Three Chimneys presents Good News Friday: Horse Racing’s Next Generation
Every spring and fall in Central Kentucky, you’ll find them on the farm and at the sales – young people with a burning desire to work with racehorses.
They come from thousands of miles away to muck stalls, feed and bathe horses, assist with foaling, help break yearlings, and prep horses for sale.
For 22 weeks, they live on the farm, completely immersed in its seven-day-a-week rigor and lifestyle.
Since the spring of 2000, the Kentucky Equine Management Internship program (KEMI) has been opening doors for students to fulfill their dream of a career in the Thoroughbred industry.
KEMI began as an offshoot of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers Club. The organization wanted to get more young people interested in Thoroughbred racing careers, and the farms needed the help.
It didn’t take long before applications were pouring in from all 50 states, said KEMI coordinator Leslie Janecka.
“You might wonder why someone from Alaska would come to Kentucky for an internship, but they do,” said Janecka. “They’re just aren’t that many opportunities to get your foot in the door.”
For that opportunity, students pay $2,000, but they also live rent-free on various farms in the Lexington area and make minimum wage for their work. Janecka said students earn about $7,500 by the time their five and a half months of service are up. But they also come away with much more.
“Not only do they get the valuable experience of working on the farm and inside the industry, but we also have weekly lectures,” said Janecka. “The fact is, even people who know horses might not understand Thoroughbred racing. So we have classes to teach them about all aspects of the business.”
KEMI is funded solely by donors, but Janecka is the only employee, which makes fundraising difficult. She hopes to expand and create an endowment to secure the future of the program, but that will require additional donations. KEMI is also seeking funds to support scholarships.
In its first dozen years, the program has proven its popularity among students and its benefit to Kentucky’s Thoroughbred industry. Each spring and fall, Janecka receives about 70 applications for the 25 internships available. She said about 50% of KEMI graduates have found Thoroughbred industry jobs in the Lexington area.
One of them is Adolfo Martinez, the broodmare manager at Darby Dan farm.
“It changed my life and has given me many experiences I would not have been exposed to otherwise,” Martinez said. “I was able to travel to Australia and New Zealand to work the Southern Hemisphere breeding season through connections with KEMI. Being an assistant manager myself on a breeding farm, I will continue to use and encourage my farm to use interns from KEMI.”
Janecka said she’s proud of the program’s impact and the boost in confidence it should give the industry.
“The students are enthusiastic. Horses are their passion, and they want to learn,” she said. “It just makes you positive about the direction the industry is going, that there are a lot of young people who want to make a difference and see this industry move forward.”
KEMI’s 2012 spring class is preparing to graduate in a few weeks while applications are being reviewed for the fall. A new group of interns will land in Central Kentucky in July and settle in for an educational experience like no other.
* * *
Thanks to the generosity of Three Chimneys Farm, the sponsor of Good News Friday, a donation of $100 will be made to the Kentucky Equine Management Internship program. Three Chimneys will be donating $100 each and every week we bring you a story of people or organizations making a positive difference in our world.