Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Monday, July 28, 2014

Neigh (NAEAA) Part Two

Friday evening after the conference wrapped up our group travelled by bus to Churchill Downs for evening racing they have dubbed Downs After Dark. We had learned from one of our speakers that the race course needed to attract more patrons and one of its ideas was to market itself as a destination. Downs After Dark of course included racing and betting but it was also themed with a Rockin’ in the USA theme the night we visited. Red, white and blue was the standard for dress along with live music. Folks were out for the evening dressed in their finest patriotic colors.

Early Saturday morning we were back in the bus and headed back to Lexington to visit more farms. The first stop was The Thoroughbred Training Center including The North American Racing Academy. The training center caters to trainers who have one or two horses. Trainers rent stalls in the numerous barns and have access to the training track as well as the services of professional outriders which from the sounds of things are life savers in many ways. Exercise riders and jockeys start around 10:00 after they are done with their larger barns and ride for a couple of hours. We learned about track protocols, the work of the out riders and some of the entrepreneurial businesses that support the training center.

The North American Racing Academy is the brain child of Chris McCarron and Remi Bellocq in partnership with Bluegrass Community & Technical College. The two year program is comparable to the schools in Europe that prepare students for the racing industry. Two tracks are offered one for jockeys and exercise riders and a second for horse care and training. We were lucky enough to meet Chris and Remi and listen to them talk about the academy, the challenges they face and the success of their graduates.

The next stop on our tour was Dixiana Farm – wow what a change of pace! This is a large breeding farm with beautiful barns, rolling pastures, white fences and very happy horses. We toured the brood mare barn and the yearling barn and learned more about the preparation of the horses for the sales. We enjoyed listening to the Irish Farm Manager as he talked about the various ways he cares for the mares and foals and the techniques he uses to prepare the yearlings for the sales. All the yearlings are called by their dams name so the owner can have the pleasure of selecting an appropriate race name.

Next up was Margeaux Farms which is another breeding farm again run by an Irish manager. This is a “for profit” barn that provides boarding and training for mares and young stock. The facility itself is not as fancy as Dixiana Farm but the care given to the horses was equally as impressive. All the horses were turned out as much as possible and allowed to run and play in the large fields.

Gainsway Farm was the next stop on the tour. Gainsway stands such stallions as Tapit, who commands a stud fee of $150,000 due to the success of his get. Afleet Alex who won the Preakness and the Belmont and Birdstone also live in one of the specially built stallion barns. Their lives as breeding stallions include turnout in lush green pastures and a busy schedule in the breeding shed.

The final stop of the day was Pin Oak Stud owned by Mrs. Abercrombie and managed by another Irishman.  Brood mares and foals as well as a very spacious stallion barn make up this beautifully appointed farm. New born foals and their mothers are introduced to the herd through the use of temporary pens set up in the pastures to allow everyone to safely become acquainted. The walls of the office are lined with pictures of racing victories from horses bred on the farm.


This tour and the pre-conference tour were exceptional opportunities to see the horse industry at work. The level of horsemanship and care that goes into raising and training thoroughbreds for the racetrack is extraordinary.  I did not know much about the racing industry before this, but I now have a great level of respect for the people that work in this industry. I  hope down the road to be able to take our students on a similar tour so they can appreciate that the industry they are interested in is much greater than just their own little pocket of experience. 
Churchill Downs

Thoroughbred Training Center

Husband Len with Chris McCarron

One of the barns at Dixiana Farm

The breeding shed at Gainsway

One view at Margeaux Farm

A Stallion at Pin Oak Stud


Saturday, July 19, 2014

St. Andrews MBA Program Graduates its First Class



This May St. Andrews graduated its first class of students from the MBA program. I talked to Heather Lee who was a member of the graduating class and Rob Jacobs who is currently enrolled in the program. Heather serves as a Hunter Seat Riding Instructor and Event Manager for the St.Andrews Equestrian Program. I asked Heather about the skills she had learned or developed during her time in the program.
“The skills that I have been challenged to develop throughout the MBA program are those that aid in professional development and in critical thinking. Many classes, from beginning to end, use a case based method of study that took the theories and principles from the text books and applied them to real life. Each class gave a different area of focus that, in the end, allowed me to see the whole picture and how those pieces fit together. The final practicum classes gave me the opportunity to put those pieces together and to be able to apply the concepts covered in previous classes, in a professional, real life situation.”

Rob has spent two years at St. Andrews working as a Hunter Seat Coach, Assistant IHSA Coach and Education Coordinator, he had this to say about the program. “The MBA program that St. Andrews offers is unique and growing daily; the program has given me knowledge and practical experience which has already fostered my growth and career advancement.” When asked about the skills that he has developed he had this to say. “The most important skill I have taken away from the courses thus far is how to understand and work better with different personality types. Communication is a struggle for everyone but working to keep our lines of communication open and clear is vital to the success of any organization.”

Both Heather and Rob agreed that Human Behavior was their favorite class. Heather said, “My favorite class throughout the MBA program was the Human Behavior class. I think this is something that is over-looked in many companies, whether they are successful or unsuccessful. Learning more about the way different people think and interact is a crucial piece in being a manager, no matter the industry. This class put an emphasis on understanding the way different personality types are driven. I think this class has helped me to understand more about myself and the people I work with both in the classroom as a student and in the arena as an instructor.” Rob agreed, “This class taught me the most about myself and how I can better work with other personalities. Working in the equestrian field naturally lends itself to working with people who are strong willed and working with others requires skill and a tactful approach in order to be effective.”

I asked Rob what he felt was the value of the MBA program. “Besides coaching equine lessons, I enjoy teaching equine lectures to college students in an academic setting and having my Masters would make that possible in the future,” he said. “The greatest benefit of St. Andrews' MBA program is the practical knowledge that I receive which can and will be used immediately.”

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Equestrian Program Reviews - Dressage

Claire Pollard shared the adventures of the dressage team in her Equestrian Program Review as well as reporting on new horses for the program in 2013. Click here to learn more about the challenges of riding on the dressage team.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

NAEAA Conference June 2014 - (Neigh!)

The National Association of Equine Affiliated Academics (NAEAA – “neigh”) conference was in Louisville, KY this year and boy was it worth the trip! The conference itself always provides lots of ideas to bring home and share with colleagues as well as learning from speakers from the equine industry. This year the conference included 2 days of tours visiting some of Lexington’s beautiful horse farms.
My husband Len made the 9 hour drive with me leaving early on Tues. so I could attend the pre-conference workshop on tenure and promotion. Early Wed. morning we headed out in the bus to back track a little to Lexington which is 70 miles east of Louisville. Our day started at Midway College’s Equestrian center with their converted tobacco barn and riding facilities. One of the things that I really liked were the horse anatomy diagrams on the inside walls of the barn. This included internal organs, muscles and even one showing acupuncture points. Our next stop was Kentucky Equine Sports and Medicine Rehabilitation Center (KESMARC) which has state of the art pools, in ground treadmills, a salt water spa, hyperbaric chamber and a vibrating platform which promotes circulation and hoof growth this piece of equipment is the result of work done by NASA to help astronauts maintain muscle mass in space. I was really excited to hear about the KESMARC internship opportunities which sound like a great fit for our Biology and Equine students. Click here to visit the KESMARC site.
Our third stop of the day was Keeneland Race Course and Sale Facility. This was the equivalent of two stops as we learned about how the sales work, (how much money changes hands at the sales – scary!) and toured that facility. We then walked out to the race course to learn about their challenges of switching from dirt footing to PolyTrack and now back to dirt and how much has been done to improve the safety of the track for horses and in my opinion fairness of the track for bettors. We ate lunch in the beautiful grounds surrounding the track and then loaded back into the bus to head to Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital. Our tour guide was the son of Dr. Rood and did a wonderful job of guiding us through the expansive equine hospital. We were particularly impressed with the podiatry unit where farriers design and create all kinds of amazing shoes to address multiple equine problems.
Central Kentucky Riding for Hope located in the KY Horse Park welcomed us into their new building and expansive indoor arena. We learned about their program through the National Guard for their members who are at risk. They also have an alternative school that meets at their center and incorporates the TH program into the curriculum. Their volunteer coordinator shared that they regularly work with 600 volunteers plus another couple of hundred that work special events throughout the year. Our final stop for the day was Old Friends Thoroughbred Retirement which came about because of one man’s dream to provide retired racehorses with a life after the track. Michael Blowen retired as a film critic for the Boston Globe and made his dream a reality. The farm houses 120 horses many of which are stallions and is funded solely through donations. He is an engaging person to listen to as he feeds the horses carrots and tells their stories.
Will write more about the conference and the second day of farm tours in a later post. 

Midway College uses the barn walls to educate!

KESMARC Equine Swimming Pool

Building where the horses are prepared right before they are presented for sale at Keeneland

Keeneland racetrack and grandstand

Central KY Riding for Hope indoor arena

Rood & Riddle Podiatry Center

Old Friends Farm residents

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Equestrian Program Reviews - Hunter Seat

Jessica Story and Ellen Tobin reported on the first ever win at the IHSA Zone Finals for the Hunter Seat team. They included a brief bio of new coach Matt Arrigon. Read about the team's successes here.