Colonel Meriwether Lewis Clark was a big dreamer. After visiting prominent race tracks all over the globe, he took inspiration from them, and returned to his old Kentucky Home to lay a track of his own.
The first layout of Churchill Downs began in 1789, but it wasn’t officially completed until 1875 when Clark pulled it together, and named the formal opening and introduced three races on May 17th 1875. The Kentucky Derby, The Kentucky Oaks, and the Clark Handicap were born. A crowd reaching 10,000 spectators witnessed the fifteen thoroughbreds run the first 1.5 mile long Kentucky Derby. Aristides’ victory launched a tradition that has been held continuously at Churchill Downs annually since their debut in 1875. The Clark Handicap eventually got bumped from that roster to be held in late November/early December annually, while the Derby and the Oaks are now celebrated on the first Saturday in May every year.
Everyone remembers the Twin Spires on Derby day, but there are another 364 perfectly good (albeit rainy when we visited) days to explore and enjoy the legendary racing venue. We toured the track a few years ago. The facility features a museum of the track’s history, as well as offers tours of the track and spectator areas. The Louisville area alone is home to many great tourist attractions, it’s easy to plan a full weekend visit or longer if you have the time.
I think every horseperson has a trip to the Derby on their bucket list, I know I do, but you need to take the time when it isn’t an ocean of humanity to see it up close and appreciate it’s quiet splendor. Here are some photos I dug up from our trip to show you a little more…
Horses are definitely a first and lasting love, and ballroom dancing is something I’ve learned to love as well. Two unlikely interests with a little more in common than you’d expect. I was reminded of their similarities last week when I brought a horsey friend to dance class with me, and offered equine “subtitles” to the instruction offered. You say ballroom, I say arena. Your partner has two legs, mine has four. Taking the line of dance, or working the rail, either way it’s still a dance between two souls, and a shared love of the right costume! Dancers and riders have a little more in common than we thought!
Commonly used terms appearing in both ballroom dance and horse showing vernacular…
Ballroom v. Riding
CANTER-Particularly in waltz, taking two steps in a three-beat measure, usually step, hold, step. V. Term used in English riding for a three beat gait. This is the same as a lope in Western discipline riding.
JUMP-With a soft knee, straighten leg, rise higher off the floor than in a hop, and return to the floor on the same foot; no weight change. V. A noun or verb indicating either an obstacle for a horse to jump over, or the act of jumping over an obstacle, to jump.
LEAD-The act of directing the woman through a figure or a dance. It involves choosing appropriate steps to suit the music and leading by hand and body signals to complete the chosen steps smoothly and safely. Lead is normally the man’s responsibility. V. When cantering a horse can be on either the right or left lead, depending on which hind leg commenced the motion. If the rear RIGHT leg began the canter, the left rear and right front would hit the ground together, leaving he LEFT front as the third and final beat. Thus the horse would be on the left lead.
LUNGE-Step forward or side, bending knee and checking the movement, maintaining an upward poise in the torso and head. V. Exercising (and training) a horse using a long lunge line attached to the halter, while the handler stands in the center and moves the horse around in a circle at the end of the line.
PIVOT-Usually as a couple, step and rotate on the ball of the supporting foot by turning the upper body. Stepping forward R, one would turn right. Stepping back L, one would turn right. The free leg is extended forward or back. Amount of turn can be very little or 1/2 turn or more. V. A movement in which the forelegs of the travel in a small circle, while the hind legs remain in place, one of them acting as a pivot.
SLIDE-Move the free foot in a given direction with light contact with the floor and take weight. Same as Glide. V. The horse accelerates to a gallop and then suddenly comes to a complete halt, planting its hind feet in the footing and allowing its hind feet to slide several feet, while continuing to let its front feet “walk” forward. The back should be raised upward and hindquarters come well underneath.
SPIN-Rotate on the ball of the supporting foot. The free leg is usually held under the body. The amount of turn varies up to a full turn and sometimes more. V. Beginning from a standstill, the horse spins 360 degrees or more (up to four and one-quarter full turns) in place around its stationary inside hind leg. The hind pivot foot remains in essentially the same location throughout the spin, though the horse will pick it up and put it down as it turns.
TOP LINE-In a dance position, the line created by the head, neck, shoulders, arms, and hands. V. The term used to describe the muscle cover over the top of the horse’s neck, back and rump.
For a few examples of some great dancing, check these out…
American Smooth Ballroom
You might remember a post of mine from last July, titled “Rural Horsewives.” It’s popularity reached an even wider audience when it was shared on a web tv channel, Living Rural TV.
My friend and founder of the channel, Lori Cummings, has decided to launch her own version of the popular concept, and is accepting applications now. Living Rural TV is starting a Reality Show…looking for “The Real Horse Wives”…women who are married and have horses who would like to be a part…send us a short video about you and your life to info@eWave.TV
I wish I had my own horse to submit a video with right now. I guess I’ll just have to hope for a role as an extra, one of the fun horsey friends of a main cast member. Take a chance and submit your own video now, let’s show the world what kind of real women we are!
When the balance in the house is off, and all hearts are broken, sometimes a new soul is the right answer. Meet Timber.
Our new gentle giant was carefully selected from the Internet and a play date with my Beagle. She chose wisely, he’s a perfect fit.
Thank you you for all the well wishes in the loss of our Neela, and thank you to SW Ohio Doberman Rescue for helping pair us with Timber