Monday, June 16, 2014

Breyerfest and Kentucky Horse Park Tips

A beautiful and exciting sight, indeed.

As we come closer and closer to that wonderful weekend in late July, I once again feel obligated to share some very helpful tips, guidelines and just plain rules that one should follow when visiting every hobbyist's most favorite place on earth. In our excitement of making our yearly pilgrimage to the Mecca of all things equine, some seeing real horses only at this time of year and never again, we need to be careful not to come off as nothing more than overgrown 5-year-old little girls.

My purpose here is to educate and ask to remember some cardinal rules that will perhaps create a more fulfilling and enlightened experience. I'm going to give some basic guidelines, some may sound pretty simple and obvious, especially to those who have or deal with horses on a regular basis, but I understand some may never have realized these rules, either through inexperience or unintended ignorance. Also, some handy tips regarding the Breyerfest experience...

The Line... Yes, THAT Line

This has been a point of controversy and ill feelings for many years, but the line that develops at the entrance to Breyerfest on the Friday (and Saturday to an extent) morning is extremely crowded and filled with excited anticipation and various forms of plotting. With Breyerfest so close we can taste it, and a Black Friday-esque sale going on in the Breyer Store (a.k.a. the Ninja Pit Of Death, or NPOD), as soon as the massive crowd is "released," it can border on the feeling of chaos depending on where you are in line.

Aaaaand they're off! (Remember to walk *calmly* and not rush: Breyerfest isn't going anywhere :P)
Remember, there are CHILDREN and ELDERLY in this line. Do NOT push and shove, act inappropriately, instigate any conflicts, or otherwise make the situation worse than it is. Injuries have happened in the past and they really didn't have to happen. Please remain calm and TRY to act polite, even when in the NPOD (hey, I can at least ask...)

One of the things I find quite sad is that out of ALL events held at the Kentucky Horse Park, this is one of the few times its fine Mounted Police are in action and ready for duty for actual pedestrian control. The only other time they make such a strong presence is during Rolex, the international 3-Day Event. When they do allow the line to move on towards the Covered Arena, STAY BEHIND THEM. You are not allowed to pass them and if you do, they will run down any offenders and send them to the very back of the line which tends to be in the middle of the parking lot. Don't give my cop buddies a hard time, listen to what they say and follow their directions. They are real Lexington police officers with plenty of experience and can uphold the law and order in any way they see fit.

This is only about the middle of the line...

Also, I would like to offer this helpful tip and really want to encourage this: If you are not trying to get to the Breyer Store for the NPOD (which as mentioned before, is not for the faint of heart), have a 9:30 Ticket for the Special Items, or want to see the Opening Ceremonies, I would suggest NOT showing up until later in the morning, after 9:30 or 10:00. The line truly is enormous (as is the traffic to get in) and takes a while to get through, and Breyerfest is going to be there all day. Just because it opens at 8, doesn't mean you HAVE to be there... unless you need to be for the above reasons.

The gates officially open at 8:00 AM (though I know people who line up MUCH earlier than that), with Opening Ceremonies at 9:30 AM which last about half an hour to 45 minutes, after which most exhibitions begin. Also remember that Parking will be $5 per day unless you have a season pass to the Park.

Bringing Your Dog to the Park

I did want to make one small blurb about Dogs at the Horse Park. Years ago, I brought my old dog, Casey, and he did well, though he wasn't a fan of other dogs or horses, so we kept that in mind as we progressed throughout the day. I currently bring my dog Molly who loves kids and doesn't mind horses, but can get nervous with VERY loud noises. She also tends to get very BORED sitting around and likes to go on lots of walks (especially if they end up in air conditioned areas, the spoiled house-pup). I keep this in mind as I plan my day. I do not bring her on days I will be in the SR Line/Breyer Store as dogs are certainly not allowed, and leaving her in the car is NOT an option at any point due to the heat.

My sweet Corgi/Aussie mix, Molly! Photo by Heather Moreton.

Keep in mind while there is special screening processes in place to make sure horses don't have any communicable diseases, there is no such requirements for dogs. To bring your dog is to possibly expose him to other dogs who may have something he can catch. Prevent him from interacting with other dogs and make sure his shots are up to date.

The Horse Park is used to doggy visitors and are generally allowed just about anywhere (including the Visitor's Information Center or VIC) except the Museum (the lobby is fine) and Restaurant. You may use the VIC as an air-conditioned place to get your dog out of the heat, but only for short periods of time and please keep him away from the Auction Models and Artisan's Hall tables if set up.

July in Kentucky is HOT! Be aware of your dog's cooling needs (certain breeds, thick coated, overweight, or elderly dogs may need more attention) Keep your dog in the shade, avoid walking on pavement, and bring a bowl or collapsible container for him to drink water out of. There are many water sources on the park in the form of water fountains and even wash racks. Feel free to use them to fill water or even hose your dog down (please ask a nearby Park employee *first* if you may do this). Please do not use wash racks if there's a horse using it already, and remember to shut off the water and leave any hose you used as you found it. Do NOT let your dog jump into any water tanks.

A few other tips:
  • Be prepared to take your dog back to the car to hang out in shade and AC if he needs. Take many breaks and plan on not being out for long periods of time. If you have any doubts or if it's at all possible, consider not bringing him to the Park/Breyerfest at all.
  • It's also a good idea to assign one of your group or family members to pay specific attention to his needs. That way only one person needs to worry about him, and knows exactly when he needs his scheduled needs like water, food, or potty breaks. 
  • Please pick up any poopies they your puppy may make, lots of people walk on the grass! And there are trashcans EVERYWHERE.
  • Do not let your dog interact with any other dog and keep him away from the horses as well. Not all horses like dogs. This help prevent any conflicts, injury, and spread of disease.
  • And, of course, keep your dog on a leash at ALL times! This is in accordance with the Law and Park policies. Any dog found off of a leash may be fined, or worse, gathered and sent to a local humane society and will demand a "bond" to be paid, if you even realize he's there.

The (Live!) Horses at the Park

Lykle the Friesian greets Breyerfesters

Most of the Park's horses are well trained to deal with the inexperienced and most have seen it all. Most will be just fine with flash photography, petting, and other things that may upset the average horse. However, any guest horses for Breyerfest or competition horses there for a show that happens to be using the Park grounds at the same time may not be.

It is advised NOT to bother any competition horses who are there for unaffiliated horse shows, both for their own benefit (showing is STRESSFUL) and to reduce the risk of spread of disease. Every horse that sets foot on the park must bring with them papers to show they are healthy, but it's entirely possible that this is not fail-proof. Also, these horses are riders are in a high-stress environment and in a certain mind-set that must not be interrupted.

This year the Champagne Run Horse Trials will be running the same weekend as Breyerfest.
Feel free to watch, but don't interfere!

Rules to Live By (Maybe Literally...)

The most important thing to remember is that horse are living, breathing, PREY animals. They are not dogs or cats and should not be treated or approached like one. As one article put it: "WE (people) are like dogs or cats. We are predators. Predators like to do new things. Horses do not like new things, as new things usually mean the death of them." Learn the safety rules and proper conduct when in the presence of the real thing.
Now is not a good time: The horse is agitated and defiant.
  • Ask whoever is handling/riding a horse if you may approach. It may not be a good time to come visit if the horse is being restless, scared, preparing for a presentation, or being worked on with grooming, hoof trimming, or saddling/tacking up.
  • Always walk calmly, not run, up to a horse. Running up to a horse means you may be a predator and he may try to defend himself.
  • Always approach a horse from the front or slightly from the side, never from behind. Be sure to always be in view of his eyeballs so he's not surprised by someone popping into his vision. This goes double for horses wearing blinkers/blinders in harness, like the draft horses pulling the trolley. 
  • Horses cannot see directly behind them or in a small blind spot directly in front of their face. Be aware of this if you reach a hand up to pet them.
  • Watch a horse's body language. Ears, neck position, and tail all tell how the horse feels about your being in his space.
    +Pricked ears, ears to the side, or slightly back are fine.
    +Ears pinned back against his neck is not.
    +Stiffening of the neck, raising his head out of reach, or avoiding you altogether means you should take the hint and leave him be for a minute.
    +Eyes wide ( I would say "with eye-whites showing" but some horses, like Appaloosas and pintos, have eye-white that shows no matter what, so just be aware) Half-closed eyes means the horse is very relaxed or might even be dozing. Leaving a sleeping horse lie is also a good idea, as it's only polite.
    +A swishing tail (when not swatting at flies) is also a bad sign.
  • Good places to pet a horse is on the nose, face, forehead, and neck. Avoid the ears and eyes as some horses are sensitive about them. Make sure he sees your hand before you reach up between his eyes (a blind spot) or he may be surprised.
Petting done right, such a happy, relaxed horse!
  • Never walk behind a horse. If you need to, try to stay back at least 10 feet and TALK to them. Say whatever you want, just make a little noise so they can listen for you. Another way of going behind a horse is to keep your body close and keep a hand on his rump and you go behind. The idea behind this is instead of gaining some steam for a kick, the horse can only (roughly) "nudge" you away. This is NOT recommended for those not use to horses and is to be avoided if at all possible.
  • Watch your feet. Make sure that your feet are one full, adult-sized step away from the horse's base. Horses like to shift weight or move restlessly, so be prepared and watch to see if a horse is planning to take a step so your feet aren't under them. ESPECIALLY if you are wearing sandals or flip-flops.
  • DO NOT HAND FEED THE HORSES. This is a Park rule to insure that the horses don't start getting nippy whenever hands are put near their mouth. These horses are usually well trained to be petted on the face and nose, and it's ok to do so. But if they expect hands to have food, a hand may become food. Save your fingers and keep your apples, carrots, and peppermints to yourself.
  • In fact, don't feed the horses AT ALL. Horses have much different digestive systems from ours. They cannot burp or throw up, so if something disagrees with them, they can colic, which is very serious and may even cause death.
  • Keep an eye on your children and dogs. Just because you know what to do doesn't mean they will, even if they don't mean to cause harm. Some dogs are threatened by horses. Some children think all animals are big fluffy stuffed animals that wouldn't dare hurt them. So watch your child or dog to make sure they don't go darting in a horse's path or worse. Serious injury or death is a big possibility.
Nick and Lou, the Clydesdales. 

  • The Horse-Drawn Tour Trolley does not stop. If you see it coming, get out of the way or risk getting run over. If you are riding the trolley and one of your items falls off, again, the trolley does not stop. It's unsafe to stop or jump off anywhere on the trolley route, especially on a hill, as it puts strain on the horses and risks injury to you. (Note: the Trolley Tour is not available to Breyerfest attendees unless you pay for a Park admission ticket, due to the sheer load of people they would have to haul if it was open to all Breyerfest ticket holders.Do not expect to get on with your Breyerfest Button alone)
  • And this really goes without saying but it has happened: Do NOT open and/or enter any stall or paddock, either by the gate or hopping over the fence. Only Park employees are allowed to do this for obvious safety reasons. They are experienced horse people and trained professionals. I don't care if you "have horses yourself," it is incredibly inappropriate and unsafe.

Stealing is Wrong and Makes Baby Ponies Cry

I have discovered over the years, Park staff put up special measures to prevent... stealing.

That's right, the nameplates on the stall doors in the Hall of Champions are taken down prior to Friday morning so that they'll still have them by Monday. No tack is left unattended. Even golf carts are locked down! And even more recently, I fear for the Breyer display stall in the new Kid's Barn. No doubt some of the models there will end up "walking away." Needless to say, this makes us hobbyists as a group look BAD. Yes, it is just a few bad apples, and not us as a whole, but if you see someone trying to take something that is obviously not their's, STOP THEM.

As for the theft, there's nothing I can say here that will deter those who steal from doing such things. I can only remind that the Kentucky Horse Park is a state park (owned by the Commonwealth of Kentucky) that relies heavily on donation and a small amount of funding. Anytime something is stolen from the Park, it's the horses themselves that takes a hit.

How could you hurt her wittle fuzzy feelings!?

Kentucky State Taxes do not support the horses' feed, equipment, and other needs. That is funding through the Kentucky Horse Park Foundation (previously the Man O' War Foundation) and sponsoring companies. And like most funding sources, the money is hardly ever-flowing. It's not uncommon for Park staff to pay for things they need with their own money, and as state employees, they don't get paid much.

I would like to make a note here; anyone can make a donation at any time, please ask in the Visitor's Center if this is something you would like to do so the Park can keep on running and improving!

The great Secretariat statue at the Main entrance.
(Reminder: Please refrain from climbing on or sitting on the statues. They are works of art, not playground equipment)

Breyer is responsible, however, for the models in their stall in the Kid's Barn. However, those models are there to teach, inspire, and spread the love of model horses to the next generation. Even though Breyerfest is packed, with hobbyists, without sparking the fire in the children that discover the hobby and what it has to offer in the first place, we risk the future of our hobby. Not saying a missing model or two will do this, but who knows if it was that model that a child really connected with and wanted to learn more. Plus, hard to have a Breyer stall without Breyers. Don't ruin their fun, don't pick up or take any models from the Kid's Barn.

All in all, we are VERY lucky that the prestigious Kentucky Horse Park agrees to host Breyerfest, without them, I don't Breyerfest could exist, or in the very least, could not be the same at all. Please respect our host and don't do anything to make them think twice about allowing our event to happen.

PLEASE share this post with all your friends planning to go to Breyerfest. I would love for everyone to be aware and showcase themselves as a wonderful representative of our hobby. That out love for horses goes beyond handling and collecting equine-shaped-objects, but to truly understanding the beautiful animals we all fell in love with as kids.

Have fun and I hope to meet some of you at Breyerfest this year!!!


Unknown said...

Please be aware that we do NOT allow dogs in the model horse shows. There are too many people in there and it's too distracting and dangerous to have them in there. And be aware of heat stroke in your dogs. from Laura Pervier, manager of the Children/Youth show

Jennifer Anderson said...

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Megan Proffitt said...

I just want to add. Not only is an unleashed dog against park policies, but it is HIGHLY unsafe. Every time I go to KHP there is a loose dog running around. There are horses and riders everywhere. Your dog can attack a horse, human, or other dog. If a horse, dog, or person gets injured from your unleashed dog they have legal rights to press charges. Keep that in mind!!