Category

News

Graduate Spotlight: Cooper Sawyer

News, Uncategorized

Graduate Spotlight: Cooper Sawyer

By: Sarah Coleman

Featured image provided by: Keeneland/Photos by Z

 

A Rising Trajectory

Though Cooper Sawyer was born in the Bluegrass, he moved from Lexington at 13 before making his way back Northern Kentucky to finish his high school career at Beechwood High School. With a passion for racing and his heart set on the horses, Cooper studied Equine Business Management at Lexington Community College so he didn’t have to leave the Bluegrass again. Once he had completed the equine courses at LCC (now Bluegrass Community and Technical College) Cooper transferred to the University of Kentucky, where he graduated with a degree in Agricultural Communications, Education and Leadership in 2005. (UK did not offer their Ag Equine Program at the time Cooper attended college, he notes.)

Growing up, Cooper’s immediate family was not involved in the Thoroughbred industry, but they did have close family friends who were entrenched in multiple facets of the industry, so he was exposed to both racing and breeding from a young age. The family friends had horses that ran at both Keeneland and Churchill, so Cooper spent quite a bit of time at the tracks with his family and theirs. “My dad would get us out of school early one Friday during the spring and the fall meets when Keeneland was running,” Cooper reminisces. “Racing gives me such good memories of family.”

“I feel like I have always loved the racetrack and wanted to pursue a career within the Thoroughbred industry,” Cooper explains. “I always enjoyed talking horse racing with my dad and his friends, particularly during the Derby prep races in the Spring. It was definitely in my blood from an early age!”

Cooper worked on the track during the summers while he was in high school and originally thought he wanted to return to the track post-graduation. His way of thinking was changed, however, when he decided to expand his industry experience and get a job on a farm to better understand both the breeding aspect and working with foals and yearlings. Lexington was the obvious choice for this industry exploration.

However, though Cooper moved to the heart of horse country, he had a hard time finding farm work on a part-time basis. “I spoke with Garrett O’Rourke’s brother Brian during my search and he mentioned KEMI to me,” Cooper says of learning about the program. “After learning more about it, it seemed like the perfect opportunity.”

 

 

 

 

The Start of Something Great

“I was very anxious to start the program,” Cooper said. “I would finally get a job on a farm, in an industry I wanted to pursue AND I was able to take a semester off school to do it! It was all very exciting.” Similar to other KEMI grads, one of Cooper’s favorite take-aways from the program was the relationships he built and cultivated while a student in the KEMI program. “I was very fortunate in my placement [at Wimbledon Farm] and I was able to learn from the best team of horseman under the management of Brian O’Rourke. The divisional managers, foreman, and Drs. Brown and Rathgeber were second-to-none, and provided me with an education and experience that was invaluable.” Wimbledon Farm, where Cooper was placed, encompasses over 1,000 acres on the south side of Lexington. The farm boards mares and preps sales horses. Once Cooper’s semester with KEMI ended, he returned to school, but his connection with Wimbledon remained; he worked at the farm during breeding seasons. After graduation from UK, Cooper was focused on gaining more experience with yearlings. He secured a job with Mill Ridge Farm in Lexington, prepping yearlings under Donnie Snellings. Nearly 300 acres, Mill Ridge Farm boards mares, stands stallions, sells horses and offers bloodstock consulting through Nicoma Bloodstock. Mill Ridge is renowned in the Thoroughbred industry for putting the horse’s welfare at the forefront of every decision.

“The leadership at Mill Ridge taught me so much. Mrs. Chandler’s respect for the horse and her philosophy, ‘take care of the horse and the horse will take care of you,’ was ingrained in me at Mill Ridge,” Cooper explains. “For someone who was seeking to gain knowledge working with yearlings, I couldn’t have landed in a better place. I have so much respect for Donnie Snellings and his methods; I was able to learn so much from him and I am forever grateful.”

After spending nearly 5 years at Mill Ridge, Cooper was presented with an opportunity to move to Lane’s End Farm. There, he spent 4 years as the yearling manager, “where I was able to gain a better understanding and insight into the commercial aspect of the industry.” Established in 1979, Will Farish is the owner and founder of Lane’s End Farm, which comprises more than 2,300 acres in both Woodford and Fayette counties. Farish has raced more than 165 stakes winners and bred more than 300 stakes winners, and has won Horse of the Year accolades multiple times.

Lane’s End sells at every major sale, breeds and boards mares. “And I had a front-row seat at one of the best-run organizations in the world,” Cooper explains. “It was a great experience and important step for my career. The Farish’s, Mike Cline and the rest of the Lane’s End team are first class.”

From Lane’s End, Cooper went on to manage St. George Farm for Ian Banwell, a client of Lane’s End and a highly respected proponent of Thoroughbred breeding and racing. St. George was a medium-sized, private commercial breeding operation, which also had a sizable racing stable. “This was the first time in my career that I was able to put all my experiences together and apply it on a daily basis to run a farm. I spent 3 years managing St. George Farm before coming to Mt. Brilliant and I am proud of the accomplishments the farm made under my management,” says Cooper.

Cooper is now the Farm Manager of Mt. Brilliant Farm in Fayette County, Ky. The farm, which is over 1,200 acres, offers boarding and sales prep, and owns horses in training and actively racing, as well. In addition, the farm hosts polo matches and boasts phenomenal gardens, which include a taxus maze, kitchen garden, flower garden and vineyard.

 

 

 

KEMI: Laying the Foundation for Success

Cooper is adamant that KEMI was instrumental in helping him create such a successful career path. “KEMI serves as a launching pad for students wishing to pursue careers in the Thoroughbred industry. The model, comprised of networking, hands-on experience and coursework, has proven to be successful for almost 20 years. KEMI provided the foundation I needed as I was starting to build my career,” he explains. “If you have an interest in the Thoroughbred business, regardless of career path, this experience is a must,” Cooper says. “KEMI provides a built-in system for networking and building a knowledge base within the industry you can’t find on your own.”

KEMI students have to have some stick-to-itiveness, Cooper says with a laugh. “Everyone on the [Wimbledon] farm was trying to make me quit!” Even with the good-natured ribbing, Cooper knew he was meant for the Thoroughbred industry. “During orientation week [at KEMI], we went to a bunch of big farms and saw the stallions, like Giant’s Causeway. It’s an experience I will never forget … I really felt like I was a part of something bigger.”

Like every KEMI grad, Cooper acknowledged that there was a steep learning curve when he was placed on the farm. “I found working on a Thoroughbred farm initially was quite challenging because I was trying to learn as much as I could while still trying to do the best work possible,” he explains.
What he learned on Wimbledon Farm has translated to each of his subsequent career moves, where he garnered additional information and tactics he added to his management toolbox.
But one thing permeates every position he has had, on every farm: “No matter what your position is, take advantage of it, work as hard as you can and learn as much as you can, so you can apply that knowledge base as you progress in your career. And don’t be afraid to ask questions!” Cooper says.

Now married with three children, Cooper acknowledges that working on a farm is much more than a full-time job. Racing has taken a backseat to breeding (and kids); “to stay up with it all is still another full-time job!” he says.

Though he may not get to the races as often as he would like, Cooper is making his mark on the Thoroughbred industry in his own way, working toward the same goal that was instilled in him from his days at KEMI: the betterment of the farm.

 

 

 

Fall 2018 KEMI Graduates

News

Congratulations to our Fall of 2018 Kentucky Equine Management Internship (KEMI) graduates!

Lindsey Bieri – Texas A&M University – Lane’s End Farm/Oak Tree Division
Victoria Canessa – University of Buenos Aires, Argentina – Juddmonte Farms
Anna Curlin – Murray State University – Trackside Farm
Jacqueline Dayutis – University of Massachusetts, Amherst – WinStar Farm
Ash Hentges – University of Arizona – Three Chimneys Farm
Michaela Horn – University of Nebraska, Lincoln – Denali Stud
Rachel Knox – University of Arkansas – Crestwood Farm
Christy Markowski – Cazenovia College – Trackside Farm
Kaitlyn Martin – Cal Poly, Pomona – Shawnee Farm
Kristen Mason – University of New Hampshire – Shawnee Farm
Catherine Messerly – Virginia Tech University – Taylor Made Farm
Vanessa Meza – College of the Sequoias – Pin Oak Stud
Madison Miller – University of Wisconsin – Denali Stud
Lauren Moshier – Hocking College – Monticule Farm
Kaitlyn Sciuto – University of Missouri – WinStar Farm
Samantha Una’Dia – California State University, Fresno – Indian Creek Farm
Jennifer Valentine – Rocky Mountain College – Lane’s End Farm
Rebecca Walker – Miles Community College – Darby Dan Farm

 

Best of luck to our Fall of 2018 graduates!

Graduate Spotlight: Dr. Jackie Snyder

News, Testimonials

Graduate Spotlight: Dr. Jackie Snyder

 

By Sarah Coleman

 

“Cattle Kid” to Outstanding Equine Vet

Growing up in Hershey, NE, Dr. Jackie Snyder hadn’t given much thought to becoming an equine-specific veterinarian. A “cattle kid through-and-through,” Jackie was very competitive in livestock judging throughout her high school and collegiate years. Though she knew she wanted to be a vet, she had assumed she would work in a mixed-practice setting, where she could capitalize on her bovine experience.

 

Girl Power

This intense involvement in livestock judging during high school allowed her to travel multiple times to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) campus, where she not only felt comfortable, she felt confident that she could judge at the collegiate level and represent the school.  Setting goals and achieving them has always been a part of Jackie’s life, and judging while in college was a large goal she set while in high school. Jackie was a formidable opponent when it came to judging; her junior year of high school, she was part of the only all-female judging team to sweep the Nebraska state judging competition in Lincoln, besting more than 34 teams (mostly made up of males). This victory bought the team a spot to the national competition in Louisville, KY., in 2001, becoming the only all-female team in the nation to qualify for the prestigious event. Jackie has used the skills she honed in livestock judging, including the networking skills and the confidence to think on her feet while public speaking, in every facet of her career. Networking played a role in not only her acceptance into college, vet school and the KEMI program, it allowed her—and continues to help her–expand her professional contacts. After Jackie completed her four years an UNL with a degree in Animal Science, all while remaining fiercely competitive in livestock judging, she set her laser-like focus on vet school; she applied and was accepted into the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine. Since 2007, Nebraska’s Professional Program in Veterinary Medicine (PPVM) has allowed in-state students to complete two years of veterinary medicine at the University of Nebraska, then transfer to the Iowa State University College of Veterinary Medicine, a partner institution, for the final two years of study, while continuing to pay in-state tuition.

 

The Exposure to All Things Equine

Though Jackie didn’t grow up around horses, she was extremely well-versed with cows; she grew up on a cow-calf operation and her father ran a feedlot. Being around and handling large animals was not new to her; though horses are innately different from cattle, the ability to handle livestock well, as well as project confidence around animals many times her size, has served her well throughout her career. “I had worked for a mixed-animal practitioner during the summer, and he did a lot of equine work,” Jackie explains about how her interest in horses was piqued. “I really liked it, but I realized that my equine-handling skills needed work before I went to vet school. I decided there was no better place to learn then Kentucky!” Jackie hadn’t been back to the Bluegrass since high school, but she had met Leslie Janecka in passing at a career fair as a freshman (goal-oriented, remember?). “I met Leslie and grabbed a pamphlet that talked about KEMI. I didn’t think I would have time to enroll in KEMI as an undergrad, so I set the information aside,” she explains. Then, there were some (now-fortuitous) logistical problems the year Jackie was supposed to be on the UNL Livestock Judging Team. “I opted to stay another semester so I could judge,” Jackie explained, “and that opened up a spring semester [2008] where I needed something to do!” And she still had the pamphlet…. Jackie sent in her resume. “I honestly didn’t think they would accept me since I didn’t have a ton of equine experience and none outside a clinic setting,” Jackie says. “I remember Googling my placement farm [Mill Ridge Farm] the day I got my email and falling in love!” she says. “It was a gorgeous farm with such a rich history.” Leslie began sending emails to the incoming KEMI class, reminding them how tough the internship program was going to be. “I felt like I was pretty tough, but it did make me wonder!” Jackie said.

The Consummate Networker

Jackie thrived at Mill Ridge. “I just loved the day-to-day process,” she explains. “From breeding mares to foaling mares and watching the foals develop into racehorses, it was great to be a part of the team that cared for these animals.” Her favorite part of her time at Mill Ridge was the foalings. “It was great to see the babies emerge and try to figure out their legs, and how to nurse,” she says. This exposure to the industry while on the farm only solidified Jackie’s desire to be a vet. Though the KEMI spring semester officially ended in June, Jackie stayed on at Mill Ridge to help prep yearlings before heading back to start vet school. Jackie is adamant that KEMI has helped her in vet school and also in the role she has now as an Associate Ambulatory Veterinarian for Hagyard Equine Medical Institute. KEMI has helped her “better relate to what my clients do on a day-to-day basis,” she explains. “KEMI also taught me a lot of horsemanship skills.” In addition to tangible skills she gained through KEMI, Jackie strengthened one of the skills she used in livestock judging while in the heart of horse country: networking. “On my day off from KEMI, I would often ride along with Dr. Stuart Brown, Mill Ridge’s farm veterinarian. He was and is a wonderful mentor to me,” she says. “After several weeks riding along with Dr. Brown, he opened some doors to help me shadow other Hagyard veterinarians in the field as well as in surgery and medicine. I loved the clinic, the level of care they provided to their clients and I felt comfortable there,” she says. True to the diligence and foresight that had served her well in years past, Jackie stayed in contact with Dr. Brown through veterinary school and returned to Kentucky for a few weeks every year to shadow veterinarians at Hagyard. After graduation, Jackie applied for and was accepted into Hagyard’s ambulatory internship program. “After my internship, I stayed on as an associate, where I’ve been growing my practice ever since,” she explains. So what, in addition to having goals, does Jackie feel has best served her in the equine industry? Her ability to “sign up and show up.” The equine industry is great and offers young people lots of room to grown and create their career, she says. “But you have to show up ready to have some fun and work hard.”

 

Sign Up, Show Up, Work Hard

Jackie carries the “show up and work hard” mentality into every facet of her life. “My husband and I joke that our family motto is ‘There’s no good time, so why not now?’” she says. “I’m often trying to find that perfect time to accomplish a task, but really, getting started is usually the toughest part.” “If you are thinking about the KEMI internship, just sign up. It won’t be perfect, and sometimes it might even be scary,” but it’s worth it. “Be an advocate for yourself. If you show up and learn to love the process, you’ll learn a lot and have a great time.”

Juddmonte Farms and Keeneland Donate to the Kentucky Equine Management Internship Program

News

The Kentucky Equine Management Internship (KEMI) Program would like to thank Juddmonte Farms and Keeneland for their continued support.  Juddmonte Farms named KEMI as the beneficiary of the Juddmonte Spinster Stakes at Keeneland Racecourse on Sunday, October 7th.  Keeneland matched Juddmonte Farms’ donation.  Thank you to Juddmonte Farms and Keeneland for your generous support, and congratulations to winner Blue Prize!

Graduate Spotlight: Adolfo Martinez

News, Testimonials

Graduate Spotlight: Adolfo Martinez

By Sarah Coleman

Keep Looking Forward

Growing up all across the Lone Star State, Adolfo Martinez graduated from Fort Davis Texas High School before attending Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas, where he studied Animal Science with an emphasis in Reproduction and Physiology.  “We always had horses around,” explains Adolfo, so going to school to pursue something equine-related was a no-brainer. While traveling to the Bluegrass for an equine symposium with his college advisor, Adolfo met force-to-be-reckoned with Shannon White, who at the time was the KEMI Program Coordinator. “I decided to take a break from my master’s-degree program and give it [the KEMI program] a try,” Adolfo explains. “I was ready for a change and was looking forward to gaining experience outside of the Quarter Horse industry.”

 

A Way of Life

This forward-looking way of thinking is truly engrained in Adolfo. Even before he arrived in Kentucky, he looked for opportunities and made sure he took advantage of options placed before him. Adolfo’s favorite part of the KEMI program “was meeting all the people I still continue to see today here in Lexington,” he explains. The amount of education available and the ability to network were instrumental in helping the KEMI students, he noted. “Everyone is helpful and knows contacts to get you where you need to be,” he explains. Though KEMI placed fantastic opportunities in front of Adolfo, the now-manager of Heaven Trees acknowledges that it “was my education and drive that helped me get what I needed out of KEMI.” While in the program, Adolfo was placed on Pin Oak Stud, where he was exposed to a lot of areas on the farm he was not as-familiar with and he had managers who helped him learn the skills he needed. After graduating, Adolfo worked for Thoroughbred powerhouses like Wimbledon Farm, where he flew with Lion Cavern to Australia; Mill Ridge Farm, where he shuttled Johar to New Zealand and worked in the foaling barns while in the States; Darby Dan Farm, where he was Broodmare Manager, then Assistant Farm Manager/Broodmare Manager; and Calumet where he worked with yearlings at their Bluegrass Farm division. Always looking forward, he then transitioned to his role as Farm Manager at Heaven Trees in Lexington, where he has been since November of 2016. Owned by Dede McGehee, Heaven Trees is a private farm with about 45 horses ranging from foals to retired broodmares and geldings. The farm consigns yearlings for the September sale and occasionally mares for the November sale.
“I love working on this farm,” Adolfo says. “The owner is great to work for and I have a great staff to work with; we do everything from horses to gardening to maintaining the farm grounds.

 

You Get Out What You Put In

One of the hardest parts of being a KEMI intern was feeling lost and like you didn’t understand what everyone was talking about, he explains. “As time passes, you catch up and it all makes sense,” he promises. When asked if he would complete the KEMI program again, without hesitation, Adolfo says “in a heartbeat!” On advice for students who see themselves in the Thoroughbred industry? “The days are long and some nights are longer. Dig deep and push your limit—it’s a very rewarding job.” Adolfo’s advice to incoming KEMI students rings just as true for those already entrenched in the equine industry: “Be ready to be open and bust your rear to make a difference. You never wanna be remembered for the bad, so make sure you leave a lot of good things behind.”
Truer words have rarely been spoken and, characteristically, Adolfo sums up his time in the Horse Capital as this: “[Working in this industry] has been a very fun and adventurous ride—and I’m looking forward to more.”

 

Graduate Spotlight: Cathy McNeeley O’Meara

News, Testimonials

Graduate Spotlight: Cathy McNeeley O’Meara

By: Sarah Coleman

Featured image provided by: The Jockey Club

 

Cathy McNeely O’Meara, originally from Boones Mill, VA (where some episodes of Moonshiners was filmed, she points out), has long been an animal lover and avid equine enthusiast. Cathy was involved with horses from a very young age; her mother was a show-horse trainer and had Cathy in the competition ring at just 18 months old. Growing up, “I was always the guinea pig for new, green ponies and horses to make sure they were OK for the lesson programs and summer camps … I got a real appreciation early on for keeping my heels down and my eyes up!” she laughs.

When it came time for her to go off to college, Cathy specifically chose Virginia Tech as it had full herds (five species) that allowed for maximum hands-on experience. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal and Poultry Science and has since gotten an MBA in Information Systems from Sullivan University.

Though always passionate about the horses, it wasn’t until deciding not to pursue veterinary school that Cathy stumbled across KEMI while doing an internet search. She knew she wanted to work in the equine industry, but didn’t know in what capacity.

KEMI piqued her interest. Though Cathy and her mom had worked with many Thoroughbreds when they retired from the track, she had never dealt with them as racehorses. “I was excited to be trying something new” with the KEMI program, Cathy said. She looked forward to being exposed to many facets of the Thoroughbred industry through the program.

 

The Difference Between Racehorse and Riding Horse

During her time as a KEMI student, her favorite part of the program was “definitely the ability to work with horses daily. I was fortunate to be able to expand my knowledge of breaking and training with new techniques and methods,” Cathy says. “Even though there’s a different way to do things as this is a business not just a backyard farm [like she was used to], the experience was demanding, but also thoroughly enjoyable.”

Dealing with the frustration of being asked to do something differently from the way one thinks it should be done was one of the hardest parts of being a KEMI intern, Cathy noted. While that probably just has to do with being young, she acknowledges, it was extremely valuable to learn that “there is typically a reason why things are done a certain way at the farms and you should respect that–certainly ask why, as you may be able to offer a potential alternative, but also be understanding of the potential constraints that may also exist.”

This was an invaluable lesson that all KEMI students learn and it is one that has served Cathy well, both in her time in KEMI and in her professional career.

Placed on Pin Oak Stud, one of Cathy’s favorite parts of her time on the farm was morning sets. “Regardless of whether it was actually riding out a set or just long lining them, I love misty mornings at sunrise,” she explains. And there truly is nothing prettier than morning in the Bluegrass, working with Thoroughbreds!

Though “I found out that farm life wasn’t my thing, I found a great appreciation for the industry and understand that all parts are equally important,” Cathy explains. KEMI, like any other quality educational program, is just as valuable for showing students what they DON’T want to do, as solidifying what they DO want to do. Exposing students to all the facets of the industry allows them to hone in on what they enjoy and don’t care for, working to ensure that KEMI grads’ future full-time jobs are ones they are truly passionate about.

Cathy O’Meara at Pin Oak Stud during KEMI internship.

 

A Vast and Varied Equine Career Path

Though Cathy does not currently work hands-on with horses, she has held many fantastic positions in the equine industry. “Directly after the [KEMI] internship (Fall then Spring session), Pin Oak sent me to Kildangan Stud in Ireland for a breaking and training season. Upon my return, I worked a few more months at Pin Oak, then left for a racetrack exercise rider position at the Thoroughbred Training Center,” Cathy says. “Over the next eight years, I worked as a freelance and salaried rider, had my owner/trainer license for a few horses, legged up horses for others, did accounts management for various farms and associations, and even worked as a farm manager for a year (which ended up not being my passion!).”

Ultimately, Cathy landed at The Jockey Club in 2008, where she has been since. “I now am the Industry Initiatives Coordinator for The Jockey Club and Racing Officials Accreditation Program (ROAP). I coordinate the Welfare and Safety of the Racehorse Summits and handle the day-to-day operations of ROAP. While I never saw myself working in a regulatory/advocacy environment, I thoroughly enjoy being able to work through the issues that face our racing industry to ensure a safe and prosperous industry for the future.”

And though she’s not currently working hands-on with the horses, Cathy acknowledges that KEMI provided her with the foundation she needed work in her role with ROAP. “The hands-on experience and networking, which began through my internship, was the stepping stone to my next endeavors. Without it, I would not be working in the racing industry.”

 

Always Keep Learning

KEMI can be tough, especially if students come in with preconceived notions about horses or the Thoroughbred industry. Cathy’s best advice? “Plan to work hard and keep an open mind. There are different ways of doing things and most people want to do it ‘their way.’ Even though I [came into the program] with lots of hands-on experience, I still learned a tremendous amount.”

Cathy encourages KEMI students to keep an open mind when they’re involved in the program, as there are myriad positions in the racing world, not all of which involve training or management. “Just because one area [of the equine industry] may not interest you, keep networking and trying new areas. Hard work is key and respect for your managers is paramount. Don’t hesitate to ask questions and always keep learning,” she advises.

Thank you, Juddmonte Farms and Keeneland!

News

Juddmonte Farms generously made Kentucky Equine Management Internship (KEMI) the beneficiary of the Spinster Stakes  at Keeneland on Sunday, October 8th.  Keeneland graciously matched their donation.  Thank you Juddmonte Farms and Keeneland for your continued support!

KEMI Coordinator Leslie Janecka Honored with Thoroughbred Industry Community Award

News

Leslie Janecka, Coordinator of the Kentucky Equine Management Internship (KEMI), was recently awarded the prestigious Thoroughbred Industry Community Award. Presented by Godolphin, the program is a partnership with the National Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association (HBPA), Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association (TOBA) and The Jockey Club to highlight those working in horseracing and breeding who are the backbone of the industry; each nominee plays an invaluable role in caring for the equine athletes and in racing.

While nominees for the Community Award need not be employed by the racing industry, they contribute to the greater good of the sport. With winners determined by a prestigious judging panel, Janecka will receive $10,000 and an additional $5,000 to go toward the charity of her choice. She also will receive a commemorative trophy.

Additional Thoroughbred Industry Employee Awards include:

  • Leadership Award Farm
  • Leadership Award Racing
  • Dedication to Breeding Award
  • Dedication to Racing Award
  • Thoroughbred Industry Community Award

Janecka will be recognized at the Awards ceremony luncheon on Oct. 13 at Keeneland.

For more information, visit the Godolphin website here.

https://news.godolphin.com/news/finalists-2017-thoroughbred-industry-employee-awards-announced

Graduate Spotlight: Jordan Blair

News, Testimonials

Graduate Spotlight:

Thoroughbred Racehorse Trainer Jordan Blair

 

A Family Affair

Born in the Bluegrass, Jordan Blair has been a Thoroughbred racing fan practically since birth. Well versed in all facets of the industry, Jordan attended his first Breeders’ Cup in 1988 at Churchill Downs. His mother, Debbie, worked for the organization as the Vice President of Customer and Event Services. Because of her role with Breeders’ Cup, Blair was very aware that there were many ways to work in the racing industry and that not all of them were hands-on with the horses.

But hands-on is what Jorden preferred: To earn spending money as a teenager, he worked for the Keeneland sales for consignors like Taylor Made, as well as for Bluegrass Thoroughbreds and Pin Oak Stud. Jordan also worked for Gainsborough Farm and Dromoland Farm throughout high school and college.

After graduating from Tates Creek High School in Lexington in 1999, Jordan attended the University of Kentucky (UK), where he studied Agricultural Economics and Horticulture Science; he chose the Big Blue Nation for multiple reasons, including in-state tuition, the easy transition to college from home, its top-notch ag college and the fact that “I’ve always been a huge UK sports fan!” says Jordan.

A Lucky Find

After graduating from UK, Jordan went to Mississippi State to get a Master’s Degree in Agribusiness Management. It was while he was in grad school that Jordan stumbled upon the Kentucky Equine Management Internship (KEMI) program.

Required to complete an internship to finish his MBA, Blair found the KEMI program online and was immediately intrigued: “I was sold [on it] as it was in my hometown and I was anxious to graduate!” he explains. Jordan applied and, once accepted into the program, was placed on Pin Oak Stud in Versailles.

Home to a stallion roster that includes Broken Vow and Alternation, Pin Oak encompasses over 1,300 acres and cares for broodmares and foals in addition to its stallions. The farm is owned by Josephine Abercromie, a staunch supporter of both the racing industry and the local community—both of which Jordan was, and continues to be, passionate about.

“I learned many things at Pin Oak, including the ins-and-outs of operating a breeding farm, organizing broodmares and their cycles, weaning babies and handling stallions,” Jordan says. “General Manager Clifford Barry also taught me how to work smarter and to pay close attention to details. He was a strong mentor of mine.”

 

Making His Own Way

While Jordan received vast amounts of hands-on experience while working at Pin Oak, he also enjoyed the classroom and lecture portions of KEMI. He greatly appreciated the ability to be exposed to great professionals who worked in every facet of the Thoroughbred industry.

Once graduated from KEMI in 2006, Blair worked some additional sales, then got a full-time position in the front office of Ben-D Farm in Walton, Ky., where he worked for 2 years as office manager, taking care of accounts, booking mares to stallions, working with sales companies and consignments. He was also hands-on with delivering foals and prepping yearlings. After his time at Ben-D, Blair changed gears and became an assistant trainer, working under such notables as Mike Maker, Michael Ewing and Kenny McPeek. After eight years, he struck out on his own.

A Solid Foundation

Jordan’s time in KEMI helped prepare him for what real life in the Thoroughbred industry is like. He strongly recommends that anyone looking to work in the Thoroughbred world complete the program; he notes that KEMI helped him understand that “there aren’t many ‘jobs’ in the equine industry–it’s more of a lifestyle: [There are] Not many days off.”

So what pieces of advice does Jordan offer potential incoming KEMI students? “Understand that you’ll start at the bottom, learn and work your way up. Be prepared to work hard and keep your ears open. You won’t see the benefit of mucking stalls and raking shedrows until you’re in charge of that sort of thing. Pick up as much knowledge as possible in the short time you have there. Go above and beyond what is expected–that is what sets you apart from others.”

And what was the hardest part of KEMI? Learning how to balance work and course work, Jordan says. Now married with a child of his own, KEMI helped Jordan learn how to balance multiple important priorities, as well as the importance of networking, and keeping close contacts inside and out of the industry.

Jordan still keeps in touch with other KEMI grads and he even does business with a few. He believes very strongly that KEMI provides a valuable service for the industry: “It provides good people for the farms during and after their internships; it also provides an ‘in’ for these students [those passionate about Thoroughbreds] who wouldn’t know any other way of going about entering this business.”

 

The Secret to His Success

So, is there one key to Jordan’s success? Not really. “It’s all been based on very hard (and smart) work, and the contacts I’ve made and kept over the years. I am always learning and always open to new ideas,” he says. “There is so much more to running a business than knowing how to deal with horses, and I’ve learned many lessons by making mistakes. I’ve had some very hard times, but by persevering and not giving up, I’ve been able to grow my stable.”

Now married to business partner Jordan Springer, Jordan focuses on racing client horses at Turfway, Ellis Park, Churchill Downs, Indiana Grand and Kentucky Downs. Jordan has trained stakes-placed Silver Magnolia and allowance horses including Craving Carats, Patrick’s Day, Oatfield and Gift Receipt.

 

 

KEMI is Now Accepting Applications for the Spring 2018 Session

News

The Kentucky Equine Management Internship (KEMI) is now accepting applications for our Spring of 2018 session.  Dates for Spring 2018 are January 8 – June 1, 2018.  Applications are located on this website.  The deadline for applications is October 31, 2017.  Any questions can be directed to: info@kemi.org.