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Horses in the Bluegrass State

A Horse’s Impact

Horses have been and continue to be an important part of our economy and culture. Their impact is far-reaching. Kentucky is home to 242,400 horses and 35,000 horse farms. More than 1 million acres in Kentucky are devoted to equine use. The horse industry is a huge job creator. Some jobs work directly with horses, such as trainers, vets, groomers, and farm employees. Other jobs indirectly serve horses, like hay transport, landscaping, fencing, and maintenance of barns. Fifty percent of Kentucky’s horses can be found in the Bluegrass region. Thoroughbreds are the most popular horses and generate 1 billion dollars in revenue per year. There are about 54,000 thoroughbreds in the state. Other uses of horses include trail riding horses, competition/show horses and work horses.

Caring for a horse

Horses need to eat between 1.5-3% of their body weight in food a day depending on their age and use. At least half of their diet comes from leafy forages such as pasture and hay. Horses also need access to clean water as they need to drink 5-10 gallons a day. Horses hooves, coats, and teeth require special care as well. Keeping a horse healthy requires time, money, and responsibility.

Mares will carry their foals for 11 months. Most foals are born between January and April, and they are weaned from their mothers when they are about 6 months of age. Training begins when they are between 2 and 4 years old. The average lifespan of a horse is 25 to 30 years. A horse’s diet is made up of high quality grasses, hays, and grains such as oats, barley, and corn.

The Kentucky Derby

The Run for the Roses is the oldest continuous sporting event in the United States. While we are used to it taking place on the first Saturday in May, the first Derby took place on a Monday in 1875. It was organized by the Louisville Jockey Club and drew 10,000 spectators. Over the years, the club almost went bankrupt twice - until Matt Winn took over the course in 1902. He turned the event into what it is today - a celebration of southern culture complete with glamorous stars, special hats, a garland of roses for the winner, and regional favorites like mint juleps and burgoo.The Kentucky Derby is a big tourism event - tourists spend more than 160 million dollars over Derby weekend. The event remains popular - the largest crowd ever recorded was in 2015, when more than 170,000 people crowded around the “Twin Spires” to see American Pharoah claim the 1.24 million dollar prize. In its long history, only three mares have won the Kentucky Derby.

Horses are important to many Kentuckians. They bring tourism to the area, they boost the economy, and they are a source of pride for many in the Bluegrass State.

Glossary of Terms:

  • Equine - anything related to horses or the horse industry.
  • Mares - A female horse.
  • Weaned - When an animal stops relying on milk from its mother and moves to solid food only.
  • Forage - Food for horses: usually grasses, hay and other plants found in the field.
  • Thoroughbred - a horse, usually pure bred, that is especially good at racing.
  • Burgoo - A spicy stew served at big gatherings like the Derby. It usually contains several types of meat and vegetables and is similar to Irish Stew.
  • Churchill Downs - The location of the Kentucky Derby.
  • Twin Spires - These are the spires Matt Winn added to the Churchill Downs grandstand. They are a famous landmark in Kentucky.