I recently had the privilege of hosting a Michigan Alumni Travel trip to the Kentucky Derby. I need to start by being completely honest: I’m not a horse racing aficionado, nor do I know a great deal about horses. This trip, however, encompassed more than just the race. I learned a great deal about racehorses and the business that encircles them. Here are five takeaways from my experience:
1. It’s not just about the race: The horse business overall is huge. From owning to boarding, from breeding to birth – I learned the depth and breadth of this business.
2. Horse farm operations: The horse farms were expansive and beautiful. The care and maintenance of one is something I could not get my arms around, but the facilities, staff, and services they provide are endless. We had a guided tour of Taylor Made Farm and walked the grounds. It was interesting to see one in operation, especially the care of newborn foals.
3. Horse retirement community: Where do horses go after they no longer race? We visited Old Friends Farm. They care for horses that are no longer racing or able to breed. It was nice to see them get the care and attention they need. This 136-acre farm has a herd of over 175 rescued and retired horses and now has two satellite facilities.
4. Equine Healthcare: Horses need medical attention, and there are specialty doctors and facilities to care for them. We visited Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital and got to see firsthand what it takes to run a hospital. The hospital has nine barns providing a total of 140 stalls for hospital patients. There were several operating rooms with viewing windows. Horses are large animals, and seeing how they operate on one was fascinating.
5. Bourbon production: You can’t visit Kentucky without going to a bourbon distillery. We visited Buffalo Trace and learned not only about its rich history, but also its bourbon production. We also got to sample its product. I am not a bourbon fan, but my favorite was bourbon cream, which I did not know existed. Mixed with root beer, it was an adult-like float. I highly recommend trying it sometime. A bottle made it home in my suitcase.
Race day, of course, was special, but this trip is more than just about the race. Kentucky is one beautiful state to see and worth the time to visit. I’m glad I now get to say that I witnessed the most exciting two minutes in sports!