While some people spent a sunny Sunday at the Saratoga Race Course, others went off the beaten path to explore a handful of local horse farms as part of the annual Saratoga County Horse Farm Tour.
Organized by the Saratoga County Cornell Cooperative Extension as part of the Cornell Cooperative Equine program, the free, self-driven tour provide members of the public access to participating horse farms located within Saratoga County.
Established in 2006, the Cornell Cooperative Equine program was made possible through funds provided by the New York Farm Viability Institute in response to a need for equine education for adults in Saratoga County.
CCE Equine not only provides educational workshops such as the tour, but one-on-one visits with horse owners as well to discuss topics such as horse health, pasture management, forage quality, business planning, marketing, and basic management practices.
Brieanna Hughes of Cornell Cooperative Extension was on site at McMahon of Saratoga Thoroughbreds, a large, 100 acre farm with nearly 300 horses featured on the tour.
Hughes emphasized the importance of horse education considering the important symbolic and economic role that horses play in both Saratoga County and New York state.
"This is the county of the track and we want to educate people. It gives them a chance to meet the horses in the county," she said as people began to arrive at McMahon Farm to visit the stables.
Anne and Joe McMahon of Saratoga Springs, who own McMahon Farm, have participated in the horse tours before.
As Anne McMahon stood in one of the farm's stables, she not only answered questions about her horses, but also about the care of horses in general. She said that people in the area are often simply interested in the creatures, whether or not they ride or own horses themselves.
The McMahons have been mainstays in both the racing and horse raising community for decades. The two have lived at the Fitch Road farm since 1971, raised their family there, and still work every day at the farm.
"We get a lot of general questions about horses," she said, standing in a barn that housed mostly stallions.
Many people go to the track, or know about it, she added. However, not everyone takes the time to learn about the local organizations that support the track, most of them just miles away from downtown Saratoga
"You should be a tourist in your own backyard," she said.
Joe McMahon was stationed at pastures on the farm down the road which are home to many mares and their young foals. As people wandered the many paddocks reaching out to pet the animals, or take photos of them, he noted that many of the day's visitors often stop by the farm anyway.
The experience, he said, is a good one and worth it, even if it means he's missing a day at the track.
"People who come here to feed the horses all the time are here today, and we like that. We like to open up the farm," he said.
Down the road, Mill Creek Farm in the town of Saratoga, which is also just over 100 acres, was crawling with families and children who were excitedly greeting the horses all over the farm.
Anne Morgan and her family have owned the farm for a little over 30 years. Over a decade ago, she and her family opened the farm up for an event called Sunday At The Farm, which attracted 3,000 people to come by to visit. Since then, she said, the farm tours not only serve as a crucial educational tool, but also provides people who might not normally have the opportunity to be around horses to get to know them in a safe environment.
"I really feel that it helps people see what goes on behind the track," she said. " I enjoy educating people because I think it's important. People learn a lot, they always have good questions."