UK Tour Displays Equine Industry Career Possibilities

UK Tour Displays Equine Industry Career Possibilities

Photo: University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment

Krista Lea, MS, coordinator of the University of Kentucky’s (UK) Horse Pasture Evaluation Program within the Department of Plant and Soil Sciences, and an equestrian herself, has hired many Equine Science and Management students as interns over the years.

She said she started to notice a pattern in their career paths or what careers they were considering, and saw a need to provide more information.

“We hire undergraduate students regularly each summer,” Lea said. “Many are equine students that want to become veterinarians or trainers, yet none of them have ended up there. Those are both hard ways to make a living and many students realize that they want more in life than 18 hours a day in a barn.”

She said she was disappointed to learn that most students were not informed of the many other careers available within the equine industry and wanted to help.

“I’ve seen so many struggle to find where they can have an impact on the industry they love so much,” she said.

When Lea discussed this with Robert Coleman, PhD, director of undergraduate studies for the equine program and equine extension specialist, he agreed.

“Krista Lea had, like many of us, received numerous comments from students that indicated they did not understand the scope of possible career paths available,” Coleman said.

Photo: University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment

Together, they decided to create something that educated equine students about the broad variety of careers available to them. They drafted an idea for a careers tour, where students could sign up to be taken around the Lexington area and shown the workplaces and people that represent some of the many equine jobs that exist. In order to make the event happen, however, they needed to apply for a grant. They found the perfect fit in the Barnhardt Fund for Excellence Grant.

“Each year, the Barnhardt Fund for Excellence puts out an application a couple of pages long,” Lea said. “I got together with Dr. Coleman and we brainstormed the idea, checked on a couple of prices and speakers, and wrote the grant up.”

They were awarded the grant, and Lea began finalizing preparations for the event. She chose a broad spectrum of careers to be represented on the tour, which included everything from an event planner to a feed mill nutritionist to several graduate students.

“These speakers earned some kind of equine science/management degree and have gone into successful careers within the industry,” she said. “They represented many career paths that some of our students may not have considered before.”

The tour included students from Georgetown College and Midway University as well as UK students.

The day started off at Keeneland Race Course, where attendees watched yearling sales preparation and racetrack breezing while listening to advice from Keeneland employees Amy Owens, who works in communications, and Morgan Whitney, a recent UK graduate who now works in event planning.

Photo: University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment

The tour continued on to McCauley’s Feed Mill, where David Longmire, a sales professional, and Amy Parker, MS, PAS, an equine nutritionist and UK alum, both spoke. Students took a tour of the mill, as well.

Then it was on to UK’s Maine Chance Farm, where students heard from Rachel Nelson, a UK equine alum and current employee of the farm clinic. Following Nelson’s talk, equine graduate students Ashley Fowler and Morgan Pyles spoke to participants. AnnMarie Kadnar, a recent UK equine alum and current graduate student in plant and soil sciences, also recounted her path to graduate school.

Finally, the tour traveled to the Kentucky Horse Park, where students heard from Erin Woodall, an employee at the U.S. Pony Club, and Davin Smith, who works for Neogen. Throughout the day, students asked questions and engaged with each speaker. Everyone who toured said they were excited to learn about the different career options they could pursue.

Of what she hoped students took away from the tour, Lea said, “I hope that these students will begin to identify what is really important to them in a career and will work toward finding a situation that fits them. Some may still choose to become vets or trainers, and we need those, but we also need feed mill managers, event planners, accountants, communications professional, sales reps, and graduate students.”

Maddie Regis is a sophomore in UK’s Equine Science and Management undergraduate program and communications and student relations intern for UK Ag Equine Programs.

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