No Horse Sense? You’ve Come to the Right Place

“Horse sense is the thing a horse has
which keeps it from betting on people. ”
–W.C. Fields

Both my parents grew up on a farm, and in their eyes, one of the worst possible character flaws was to have no “horse sense.” I remember hearing this repeatedly as a child. But when I moved to Lexington, Kentucky, The Horse Capital of the World, having no horse sense took on a whole new meaning.

To my credit, I did know a couple of things about horses: how to stay out of their way, and how to lose money betting on them. Not a stellar start in my new home state, I admit.

So to remedy my equine ignorance I’ve made it a point to learn a bit more about thoroughbreds and “The Sport of Kings.” In the next few weeks we’ll be passing on a few of the fascinating particulars we’ve learned about the ol’ horse game, so hopefully, by the end of the series, no one can ever accuse you of having no horse sense.

To whet your appetite, here’s a tasty tidbit. The stud fee for recent Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh is $200,000 for each successful “date.” And pardon my namedropping, but he’s standing at stud at Ashford Stud Farm exactly 20 miles from my house. According to an article on “American Pharaoh is mating with two to three horses a day, seven days a week, although when he pulled a muscle in his back during mating earlier this year, it put him on the sidelines for about two weeks.” It’s no wonder he had to stop racing – poor guy.

See ya next week.

Happy Trails,
James & Terri



We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at

60 thoughts

    1. Laura, that’s one reason it’s called “The Sport of Kings.” You’ll be interested to know that American Pharaoh doesn’t have the most expensive stud fee. That honor goes to Tapit (love the name), who’s stud fee is $300,000! ~James

  1. Some beautiful photos of these gorgeous creatures and looking forward to more. Unfortunately this ‘industry’ also exploits them and throws them away when they stop earning – we have a couple of rescues at our barn😕

    1. I agree Carol. Human exploitation of animals started 10,000 years ago with the first domestications, and it continues today. As you might guess, the horse community in this area is very sensitive to this issue, and there are a number of retirement facilities just for that purpose. Good for you for taking on the responsibility for two horses. ~James

    1. Martha, I thought that you might come running to read a few horsey posts. You’ll probably know most of this stuff already, but I’m finding it all fascinating. There are all these tiny aspects that I had never thought about. For instance, race horses were aluminum horse shoes. We toured a training facility (post to follow) and the farrier gave us a couple of used ones which are nailed on our back fence. ~James

      1. Aluminum is very light and resilient. Nightmare wears iron shoes on the front only. Our terrains rocky and thoroughbreds tend to have crumbly feet. Even through she is only half t-bred, I like the idea of some protection from the rocks. Can’t wait to hear what else you enjoy about the horse world.

  2. That was an interesting tidbit. I thought it was all done by artificial insemination now.

    It sounds like American Pharaoh is still a money maker even in retirement. Tough job, but someone has to do it 🙂

    1. Joanne, the thoroughbred industry is steeped in tradition. All the rules are established by The Jockey Club which was started in the late 1800s. The rule for true thoroughbreds is that breeding must be done by a “live cover,” as opposed to AI, and everything is determined by pedigree. ~James

      1. I knew there was a lot of tradition in horse breeding – right down to the selection of a name – but this is a detail I didn’t know. Interesting! Thanks 🙂

  3. What say we pool our money and buy a stud horse? I grew up just a few miles from Keeneland, but the horse-world was not my world. I knew there was money in it but, jeez, $200,000?

    1. Pam, you more than anyone know that when I lived in Lexington, I wasn’t even close to the horse world either – well except that with my long hair and beard I looked like a horse. But isn’t this a fascinating statistic? Did you read the comment about Tapit (love the name)? His stud fee is tops at $300,000! But when American Pharaoh’s offspring start winning his rate will skyrocket. ~James

    1. This is a world that few people are aware of, and even fewer are a part of. And with the price of admission, it’s no wonder. But it’s fascinating nonetheless. ~James

  4. I’ve spent time in Lexington on both business and tennis trips with my daughter over the years, and one time I insisted on visiting some of the stud farms. Although my main (and best) memories were the scenery (those rich green pastures outlined by perfect fences) and the regal creatures themselves, I also remember feeling sad about, and even a bit sickened by, the life of a stud horse and the money end of things.

    1. Lexie, like most issue, this depends on one’s POV. With serious horse people, there’s always the lottery factor. And spending large amounts of money only increases but doesn’t necessarily guarantee your chances of winning big. And given all the variables, sometimes the longshot comes in. And I’m biased of course, but the countryside around Lexington is some of the most beautiful in the world. ~James

  5. A tough job, but somebody has to do it! I love horses but admit that my knowledge is certainly lacking, not having spent much time around them in my life. I look forward to learning more.

    1. LuAnn, for me, blogging always provides a chance for learning. And it’s doubly fun when I can learn something new about my homebase. I’ve only scratched the surface, but I find the thoroughbred business fascinating. And living close to so many famous horses is a bit like a trip to Horse Hollywood. ~James

    1. Thanks much David. Breeding thoroughbred horses, especially million-dollar horses is deadly serious – to the owners anyway. But at it’s basic level, the grade-school boy in me can’t resist a bit of a giggle. 😉 ~James

    1. Lynn, when I read this quote in a serious article on CNN I couldn’t resist having a bit of fun. On a recent tour of a thorough training center the guide told us that American Pharaoh had 267 dates scheduled for the year so far. You do the math. ~James

    1. If you’ve read the other comments Leslie, you’ve seen that some think it’s funny, and others not. But the bottom line is that it’s what every thoroughbred horse owner hopes for, and it’s a part of the culture that isn’t likely to go away. ~James

    1. Marilyn, when lived in Lexington before I was a university student, and I didn’t get away from campus far enough to even see a horse, let alone learn anything about them. So, this will be fun for me as well. ~James

  6. Great horse shots, you guys. Such majestic creatures. I never know whether to be in awe or in fear when I am standing close to them. What I do do is pet them and whisper sweet words to them. Very enjoyable!

    1. Thanks Liesbet. Foaling season starts in March, and we took a few drives through the Bluegrass area specifically to see new foals. Luckily, we got some good shots. I’m hardly ever around horses, but when I am, I treat them with respect. Thoroughbreds are notoriously unpredictable, so I give them room until they prove they’re friendly. ~James

  7. The comments inspired me to do a little research, James. The horse Tapit gets $300,000 a pop for his services, which he will provide some 135 times this year. Each time takes only a few moments, and we assume the horse gets some enjoyment out of the process. For a couple of days worth of effort, his owner will receive some $35 million this year. Not bad work if you can get it. 🙂 –Curt

    1. I knew about Tapit Curt, and was surprised to hear this. But, I learned that it all comes down to the success of the offspring. None of American Pharaoh’s offspring are old enough to race, but when they are, and they start winning, his stud fee will skyrocket. Every horse commentator that I’ve heard or read says that he truly is remarkable, and there hasn’t been a horse like him in a long time. He won $9 Million racing, and unless he dies of a heart attack, he’s now and for the future, a four-legged money machine. But you’re right, not bad work. ~James

    1. I don’t know the specific details for AP Alison, but given his star-status, I suspect that supplicants come to the king and castle. But, lots of horses do travel for breeding. Because of the traditional age determination, in the northern hemisphere you want to foal as close to Jan 1 as possible, and in the southern hemisphere, the date is Aug 1. Consequently, many northern horses travel to the southern hemisphere for their breeding season. If you hang around the Lexington airport you will see the equine transport jets on the tarmac. ~James

  8. Can’t wait for this series of posts — love these horses yet know so little. We would love to take in a race or two at Keeneland this October, but not sure it will happen. Thanks for taking this on!

    1. Rusha, it’s hard to beat a trip to Keeneland on a nice weather day in October. Plan the weather carefully, because when it’s rainy, it’s not nearly as nice. Weekends, of course, are busier, so if you can visit during the week it’s much less crowded. They don’t race on Monday or Tuesday. Also, make sure to go to the track kitchen for a huge, cheap breakfast. It’s open to the public and you can wander around the barns to see the horses doing their morning race day rituals. You’ll also rub elbows with jockeys, trainers, a few hungry tourists, and other horsey types. ~James

  9. I have to admit that I know next-to-nothing about the sport of the kings so I found this post (and the comments) fascinating, especially your gorgeous photos! And AARP recommendations for the perfect way to spend retirement’s golden years seem very boring after reading about American Pharaoh’s hobby! Anita

    1. I find it fascinating as well Anita. And the more time I spend here, the more I realize that the business and community has a culture all its own. You pick this up around the stables, at the track, and driving around the multi-million dollar horse farms. On one end is lifestyles of the rich and famous, and on the other is grooms sleeping on cots in horse barns. I have a couple of posts in the pipeline that have been good fun to write. Watch this space. ~James

    1. Sylvia, with a multi-million dollar horse like AP, I’m sure that the owners were incredibly worried when this happened. His racing days are over and if he suffers a debilitating injury, his breeding days are over – not a good thing in this business. But in the meantime, he’s livin’ large. ~James

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