KEEP Celebrates 10 Years of Enhancing Equine Interests

Ten years ago, a group of Kentucky horsemen formed a coalition to improve the economics of the state's signature horse industry. Designed to represent all equine breeds and disciplines, the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP) was founded in May 2004.

Since its inception, KEEP has been a driving force for numerous horse industry accomplishments. The first was legislation which created the Kentucky Breeders' Incentive Fund (KBIF). Previously, the sales tax from stud fees went to the state's general fund. Since the creation of the KBIF, however, that money—totaling $97,660,834—has been paid to the breeders of Kentucky-bred horses.

"Prior to the passage of the KBIF, mares and stallions were leaving Kentucky in droves for the lucrative incentive programs in other states," said Bill Casner, KEEP founding member and vice chairman. "The KBIF bill is certainly the most significant piece of legislation in recent history."

The group also played a major role in the development of pari-mutuel wagering on historic horse racing. Since Sept. 1, 2011, "instant racing" has generated $6,371,928 for race purses and $4,974,387 for the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund.

Another primary focus has been the grassroots outreach program which serves all equine breeds and disciplines. With support from team leaders and members in each of Kentucky's 120 counties, KEEP's grassroots program has contributed $598,436 to nearly 900 local horse shows and 4-H, Future Farmers of America, therapeutic, trail riding, and equine education organizations throughout the state since 2006.

Along with the Kentucky Horse Council, KEEP has also worked with the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to reclassify horses as part of the state's agricultural industry. Farms are now eligible to apply for matching marketing funds as part of the highly successful Kentucky Proud program.

"We are pleased to report that the efforts of KEEP have made a positive economic impact on the Kentucky horse industry," said Bob Heleringer, KEEP executive director. "Due to the commitment and support of thousands of industry members, we have a solid foundation in place. Our organization will work together to build on this momentum and create further growth over the next ten years."

Ongoing goals regarding legislative issues include the passage of a bill that would eliminate the sales tax on equine feed and equipment and introduce legislation to keep Kentucky pari-mutuel tax rates competitive with other racing states.

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