The relationships you forge as an owner of a thoroughbred racehorse can also become a lifelong network of friends. From Lexington to Ocala to Saratoga--and all stops in between--you’ll meet other racehorse owners, breeders, bloodstock agents, trainers, and owners of horse farms devoted to the horseracing industry.
The relationships you will make with the owners and staff at a horse farm when you board your horse will be one of the most important associations you’ll make. Whether you chose to buy a broodmare with foal, a weanling, or a yearling, the next step in your decision making is which farm to choose to nurture your new investment before they train to race. At Mill Ridge Farm, we see horse boarding as a critical juncture in a young racehorse’s life. That’s why when it comes to horse boarding thoroughbreds, we see our methods and practices as “The Mill Ridge Way.”
When it Comes to Horse Boarding, What is a Thoroughbred Racehorse Nursery?
The Mill Ridge Way of horse boarding was developed through decades of experience. Beginning with four mares and 286 acres in 1962, Alice Headley Chandler founded Mill Ridge following the death of her father, Hal Price Headley. Alice’s determination, care, and passion for the horses became a guiding beacon for Mill Ridge, a farm that both raised and boarded future winning racehorses like Sir Ivor, winner of the 1968 Epsom Derby, Point Given, the 2001 Horse of the Year, and Giacomo, winner of the 2005 Kentucky Derby.
A thoroughbred racehorse nursery, like Mill Ridge, cares for mares throughout their pregnancies and during delivery of their foals. The personalized care we offer begins with the mares entrusted to us. We provide services for maiden, barren, and in-foal mares. Our staff works closely with our veterinary team to provide the utmost care for each mare. Maiden or barren mares are brought under lights in preparation for the breeding season. We utilize screening ultrasound scans with our veterinary team to follow each in-foal mare to ensure they have a safe and healthy foaling experience.
Year after year, we take great care to provide safe foaling. Our care is founded on time-proven traditions balanced with modern techniques. After foaling and working with our veterinary team, mares suitable for mating return to the breeding shed. Our staff schedules and arranges each mare's trip.
After the foals are born, the foals stay with their mothers until they are weaned, typically between four and six months of age. It’s interesting to note that in the wild, a foal can continue to nurse for often over a year, yet with racehorses, they are moved to new fields with other weanlings of the same age. At four to six months old, they naturally begin spending more time away from their mothers to explore and play. Play, at this time in their lives, is crucial to their development as racehorses.
To relate this life stage to humans, weanlings are considered the middle-schoolers of the farm--big enough to be away from their mothers, but gangly, curious, and awkward. Their bodies are beginning to develop, and they are starting to push boundaries and flex their newfound strength and independence.
At Mill Ridge, we allow and encourage our tour guests to interact with our weanlings on our tours. Visitors can pet them, feed them carrots, and interact while on a guided tour of the farm. This is an additional level of socialization with people that isn’t available at all horse farms in the Bluegrass. We’ve found that in addition to grooms, farriers, veterinarians, and staff, it’s good for weanlings to become accustomed to human touch, even at this early age. For weanlings, who are just learning how to be horses, this type of socialization is key to positive experiences and exploration as they grow.
What Should I Look For When Boarding My Racehorse?
Mares with foals, weanlings, and yearlings all have specific needs as they develop. A thoroughbred nursery should be large enough for plenty of pasture space for these horses at each stage of their growth. Weanlings, for example, are turned out together--both colts and fillies--until they are separated by sex just before they become yearlings. Yearlings need the space to run and play before they become two years old, the age at which they are moved to a training facility to begin preparing to become racehorses.
It’s also important to look for a farm where the horses are turned out regularly and have plenty of time together as a herd. They should also have plenty of interactions with grooms and people, and have steady, experienced veterinary care. Each day at Mill Ridge, our team carefully inspects each horse to tend to any bumps or bruises. Along with daily checks, our team closely monitors weight gain and overall development and routinely communicates these updates with clients.
We believe horses should interact with each other in playful, competitive, and sometimes assertive ways. By allowing horses to be horses, they learn to understand how to behave in a herd. The natural competitiveness that they exhibit with their peers in the pasture is what drives their natural desire to race. Mill Ridge’s natural approach allows the best athletes to emerge from the herd.
As an owner, all of these factors are important, but at the forefront is the relationship you develop with the people of the farm. Headley Bell, managing partner of Mill Ridge and principal bloodstock agent at Nicoma Bloodstock, and Price Bell, Mill Ridge’s general manager, understand and carry on Headley’s mother, Alice Chandler’s, methods and passions for the horses at the farm. “The Mill Ridge Way” is about taking care of horses, but it’s also about tradition, integrity, and upholding the values of their family. Mill Ridge takes that experience and tradition and has expanded it with innovation, growth, and an eye on the future. Now at 900 acres, Mill Ridge Farm carries the legacy of Alice Chandler’s dreams. The Bell family wants you to have a part in those dreams, too.
How Can I Learn More?
- Getting started as a new thoroughbred owner means that you have many decisions to make, and much to learn. Beginning with a trusted partner for your horse boarding is the start of a relationship that can hopefully last all the seasons of your racehorse’s life. At each step of the journey, the experienced team at Mill Ridge Farm looks forward to sharing in your passion and excitement as a thoroughbred racehorse owner. Although many feel the excitement on the track on race day, only a select few know the joy of owning a thoroughbred racehorse. That joy permeates more than just what happens at the track, and if you’re lucky, it can begin at Mill Ridge Farm.
Finding the right Kentucky horse farm to raise your thoroughbred racehorse doesn’t have to be a complicated endeavor. Contact Mill Ridge Farm, 2800 Bowman Mill Road, Lexington, Kentucky, for more information about horse boarding, or call us directly at (859) 231-0606.