Have you ever wondered where the champions of horse racing are bred? Many people are surprised to learn that the United States has no more than 500 registered stallions. A broodmare delivers just one foal a year, and most brooders are not involved with more than two foals at any time. Not all of the estimated 5,000 foals that enter the horse racing world every year are of the same quality, so it is no wonder that the birth of a potential winner is a matter of great celebration.
Though breeders take great care in selecting the best specimens with impeccable pedigrees, horse racing is about more than just parentage. Trainers and supporting staff have to put in enormous and consistent efforts to ensure that a foal has the strength, stamina and temperament to win in in the extremely competitive world of horse racing. Many people believe that equine intelligence can rival human beings in some respects, and certainly some horses display extraordinary temperament and personalities.
Foals need extensive grounds where they can grow up in optimal conditions. Horse farms have extensive amenities for training, and to put foals through their paces. Tradition remains important when it come to horse farms and ranches, so though most States have their own horse farms, the most famous ones are in Kentucky, California, Texas, Virginia and Maryland. Canada and Mexico have excellent ranches for horse racing as well. The Lexington area of Kentucky has the richest heritage of breeding the best race horses. Most farms are within the boundaries of an area known as Bluegrass.
Horse farms specialize in particular breeds. They are amongst the most beautiful estates to be found anywhere, and are kept in immaculate condition. Many horse farms sport the colors of racing stables with which they are associated. Visiting horse farms is a favorite pastime, and has been a practice throughout the 20th century. More than a million people visited the legendary steed Man O War after he retired from horse racing to sire offspring!
There is etiquette to be followed when one visits a horse farm, with a prior appointment being essential so as not to interfere with the farm's intensive work schedule. A visit to a horse farm is not necessarily a family outing and many farms prefer visitors not to bring young children as they can be restless and disruptive. The primary objective should be to get an in-depth feel of the art and science of raising race horses, if not to garner serious information of future champions. The person who shows you around deserves to be tipped between $5 and 10, though obviously this is not a must! Do not expect to be invited to ride, and feeding or even touching the animals can be hazardous, as race horses do not make friends casually!
The Bluegrass area has a number of conducted tours, but we advise serious punters to ask guides to arrange custom tours. Going around ranches where future champions of horse racing are raised and trained can be an enchanting and richly rewarding experience.