A Visit to Shelbyville's Undulata Horse Farm | May 2013
Agribusiness Industry Network once again hit the road for their May meeting, visiting Shelbyville. The program began with lunch at the Claudia Sanders restaurant and a brief business meeting. The group of 20 or so members and guests then travelled the short distance to one of the nation's leading saddlebred farms, Undulata. Here is Chairman Gary Huddleston's report on that tour.
Kentucky's status in the equine industry is seldom challenged, with horses of various lineages occupying pastures and stalls across the commonwealth.
Our May 16 visit to Undulata Farm near Shelbyville spotlighted the saddlebred industry, a breed noted for displaying a near-regal demeanor and precision gaits in show rings near and far.
Edward "Hoppy" Bennett, owner of Undulata and breeder and trainer of champion saddlebred horses, served as host and tour guide for The Agribusiness Industry Network's tour group.
Highlights of the visit were the horses, of course, including show animals being put through their paces in Undulata's indoor training track, and a two-week-old foal that despite its youth posed calmly for photos with many of the visitors.
Bennett gets plenty of practice showing off his property and his animals to visitors. More than 7,000 tour Undulata every year, well worth the host's time, Bennett says, who takes the opportunity to trumpet the importance and value of saddlebred horses to all who come and listen.
There are 91 documented saddlebred stables in Shelby County, earning it the label as Saddlebred Capital of the world.
"Shelby County is to saddlebreds what Nashville is to country music," Bennett told the group. "Why would you go anywhere else to learn about these beautiful horses?"
So what makes a saddlebred? The breed dates to the Civil War, when top military officers from both sides showed their preference for the high-stepping stock, referring to them as Kentucky Saddlers.
Around the turn of the century the breed name was changed to American Saddlebred, Bennett said. They share some genetic characteristics of Morgans, Arabians and a variety of other breeds.
“Their only purpose is to show," Bennett said. "Their traits are holding their heads up high, ears up and the gaits, all passed to the animals naturally through breeding."
Undulata sees about 30 foals born each year. Bennett says the farm's staff handles the foals twice every day to get them used to being around people.
"Not all of them turn out to be top show animals, by any means," Bennett said. "Some are performers, some turn out to excel at breeding, and some are just more or less family members."
Undulata Farm has a proud heritage, dating to the late 1800s. Originally stretching over about 1,600 acres just south of town, parts of the original estate now comprise highway rights-of-way, golf courses and home sites. Bennett operates on about 100 acres, including the barns and training tracks which are the center of the farm's activities.
A stately home built in the 1890's was also a part of the tour. The Bennett family uses the 3rd floor as their residence, with the first two floors serving primarily as a showplace for period furnishings and a pictorial history of the farm and its previous owners.
On behalf of AIN members, and some Louisville Ag Club folks who took part, we say a big thank you to Hoppy for his hospitality and engaging presentation. And we'll all be watching for those Undulata horses when this year's Kentucky State Fair Championship Horse Show takes over Freedom Hall.
Gary Huddleston | AIN Chairman