by Abi Kroupa
From the rolling hills of Lexington Kentucky to the bustling Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, the U.S. has destinations for all types of equestrians. Whether you desire to compete at top equestrian venues or to ride miles of trails in a state forest, we are sure you can find the perfect setting for you and your equine family members in one of these horse-friendly towns.
Lexington was the first city outside of Europe to hold the World Equestrian Games in 2010. It is home to the United States Equestrian Federation and to the 1,200 acre Kentucky Horse Park which attracts millions of visitors a year. In Lexington, more money changes hands over the sale of horses than any place in the world. It is not at all uncommon for horses to fetch millions of dollars at the annual Keeneland Sales. Keeneland is the world's largest and most prestigious Thoroughbred auction company. Kentucky is one of the best places to raise and own horses in the U.S. Underground water passes through a massive limestone shelf that lies beneath the surface and nourishes Kentucky's signature bluegrass pastures and soil. These rich grasses grow strong, healthy horses, unlike anywhere else in the world.
Ocala is trademarked as the "Horse Capital of The World" and for good reason. Marion County is home to over 2,000 horse farms and has more horses than any other county in the country. You can experience Ocala and it's thriving, diverse riding culture in either a competitive or casual way. Ocala is home to a wide variety of equestrian disciplines. They have a history of Kentucky Derby Winners. Aside from racing and breeding farms, Ocala is home to multiple equestrian events such as HITS Ocala Winter Circuit, Live Oak International, Ocala Breeder's Sale, and the new World Equestrian Center. Looking for a more relaxed riding atmosphere, Ocala is also home to the Ocala National Forest which has over 100 miles of designated horse trails.
Aiken, South Carolina
Aiken has a steep history of polo, carriage riding, fox hunting, eventing, show jumping, and horse racing. Aiken has continued to preserve its equestrian history and culture. To this day, horses have the right of way on roads and trails. Aiken has gained fame as a wintering equestrian spot for Northerners, earning the nickname the "Polo Capital of the World." In Aiken, you can enjoy riding in one of the largest urban forest in the U.S. known as Hitchcock Woods, which has over 2,100 acres and 70 miles of trails.
The Village of Wellington is a world-famous winter equestrian community. It is known for its show jumping, hunters, dressage, and polo events, including the U.S. Open, Gold Cup, Winter Equestrian Festival, and Global Dressage Festival. The show grounds and stadium at Palm Beach International Equestrian Center encompass more than 150 acres. Horse fans can enjoy world class shopping at the many equestrian events going on every week during the winter season. Enthusiasts can also enjoy Sunday brunch at the International Polo Club Palm Beach, which hosts the world's highest goal polo. Equestrian events in Wellington attract more than 250,000 horse enthusiasts to the village per year. With eight months of comfortable riding weather, including the winter, it's no surprise Wellington is one of the most popular equestrian designations in the U.S.
Louisville has one of the most well-preserved equestrian cultures in the United States. When referring to Louisville, people tend to think first of horses. In Louisville, horse racing dates back to 1783. It is home to the world-famous Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs. After watching a race and enjoying a signature mint julep, horse enthusiasts can learn more about equestrian history by visiting the Kentucky Derby Museum. In 2019 Niche.com voted Louisville one of the top 3 cities to live in in the U.S.
Middleburg is a small southern town known as "Horse & Hunt Country." The town hosts the oldest horse show in America, the "Upperville Colt & Horse Show." Middleburg is conveniently located just an hour from Washington D.C., but it feels worlds apart. Defined by its rolling hills and "English countryside" charm, Middleburg boasts representations of foxes everywhere you turn. Monday morning you will most likely run into locals outfitted in tall hats, riding breeches, and jackets picking up their morning bagel and coffee before their hunt. One of the areas original hunt clubs, The Middleburg Hunt, was established in 1906 and still meets on most Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays throughout the year.
Woodstock is known for its picturesque rural landscape featuring quaint farmhouses, rolling meadows, clear brooks run by old mills, and country estates. Woodstock's natural beauty and long tenure as a destination retreat combine to make this area a target for equestrians from around the country. The area offers a cool summer climate, an endless network of trails, the famous Green Mountain Horse Association facilities, and an excellent equestrian community.
Woodside is a thriving equestrian community with a rich history that dates back to the 1800s and is located just outside of San Francisco. The Horse Park at Woodside hosts many competitive and educational activities in a variety of equestrian disciplines. The community has worked hard to preserve its equine-friendly nature by protecting its horse farms and trail systems. The bay area's mild climate allows for comfortable riding year-round.
This horse-friendly community is located just outside of the roaring big city of Denver. It is home to The Colorado Horse Park, which hosts several equestrian events, including top hunter/jumper, dressage, plus eventing competitions in spring, summer, and fall. Parker offers residents a historic downtown and a family-friendly atmosphere.
Tryon, North Carolina
Tryon, nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of the southern Appalachian, is home to the Tryon International Equestrian Center, which hosted the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games. The showgrounds hosts year-round competitions in various equine disciplines, including show jumping, hunters, eventing, Dressage, Polo steeplechase, reining, and more. Tryon also has a rich history of fox-hunters and hounds. On an early fall morning, the Tryon Hunt Club can be found riding across misty meadows. For endurance and trail riding enthusiasts, Tryon offers an extensive trail system through multiple state forests.
This article originally appeared on Erudite Equestrian and is published here with permission.
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