Kentucky Equine Networking Association Hosts Inaugural Meeting

The Kentucky Horse Council and the University of Kentucky Equine Initiative recently announced the formation of the Kentucky Equine Networking Association (KENA) and held its inaugural meeting to a capacity crowd on Sept. 16 at Spindletop Hall in Lexington, Ky. More than 140 equine professionals were in attendance.

KENA was established this year as an educational and networking organization for equine professionals in Kentucky, targeted specifically at those who participate in breeding and reproductive services, instruction, training, boarding, and showing.

Ed Squires, MS, PhD, Hon. Dipl. ACT, executive director of the Gluck Equine Research Foundation and director of advancement and industry relations at the Gluck Center, compared the group to the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers Club (KTFMC) and said he believed KENA would give those involved in the pleasure and performance horse industries 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 KTFMC and is appreciative of that organization's efforts to educate its members and to provide a model for KENA.

For the moment, she said she is not sure whether KENA will take on memberships separately from the Kentucky Horse Council. And, as long as it can self-sustain on per-meeting fees and sponsorships, there may not be an annual membership fee. KENA's 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 will be to form an organizing committee and to find engaging speakers whose topics will apply to a diverse group of equestrians.

Grulke hopes that attendance will not be limited to professionals, but can 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."

The feature presentation of the inaugural meeting was given by Col. Walter Herd about threats to American equestrianism.

Herd's presentation focused on the current decline of horses in the mainstream consciousness in an attempt "not 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.

"I know it's about who you know, not what you know. I definitely want to be here for the next meeting," Ball said.

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 (attendees) I would have been excited and we had more than 140."

The next KENA 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 KENA, visit the website.

Natalie Voss is a recent graduate in equine science and management and an equine communications intern for the UK Equine Initiative.

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More information on Gluck Equine Research Center and UK's Equine Initiative.

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