Each morning, Kevin Lay brings Lea and Blame, two stallions he cares for, in from their paddock. The routine includes a bath or a brush and a mane trim when needed.
The work begins early at Claiborne Farm. Kevin arrives at 5 a.m. to bring in the horses. He works through the elements year-round. "Your hands get so cold they're starting to throb, but you still got your job to do," he says. "You gotta go on."
Claiborne Farm has been in Bourbon County for more than a century, operating on about 3,000 acres of land outside of Paris.
After leaving Claiborne in 2004, Kevin took a job at an automotive parts factory. It was his wife, Lesley, who convinced Kevin to return. "It was the right choice," he says. "I'm sure glad she's smarter than me."
In the tack room of the barn where Lea and Blame are kept, a cabinet holds halters and supplies used to care for the stallions.
Kevin leads out War of Will, the 2019 Preakness Stakes winner, to show him to a tour group. He and the other stallion grooms lead tours through the farm each week. Visitors learn the storied history of the farm and conclude their tour with a visit to the grave of the farm's most famous resident, Secretariat.
When the stallions are "turned out," or taken out to their paddock each afternoon, Kevin begins "shaking the stalls." It's a process of cleaning out the muck and wet hay after the stallions have spent their morning there.
After 13 years together, Kevin and Blame have developed a strong bond. To Kevin, Blame is "family."
When Blame needs a mane trim, Kevin can stand on the ground and get to work. Lea, however, is a different story.
Of the two stallions Kevin cares for, Blame is the one who loves the water. Kevin likes to give each horse some warm water in the cool of the morning.