the host to this stale event, it is also the home of the Kentucky Horse Park, know to me as a little piece of Heaven on Earth.
I have been riding horses for as long as I can remember. Starting when my parents shipped me off to summer camp as a child, the proverbial “horse bug” bit me long ago. I went from a summer camper to a lesson kid to a full fledged horse owner in just a few short years. This deep love of horses is the whole reason for my attending this voyage deep into the world of boy’s basketball tournaments.
This small portion of my family and I were scheduled to be in the Horse Capitol of the World for just under a week. A week full of free throws, foul shots and double dribbling is the equivalent of a death sentence for me but I decided to bite the bullet and tag along just for the opportunity set foot inside the Horse Park.
It was everything I had dreamed of and more. First walking into the park and seeing the life size horse statues, smelling the sweet, unmistakable smell of horse sweat and hearing the whinnies of the many four-legged athletes that call this facility home was more than enough to send my circuits into over drive.
I wondered around the park for hours, soaking up every possible sound, sight and smell I could hold. I went in every exhibit and read every panel of information visible to human eyes. I was even able to conceive a tiny miracle by convincing my mother it was mandatory to venture around the park on the back of a horse. We embarked on an hour long trial ride at the Horse Park, riding along the classic Kentucky white-railed fences.
After a full day of horsey fun I was completely satisfied, ready to go back to sleeping through up to eight basketball games a day. But little did I know when I woke up in the morning a completely unexpected surprise was headed my way. As it turned out, one of the other team mothers had a connection to a barn manager at a top notch breeding and racing facility called Calumet Farm.
I was completely puzzled as my mom drove the opposite direction of the gym, where we should have been heading that next morning. But, when we pulled into the elegant circular drive leading into the indescribably perfect farm, I was convinced I was going to shed a tear. A very nice woman gave us a tour of the 800 acre farm showing us the mares and foals, stallions, barns and other aspects involved in Kentucky style horse racing.
As the tour ended and we heading back to the car, I realized how lucky I had been to witness, first hand, the majesty that is Lexington, Kentucky. From the Kentucky blue grass to the white-railed fences, the entire trip had gone far beyond the basketball gym. It was well worth sitting on the cold, hard bleachers for three days just to see the inside of the park and the inside of a functioning racing farm. Everything was just as I had imagined it and much, much more.
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