Queen Elizabeth's love of horses often brought her to Kentucky

Late British monarch visited US state five times between 1984 and 2007

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During her more than 70-year reign, Queen Elizabeth II made several visits to the US as both princess and monarch, and while most of these visits were focused on meeting American leaders, she also found time to pursue her passion: horses.

One of her favourite destinations was the state of Kentucky, known around the world for its horse races and breeding programmes.

She visited the state a total of five times between 1984 and 2007, touring local stud farms and meeting some of horse racing's biggest names.

Queen Elizabeth II attends the 133rd Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.  Getty Images / AFP

Her love for horses began when she was four years old after she was given a Shetland pony and grew adept at horseback riding, People reported. Throughout her life, the queen owned hundreds of horses, including numerous winning racehorses.

She was a regular on the UK horse show circuit, often attending the annual Royal Windsor Horse Show, the country's largest outdoor horse show.

During her first visit to Kentucky in 1984, she visited Keeneland for the Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup, the first race named in her honour, Lex18 reported. Lane's End Farm in Versailles hosted the queen during this visit.

Her second visit was to Hermitage Farm in Oldham County in May 1986. Bill Landes, who worked at Heritage Farm for 45 years, spent two months preparing for the visit and remembers his nerves when the queen arrived.

He recalled her keen questions and clear love of horses.

"When she got into that much detail [with her questions], that said it all," he told Kentucky's WLKY.

The queen paid another visit to central Kentucky in 1989, and then her fourth visit was in 1991, when she viewed stallions that could potentially breed with her mares, Lex18 reported.

Her final trip to the state came in 2007, when she attended the state's most beloved sporting event, the Kentucky Derby.

Ronald Reagan, US president at the time, rides with Queen Elizabeth at Windsor Castle near London on June 8, 1982. Reuters

Those working at Churchill Downs in 2007 remember the queen's visit as an exciting and complex time. David Sweazy, vice president of operations for Churchill Downs in 2007, said the visit required the tightest security operation for any celebrity attending the event.

"Leading up to her arrival, we met for months and had 32 meetings with the British Secret Service, United States Secret Service, and local and state law enforcement," Mr Sweazy told The Courier Journal.

"On some days, we met multiple times to go over every detail of the queen's visit."

Public sightings of the queen at the event were rare, but when people did greet her, she waved and smiled in reply.

Queen Elizabeth died last week at the age of 96. Her funeral is due to take place on September 19, and all horse racing, the only major sport in the UK due to take place on that date, has been postponed, Sky Sports reported.

The queen with horses throughout the years — in pictures

Updated: September 14, 2022, 6:51 AM