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Horsing Around: Kentucky Hosts the World Equestrian Games
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For those among the horsey set, this week and last were among the biggest on the annual calendar of equine events: The World Equestrian Games are currently taking place in Lexington, Kentucky, arguably the most verdant city in the country. In addition to rolling hills and bourbon, horses reign here and hosting the Games is an honor that has heretofore never been bestowed upon an American City. Last weekend we enjoyed watching a few of the competitions on TV and would highly recommend this couch potato pastime...dressage, endurance, driving, jumping, reining, vaulting...it's all thrilling and heart-stopping to view. The only thing better than seeing it on the tube would be being there in person.

So, in an effort to get a little sniff of those Kentucky fields, we cracked open a special box of deliciously "deadly" Woodford Reserve bourbon balls (oooh-la-la!), poured a tiny shot of Pappy Van Winkle's Reserve Bourbon, and began to pore over a few beautiful books from the Bluegrass state.

First up is the Horse Lover's Guide to Kentucky (256 pages, $19.95, Eclipse Press) by Patti Nickell who provides the ultimate, essential tour of the horsey capital of the world. Nickell (O.K., in all fairness, we must admit that we personally know this esteemed travel writer...full disclosure complete) explores the cultural and historical importance of the horse to the commonwealth. She takes readers into the most famous farms of the state (and that is one tour you do not want to miss), explores historic racetracks, and delivers a virtual roadmap to the state -- she even includes wonderful places to dine and spend an overnight or two.

To further appreciate the Crayola colors of the state, John Carloftis' Beautiful Gardens of Kentucky (322 pages, $50.00, Canal Hose Publishers) is a coffee-table must. Carloftis is a prolific and sought-after landscape and garden designer, native Kentuckian, and the recipient of a garden-design award from the Museum of the City of New York. He divides his time between Kentucky and Gotham and has designed gardens for the likes of boldface names like Julianne Moore, Mike Myers, and Edward Norton, among others. His work has been featured in countless periodicals and he is the author of several other garden books.

In these pages are gardens galore -- manicured, English, rambling, tidy and trim, and wild and untamed. There are gardens embellished with shells, rocks, faux animals, statuary, gazebos, pergolas, and just about everything you can think of, maybe even a mercury ball or two. Savor the lush and florid florals as you turn the pages, rife with Technicolor photos of these vibrant landscapes that will take your breath away.

Lastly, if you don’t have those bourbon balls and that Pappy to delight in, you will most likely think you do when you amble through Keeneland Entertains (256 pages, $39.95, Keeneland Association/Eclipse Press), by Fran Taylor, the Executive Director of the Keeneland Foundation.  The Keeneland Association is uniquely positioned in the equine universe, as it is the global leader in both Thoroughbred horse auctions and racing; Keeneland oversees and stages world-class Thoroughbred horse-racing twice a year at its first-class horse park and race track.

This lavish book features -- nay (neigh, did you say?), truly venerates -- the other side of horse-racing. In these pages, it's not the sales and the race statistics that predominate, but rather, it's the graceful and lavish lifestyle that has grown up around the equine sports. Southern hospitality reigns (or dare we say reins?) here. From casual tailgate parties to black tie galas, Keeneland Entertains does not disappoint. There are tip lists, menus, recipes (for food and drink, of course), ideas for goody bags, inspiration for setting elegant and interesting tablescapes, lists of oft-forgotten, but necessary items, say, for a tailgate picnic (like jumper cables and a fire extinguisher), countless photos of real-life people at chic soirees and casual buffets, all enjoying the feasts and finery of the occasions. (And just as an aside, speaking of finery, but having nothing whatsoever to do with the book, Keeneland has a remarkable gift shop  -- vending all things horsey, including its own Hermès scarf design, honoring the Keeneland organization in glorious color and pattern.)

You'll relish every leaf of each of these three volumes and feel as if you’ve been transported to the Blue Grass.  Giddy-yap, giddy-yap.

Posted on October 04, 2010 - by


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About the Author: About the Author: Ruth J. Katz is a well-known shopping and service writer based in New York City. She has written about shopping for 25 years for New York magazine; covered the topic on-air at Fox-TV for several years as the Home Services expert; and had her own show on both the USA and Lifetime Cable networks. Katz wrote extensively for The New York Times as well, and contributed periodically to the New York Daily News. She is a passionate shopper, always looking for not merely a good buy, but the best buy, ferreting out a "steal" or discovering up-and-coming designers. She has written five books and is a former contributing editor to Hearst's Redbook, Classic Home, and Colonial Homes; she is currently a Contributing Editor of New York Home, Golf Connoisseur, The Modern Estate, and Promenade magazines. She is also the former Shopping Director for Davler Media's Manhattan Living.


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