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Kentucky Equine Networking Association hosts inaugural meeting
The University of Kentucky Equine Initiative and the Kentucky Horse Council recently announced the formation of the Kentucky Equine Networking Association. A capacity crowd of more than 140 equine professionals gathered for the inaugural meeting Sept. 16 at Spindletop Hall in Lexington.
The Kentucky Equine Networking Association was established this year as an educational and networking organization for equine professionals in Kentucky. It specifically targets those who participate in breeding and reproductive services, instruction, training, board and showing.
Ed Squires, executive director of the Gluck Equine Research Foundation and director of advancement and industry relations at the UK Gluck Equine Research Center, compared the group to the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers' Club and said he believed the new association would give those involved in the pleasure and performance horse industry, which includes multiple breeds, an opportunity to come together.
"What we're trying to do is to unite all pleasure and performance horse professionals, who in some ways weren't connected... and educate them at the same time," Squires said.
Ginny Grulke, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Council, anticipates some crossover attendance from the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers' Club and is appreciative of that organization's efforts to educate its members and to provide a model for the Kentucky Equine Networking Association.
For the moment, she said she is not sure whether the networking association will offer memberships separately from the Kentucky Horse Council. And, as long as it can sustain on meeting fees and sponsorships, there may not be an annual membership fee. Their goal is to hold regular meetings at which attendees can network, have dinner and listen to talks on a variety of equine topics from industry experts.
Squires noted that one of the challenges moving forward would be to form an organizing committee and to find engaging speakers whose topics apply to a diverse group of equestrians.
Grulke hopes attendance will not be limited to professionals, but will also attract area college students, particularly for career opportunities.
"Getting a job is all about networking, meeting people and telling them what you're looking for," Grulke said. "It's a really good thing for students."
Retired Army Col. Walter Herd gave the inaugural meeting's feature presentation about threats to American equestrianism. His presentation focused on the current decline of horses in the mainstream consciousness. He said it was not an attempt to solve some of these problems, but to throw them out on the table and start thinking about them.
"The delta between equestrians and other Americans is growing. Historically, fringe elements do not survive," Herd said.
Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear was on hand to applaud the formation of the group. As an active equestrian herself, she said she was pleased to see so many disciplines come together.
"The horse industry needs something like this, and there's no better time for it," she said.
Laurie Ball, a student at Asbury University, was impressed with the speakers and enjoyed the opportunity to network. Ball said she would definitely attend the next meeting.
Squires and Grulke said they were thrilled with the response to the first meeting.
"I thought it was a great success," Squires said. "I honestly thought, if we had 50, I would have been excited, and we had more than 140."
The next Kentucky Equine Networking Association meeting is Nov. 16 and will feature Rich Wilcke, director of the University of Louisville Equine Industry Program. His presentation is titled, "Business Success with Horses Requires Committed Planning."
For more information about the Kentucky Equine Networking Association, visit http://www.kentuckyhorse.org/kena/.
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