Cosequin Presents Aftercare Spotlight: The Faces Of The Future

by | 01.11.2017 | 12:44pm
KEMI students gathered at Hagyard Equine Medical Institute for their orientation this week

To be a top professional in the horse industry, you've got to possess a world of knowledge combined with a wealth of experience. The Kentucky Equine Management Internship (KEMI) program was created to provide just that – to offer college-aged students from around the world hands-on experience at the country's leading Thoroughbred nurseries, as well as classroom education focused on developing sound business acumen in the world of Thoroughbred breeding and overall horse husbandry.

This past week, I was honored to speak with KEMI's incoming class, who along with nearly 800 others who have passed through the internship program since the late 1990s, hope to develop a foundation of experience and education that will serve them throughout their lives. This year's class came from all over the map, from Maine to California and seemingly everywhere in between, as well as Ireland, England and France.

The program was created in response to similar opportunities overseas in Europe, such as the Irish National Stud, which were turning out a higher caliber of equine professionals, many of which hit the job market groomed for eventual management positions and more than a few of which were brought into key management positions at farms in Central Kentucky. Watching that scenario play out more and more frequently offered a stark but meaningful realization to members of the industry that a program was needed stateside that would offer young people a structured and formalized internship program in the Thoroughbred business without having to travel overseas. Thanks to the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association members and several private funders, the KEMI Program was born.

Since its inception, KEMI graduates have accomplished exactly what the program's founders hoped they would. Most of the graduates have stayed in the industry (with about half living and working in Central Kentucky) and many have achieved management positions or are on track to do so in the future.

The discussion I had with the students during their orientation was about professional and social media etiquette and creating a personal brand for yourself as a professional (basically, how you want your colleagues, employers, and those you aspire to one day be like to see you).

As I was speaking with these students, and with their advisor, Leslie Janecka, coordinator of the KEMI program, I realized that these are not just the faces of the future of the Thoroughbred breeding but of Thoroughbred aftercare as well.

Several of the students in the incoming class of 32 students actively have a career in aftercare in their crosshairs and are taking part in the KEMI program as a way to eventually work and one day possibly run an equine aftercare organization. In addition to those who want a career in the Thoroughbred breeding industry in Central Kentucky or elsewhere in the world, others were interested in racing, bloodstock, sport horses, owning their own riding stable or simply getting an education in a business they think they want to be part of but aren't yet sure in what way (this program is a great way to see all aspects of the horse business, that's for sure).

While many of the students coming into the program have experience with their own horses or lesson horses, very few have any hands-on experience with Thoroughbreds. Like the hundreds of others who have come before them, each of these students will be placed with a farm for six months and will work as a full-time employee while attending regular classes, lectures and field trips focused on topics pertinent to the industry. They will be immersed in everything Thoroughbred and “enjoy” the early mornings, late nights and hard work day in and day out that goes into caring for the next generation of equine athletes.

Thanks to the education and experiences Janecka will provide for these students, they will receive a comprehensive and well-informed perspective of the Thoroughbred business, from when a horse is simply a planned mating on paper; through the breeding, foaling, formative years and racing career; and into the post-racing retraining and placement.

Jen Roytz is a marketing, publicity and comprehensive communications specialist based in Lexington, Kentucky. A native of Cleveland, Ohio, her professional focus lies in the fields of equine, health care, corporate and non-profit marketing. She holds board affiliations with the Make a Wish Foundation, Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance and the Retired Racehorse Project, among others. While she currently has no plans to build an arc, she is the go-to food source for two dogs, two cats and two off-track Thoroughbreds.

Email Jen your story ideas at [email protected] or connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

  • Tromper

    Excellent news & a super piece, Jen Roytz. These students are hope for the future!

  • Sandy

    Great story Jen! Oh, to be 45 years younger and have an opportunity like this. Back in the day, if you wanted a college career centered around horses it was either animal husbandry or veterinary medicine. And be female and get into vet school in the ’70s? We always joked you needed a half dozen MALE relatives who were alumni from that school.

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