If you’re looking for the best tour of the Kentucky horse country, plan a visit to Claiborne Farms.
Located about 30 minutes from Lexington, Claiborne is a genuine working farm. Although tours must be reserved by appointment, they are offered every day of the week at 10:00 and 11:00 in the mornings.
The drive itself is worth it as you drive past large horse farms. The fencing alone costs inordinate amounts of money – some are wooden, but a surprising majority are old stone. This is old money out here and quintessential Kentucky blue grass.
Kevin, the tour guide and long-time employee takes the group of us first to the breeding barn. He explains that Claiborne Farms has been in the Hancock family for over years and highlights some of the history. Breeding happens during the summer months and the horses literally line up and wait their turn.
Next we go to the first set of stables and he brings Orb out to greet us. As we pet the Thoroughbred with deep brown eyes, we discover he won the 2013 Kentucky Derby. He now lives out here to be bred along with the other horses. We also see where Secretariat, the Triple Crown Winner in the 1970’s resided. As we look around the stable, we meet other horses and learn how they are carefully groomed every day.
As we head to the next barn, Kevin tells us about different horses and their histories, including who sired who. It’s like a regular “Peyton Place” out here. Next, we meet War Front, who commands a $150,000 stud fee. “Just because you have money, you don’t just get to breed with these stallions,” Kevin tells us. “Claiborne has a high standard and doesn’t take just anybody.”
As the tour concludes, we head over to the horse cemetery. Familiar names are engraved in the stones: Riva Ridge, Secretariat, and many others. For more information, visit Claiborne Farms.