Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Horse Capital of the World

Lexington, Kentucky bills itself as "The Horse Capital of the World." In recent days we have explored Kentucky horse farms, the Kentucky Horse Park and International Museum of the Horse (38°08', 84°30'), a racing stable, and spent a day at the races. What has all this got to do with our exploration of the 38th parallel?
Though our primary focus around the world along the latitude line is on water- environmental issues, an intriguing "side-bar" theme has become evident. When we reach China, for example, we will visit the breeding center that is reintroducing the ancestors of the modern horse, the Przewalski breed, to that land; in Turkmenistan, ancestors of the Arabian breed originated, and Spain's Andalusian horses originated on the line. At the Atlantic Coast of the United States we saw the Chincoteague ponies. And mustangs run wild just east of our Mono Lake basin home.
So we have been wandering Kentucky's calcium-rich blue-grass pastures and sampling the thoroughbred racing world of Lexington.

Our guide through much of this world was Akiko McVarish Gothard, the oldest female racing trainer in the United States. Akiko is the mother of Kay Boudinot, married to Jim, one of Janet's college friends. She graciously introduced us to her world of thoroughbred breeding and racing. It was a thrill to see the beautiful horses up close during their exercise time, running like the wind, though they were never fully "opened up" to racing speed. Akiko had a horse running in the Keeneland Meet , and we spent a day with her and friends Bev and John Passerello
at the races, feeling like we had touched down in a Dick Francis story. Parade ring, winner's circle, bet to place, won by a nose --- all came alive in the lovely setting of Keeneland, giving us a whole new appreciation for all that goes into getting a horse ready to race.
We asked Akiko what she enjoys most about being a trainer. Her answer was that she likes to help the horses and the people that work with them reach their fullest potential. She works with many owners in Japan, and told us about the racing differences between the two countries-- in Japan the horses race in both directions , in the US it is always counter clockwise. We hope to find a racetrack on the 38th parallel in Japan!

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