There’s something really great about visiting museums centered on our equine friends. And that’s mainly because there are not that many horse museums in the US. As one of the forefront representatives of equine knowledge and education, the International Museum of the Horse is indeed one of the most complete horse museums in America.
With a rich history, and a very extensive collection of horse related items, the International Museum of the Horse, located in Lexington, Kentucky, should definitely be on your “to visit” list. So, put you boots on and be ready for an amazing journey through thousands of years of history – all within the confines of the museum. Pretty cool? You haven’t heard half of it!
Short History of the International Museum of the Horse
The museum started through the hard work and dedication of a handful of people back in 1978. Its opening was timed to be in conjunction with the opening of another great horse-related attraction: the Kentucky Horse Park.
In time, because of the quality of its exhibitions, the museum became a Smithsonian Affiliate, assuring that it will continue to provide the Kentuckians with the best horse info and shows possible. This has made the museum into one of the best horse history museums not only in the United States, but in the whole world. Back when it started out, the museum had but 22 thousand square feet of exhibits. That may seem like a lot, but think only that today, that number is more than double.
In 2015, 37 years since its inception, the museum is home to 45 thousand square feet of horse related memorabilia and items. And that’s counting only the exhibitions, as the total area of the museum is 60 thousand square feet.
One of the greatest achievements of the museum is that it managed (and still does) to keep its exhibitions interesting on a worldwide level. This is because, unlike the American Quarterly Horse Museum, this one looks at the horse as a creature that has helped define not only US history, but the histories of the world in general.
Therefore, the International Museum of the Horse has seen exhibitions which have literally been branded “blockbusters.” These displays range from the subjects of British history and the horses that are kept in the history of the British Crown – to more eastern and interesting subjects like the role of the horse in Chinese history and art, or a case study on the Arabian Horse – one of the most beautiful horses out there.
Physical Exhibits of the International Museum of the Horse
With their goal set to bring horse education and knowledge to the general public, equestrian academics, and especially children, the International Museum of the Horse holds some of the most interesting exhibits in the world related to horses.
The best part about this exhibits is that they come both in physical form and in virtual form. Yes, that’s right! The International Museum of the Horse holds digital exhibits which are freely available to view for anyone from the whole world on their website at www.imh.org – try it yourself!
But the highlights of the museum are, of course, the physical exhibitions.
Their first ever exhibit, which has been on display non-stop since their beginnings in 1978 and up until today, is the Legacy of the Horse. This is a wonderful presentation that goes from the first horses ever discovered – some 55 million years ago – to the horses we have today.
This exhibit is split into seventeen different parts. These range from early human contact with horses, to medieval horses and how they were treated, and up until modern times and the rise of equine sports.
One other interesting exhibit from the total of thirteen that the museum currently has is one relatively new one, from 2010, the Al-Marah – Arabian Horse Gallery. This one has images of the beautiful bred of the Arabian horse together with historical artifacts and pieces of art, all of which are put together through the miracle of technology.
The last exhibit we will recommend, if you intend on visiting the actual museum, is the Calumet Farm one. There you will see much of the 560 trophies that Calumet Farm has won in Thoroughbred horse racing. This quite extensive tour has all the information anyone would possibly want about the farm, its owners, its horses, the exact competitions it won, and every single detail beyond.
Virtual Exhibits of the International Museum of the Horse
Although clearly not as spectacular as the normal, physical exhibits, the virtual exhibits of the International Museum of the Horse are still pretty neat and should be enough to entice your interest into going and paying a visit to the beautiful town of Lexington, Kentucky.
If we’ve managed to spark your curiosity with any of the above horse displays, you should know that both the Legacy of the Horse and the Calumet Farm exhibits are available on the www.imh.org website. Still the versions that they have there are far less impressive, I’m sure, than they would be in real life.
However, there is one particular online exhibit which does not exist in the actual, physical museum. It’s called The Breeds of the World and it’s quite literally exactly what it sounds like. The beautifully made flash presentation showcases a very complex, very detailed, pictured gallery of the horses that are native to every region of the globe!
Yes, this presentation has it all, and I personally would recommend it as a great learning tool for kids interested in equine knowledge. It has everything from the American Quarter Horse to the Belgian Draft Horse, from the African Zebra, to the Chinese Yili. So not only horses are part of their gallery, but also other related animals close to the horse, all part of the Equids. Yes, you guessed it, they even have donkeys.
We do hope that we’ve made at least a little bit curios to see for yourselves the Kentuckian International Museum of the Horse, and if not, or live too far away, you could always check out the American Quarter Horse Museum.
Additional Useful Information
International Museum of the Horse Website: here
International Museum of the Horse Hours: 9 AM – 5 PM, all week
International Museum of the Horse Phone Number: (800) 678-8813
International Museum of the Horse Museum Address:
4089 Iron Works Parkway
Lexington, KY 40511
International Museum of the Horse Contact Form: here