A Bourbon County dream
By Emilee Arnold

Patrick Sliney moves chicken coops with his tractor before feeding the chickens during early morning farm work. Patrick moved to Paris from California in 1990, around his daughter's birth, to pursue a dream of horse farming. The move allowed him to work with horses directly and leave the managerial work he'd been doing for years prior. "The horses raised right in this area win the best races all over the world," Patrick says. "All over. Japan, Saudi Arabia, England, Ireland, South America. That's why [I moved here]."

On an early October morning, the sun rises over a Bourbon County farm. It's quiet except for birdsong. In the dark of his home, Patrick Sliney brews coffee and gently wrestles one of his two dogs, Blue Dog, for eye drops.

In a nearby house, his daughter, 34-year-old Erin Sliney, practices a rendition of “Dandelion Wine” about the farm and the men she's met. She’ll play a porch show in Lexington later that night.

Patrick grew up with nine siblings in Rhode Island, with a stay-at-home mom and a father in the retail business. His father, he says, would sell parts of brass tanks in their basement for scrap metal to go to the local racetracks once or twice a year.

In his mid-20s, while working at a ski resort in Vermont, Patrick met a group of friends who regularly traveled to Saratoga to gamble on horseracing. Patrick began studying the Daily Racing Form around that time, interested in raising his own horses.

An eventual move to California saw him working as a restaurant manager at a hotel. His dream was to work with horses, and his managerial job started to wear on him.

“My stomach hurt because I hated my job. I thought I’d be dead by the time I was 40,” he says. “I knew what I wanted, and I knew that from the first step. I ended up leaving. When you walk out that door, it’s a feeling of freedom like you can’t believe.”

Patrick transferred to a hotel in Lexington, where he started walking horses at Keeneland Race Course. From there, he built up enough to buy a two-acre farm in Nicholasville, work with trainers in Ireland, and eventually buy 60- acres in Bourbon County, where he has lived since 1990.

"If you're going to be in the lobster business, you move to Maine. Going into the wine business? You move to Napa Valley. If you're going to be in the racehorse business, you move to Paris," Patrick says. "You know what I'm saying?"

Today, Patrick finds his fulfillment in the peace and community of Bourbon County. A now-closed country store introduced him to friends and neighbors he meets regularly. Patrick says he enjoys the solitude of farm life – the horses, butterflies, chickens and the peace of pondering his thoughts while working.

“If someone told me I’d be going from 10 kids on a quarter-acre lot to a fancy horse farm with 60 acres, I would’ve said they were crazy,” Patrick says. “People ask about my daughter being in the music business, too; well, I say you can’t know until you try it.”

“We’ve only got one trip around this blue marble,” he says. “Gotta make the most of it.”

Patrick chats with his friend and neighbor, Mike Freeney, about Mike's travels in the Middle East during his work in the oil industry. Mike and Patrick met in a now-closed country store that formerly hosted many of the community's farmers for breakfast each day.

Patrick brushes the coat of the horse Larissa's Love at his farm in Paris. Patrick does not own any horses but cares for racehorses from other owners and trainers. Larissa's Love has raced at multiple tracks, including Churchill Downs and Arlington Park.

A horse looks for food in Patrick's hand as he guides them out of a field. Patrick cares for the horses alongside his chickens and a field of monarch butterflies.

Patrick watches his daughter, Erin, perform during Beer and Hymns at Rose & Thorne Pub. Erin, an aspiring musician, played shows at various venues weekly.

Patrick says goodbye and jokes with his housekeeper, Anita Fugate, before leaving to feed chickens. Anita has periodically visited Patrick to clean his home since Patrick began living alone.

Patrick talks to his dog, Blue Dog while putting Blue Dog's daily eye drops in. Blue Dog was named for his formerly blue eyes, now red and clouded, with "Dog" appended by Patrick's young daughter.

Patrick searches his fridge for orange juice in the company of Blue Dog before beginning his morning farm work. A drink and care for Blue Dog are a part of Patrick's daily routine each day.

The sun rises behind Patrick's home as he prepares for a day of farm work.

Patrick watches the sunset with a glass of wine on his porch in the company of his dogs, Blue Dog and Rosie. Patrick frequently sits at the same table outside at the beginning and end of each day.