Special thanks to Alma Douglas, Smithsonian Affiliations National Outreach Manager, for this post.
It took several years of negotiations to determine the feasibility of loaning a 135 year-old skeleton of a horse to the International Museum of the Horse in Lexington, KY, but it finally happened in August.
Lexington, a beautiful bay, was one of America’s and some would say one of the world’s greatest racing champions. He was born in 1850 as Darley and renamed in 1853. He won six races out of seven in addition to what was considered to be the greatest match race of the 19th century. Lexington was also raced against the clock to produce a speed record that held for over 20 years — four miles in seven minutes, 19 ¾ seconds. Forced to retire because he was going blind, Lexington was a leading sire who produced a record number of champions over the course of 16 years. After his death, Lexington’s bones were donated to the Smithsonian and placed on exhibit.
In 1998, Carlene Stephens, a curator at the National Museum of American History, related the significance of horse racing, where races are won by tenths of seconds, to the subject of time while working on the Timex sponsored “On Time” exhibition. Lexington was featured in the exhibition. When “On Time” was de-installed, the skeleton went back into storage.
Interest was rekindled in bringing Lexington back to Kentucky by William Cooke, Executive Director of the International Museum of the Horse. Kudos to the team, headed by Linda Gordon, Collections Manager, Department of Mammals, National Museum of Natural History; Ed Ryan, Assistant Registrar and Carol Slatick, Outgoing Loans Coordinator, National Museum of American History, who worked seamlessly together to coordinate the loan.
Lexington stands as an iconic symbol for Bluegrass Country. His image is found throughout Lexington, KY in celebration of his greatness. Packed and crated gently for the long ride, the skeleton is now on display at the International Museum of the Horse, along with a full view of his portrait. As thousands of horse enthusiasts from across the country and around the world visit Kentucky for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Lexington will be “in the house.”