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Kentucky Equine Education Project’s Industry Conference set a precedent: More to come


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Now that the Kentucky Equine Education Project’s first KEEP Equine Industry Conference is in the books, plans are in the works to make it an annual event for the commonwealth’s multi-breed horse industry. 
 
At total of 156 people registered for the recent conference at the Embassy Suites hotel. The four panel discussions featured speakers working in an array of breeds and disciplines, reflecting the diverse nature of those in attendance.
 
“I’m very pleased with how our inaugural event turned out,” said KEEP executive director Joe Clabes. “I think it’s really something we can build on. The conversations really had a life of their own. The panelists and the audience were very engaged.”
 
Clabes said a major mission of the conference was “to build unity and consensus on some things and promote this idea of a unified front where we can better engage our policy-makers and more effectively advocate on behalf of the horse industry. There are a lot of commonalities that folks might not have assumed existed, at first blush. But they exist.”
 
Below are comments from the conference at the Embassy Suites hotel. More can be found at KEEP’s website, horseswork.com or http://bit.ly/2enSPB5
 
Up-close approach key to engaging new fans, lawmakers: Price Bell Jr., a fourth-general horseman from Lexington, said people want personal contact with horses in addition to betting. Bell helped found the Horse Country initiative formed in 2015 by industry stake-holders to give the public an up-close look at Kentucky’s farms and veterinary facilities. “We need to continue to drive more experience-based exposure for the public to the horse,” he said. “I think we take for granted that we have the opportunity to see horses every day, and the majority of America and majority of the world does not.”
 
 

Joe Clabes

Joe Clabes

Ryan Quarles, Kentucky’s Commissioner of Agriculture and a former state legislator, said knowing one’s legislators is paramount, including in a coveted industry issue such as getting the same tax exemption for feed and equipment that goes to other forms of livestock in the commonwealth. “Go to the effort to invite them out to your farm or a horse event. Educate them and do this throughout the year,” he said. “So when a bill or piece of legislation does come up, they know who you are…. They can put context into what you’re asking about.”
 
Ted Nicholson, Kentucky Downs’ senior vice president and general manager, commenting on the all-grass track’s record-setting upward trajectory: “Our expectations are for 2017, ’18 and ’19 going in the same direction. The beauty of my job, I work for an owner who gets it. He (Johnsen) knows our revenues are derived from historical horse racing, but we never forget why we are there — and that’s live horse racing.”
 
Turfway Park general manager Chip Bach on the track’s plan to install historical horse racing terminals: “We’re starting off a little small, with 250 machines, working on refacing the front of the building and upgrading things that should have been upgraded in maybe 1984. Our owners are going to work very hard not just to throw 250 machines into an existing facility and hope it sticks to the wall. They’re working on developing the entire experience.”

Brereton Jones and Old Friends receive KEEP’s inaugural Vision Awards: Former Kentucky governor Brereton C. Jones, the master of Airdrie Stud who was KEEP’s first chairman and co-founder, was feted with the organization’s first Vision Award for an individual. Michael Blowen, founder of the popular Old Friends racehorse retirement facility based in nearby Georgetown, Ky., with satellite facilities at Kentucky Downs and in Saratoga Springs, accepted the Vision Award for an organization.
 
By the numbers:  Dr. Jill Stowe, associate professor in the University of Kentucky’s Department of Agriculture Economics and director of the UK Ag Equine Programs, provided statistics from the 2012 survey on the state’s horse industry, the first comprehensive study since 1977. Among the findings: There are 35,000 equine operations in the state with at least one horse in residence, totaling 242,400 equines (which include mules and donkeys), accounting for 40,665 jobs, 1.1 million acres devoted to equine use and with the value of equines and equine-related assets totaling $23.4 billion.

Brereton Jones

Brereton Jones

Chauncey Morris, executive director of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association and Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners & Breeders, said that more than one-half of all the thoroughbred mares in the America two years ago were bred to one of Kentucky’s 278 thoroughbred stallions, no matter where the resulting foal was born. Morris pointed out that as the American foal crop has dropped significantly, the Kentucky-bred crop has been far more stable to where it now reflects about 36-percent of the foal crop.
 
WEG at Horse Park in 2022?: New executive director Laura Prewitt said the Kentucky Horse Park plans to bid on the 2022 World Equestrian Games. The Horse Park was host to the 2010 WEG, the first time it was held outside Europe. 
 
In response to a question about Kentucky Downs building an indoor arena, Kentucky Downs president Corey Johnsen said the track would like to have an “equine event center.”
 
Other panelists and moderators included Dr. Stuart Brown of Hagyard Equine Medical Institute; Norm Luba of the Kentucky Quarter Horse Association; Mistee Wrigley-Miller of Hillcroft Farm, a prominent competitor on the Saddlebred circuit and the sport of combined driving; Topline Communications’ Jen Roytz; Reese Koffler-Stanfield, owner and head trainer of the Maple Crest Farm dressage facility; the Kentucky Horse Council’s Katy Ross, and Rusty Ford from the Office of the State Veterinarian. Jackson Kelly law firm was the conference’s presenting sponsor.
 
The Kentucky Equine Education Project is a grassroots organization created in 2004 to preserve, promote and protect Kentucky’s signature horse industry. Support for KEEP’s activity comes directly from the horse industry and horse industry supporters that we represent. To learn more about how you can become a member or make a contribution, please visit www.horseswork.com.
 


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