KEEP Day Brings the Horse Industry to Frankfort

KEEP Day Brings the Horse Industry to Frankfort

Lexington, Ky. (Friday, February 15, 2019) – The Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP), Kentucky’s equine economic advocate, held its third annual KEEP Day in Frankfort on February 12, 2019. The event brought together diverse representatives of the horse industry to meet with legislators to discuss the importance of the $3.4 billion industry to the Commonwealth and its economy.

Speaker of the House David Osborne speaks with KEEP’s Elisabeth Jensen

Attending KEEP Day were executives from thoroughbred racetracks and sport horse organizations, leaders of industry organizations, administrators and students from the equine academic field, owners of small horse operations and more. These industry representatives met with legislators ranging from the newly elected to House and Senate leadership.

Topics of discussion during KEEP Day included sports wagering and the industry’s support for House Bill 175, introduced by Representative Adam Koenig, which would make it legal in Kentucky. Representatives of university equine programs from across the state discussed Senate Bill 81, introduced by Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer, which would provide funding to equine programs at public institutions. Recently introduced bills on equine cruelty were also a subject of conversation between industry stakeholders and lawmakers.

Speaker of the House David Osborne commented on KEEP Day, “Bringing together all of these different groups from the horse industry is critical to our work because it shows lawmakers that the horse industry is speaking with a unified voice on the issues that impact them most. We certainly understand the importance that horses have in this state and appreciate KEEP bringing a full representation of the industry to Frankfort.”

Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer is interviewed during KEEP Day about sports wagering legislation

Senator Ralph Alvarado, who represents Clark, Montgomery and part of Fayette Counties, echoed those comments, “I enjoyed the opportunity to interact with members of KEEP and hear their priorities and concerns. The horse industry is the pride of the Commonwealth and I will work to advance legislation in Frankfort that ensures that it continues to thrive.”

Case Clay, KEEP Board Member and Chief Commercial Officer at Three Chimneys Farm, noted the importance of the annual gathering, “KEEP Day was a great opportunity to meet with our legislators and discuss the issues currently being debated that could impact the horse industry. Legislators understand the outsized impact that the industry has on Kentucky’s economy and it is critical that we work together to grow that economic impact and the nearly 80,000 jobs it supports. We also had a chance to introduce KEEP and the industry to new legislators and it is so important that we build those relationships.”

Regarding the horse industry’s impact on the state, Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer stated, “The horse industry’s impact on the state reaches far and wide. What makes the industry special are the big events like the Kentucky Derby, Breeders’ Cup and the Land Rover Three-Day-Event. However, it doesn’t end there. Every small horse show, the sales events that take place throughout the year and the excellent year-round racing schedule that gets stronger every year contribute to the $3.4 billion economic impact on Kentucky.”

Representative Diane St. Onge discusses horse industry issues with KEEP Day attendees

Representative Diane St. Onge, who represents parts of Boone and Kenton Counties, agreed, “I am fortunate to represent the district that includes Turfway Park and I have seen firsthand the unparalleled impact that the horse industry has in this state. In support of one of Kentucky’s signature industries, Frankfort must continue working to grow and expand this important economic engine.”

Elisabeth Jensen, KEEP’s executive vice president who oversees the daily operations of the organization noted, “This year we had a wide-range of individuals that represented different aspects of the horse industry, which made for a very successful event. Being able to showcase the horse industry from thoroughbreds to sport horses to tourism to academics helps inform lawmakers on what is happening in this state every day, beyond the big, widely-known events.” Jensen continued, “We have wonderful support in Frankfort and we are so grateful to all of the lawmakers that take a serious interest in the work of our industry and the tremendous effect it has on the Kentucky’s economy.”

ABOUT KEEP
The Kentucky Equine Education Project, Kentucky’s equine economic advocate, is a not-for-profit grassroots organization created in 2004 to preserve, promote and protect Kentucky’s signature multi-breed horse industry. KEEP is committed to ensuring Kentucky remains the horse capital of the world, including educating Kentuckians and elected officials of the importance of the horse industry to the state. KEEP was the driving force in the establishment of the Kentucky Breeders Incentive Fund, which has paid out more than $177 million to Kentucky breeders since its inception in 2006, and pari-mutuel wagering on historical horse racing, which has been responsible for more than $40 million to purses and more than $24 million to the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund.

KEEP works to strengthen the horse economy in Kentucky through our statewide network of citizen advocates. To learn more about how you can become a member or support our work, please visit www.horseswork.com.

KEEP Statement on Historical Horse Racing Ruling

KEEP Statement on Historical Horse Racing Ruling

Lexington, Ky. (Wednesday, October 31, 2018) – The Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP), Kentucky’s equine economic advocate, issued the following statement on last week’s ruling on Historical Horse Racing (HHR):

After 8 years of litigation, on October 24th, Judge Thomas D. Wingate ruled that wagering on HHR machines developed by Exacta Systems should be considered pari-mutuel wagering, under Kentucky law.

KEEP worked closely with technology and machine developers in research of the initial games and with the Kentucky Racing Commission in introducing the machines. The case dates back to July 2010 when the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, Kentucky Department of Revenue and various racetracks sought confirmation from Franklin Circuit Court that the devices operated within state wagering laws.

Initially the court ruled in favor of the state agencies and race tracks, but the Family Foundation appealed the decision. Litigation continued in various Kentucky Courts until last week.

“The arguments raised by the respondent, the Family Foundation, are noble, moral and altruistic,” Judge Wingate wrote, “however, the arguments advanced by the Family Foundation fail as the Exacta machines are structured to operate in accordance with the pari-mutuel system of wagering. Furthermore, the Legislature has determined that historical racing machines are not gambling devices as long as they comport with pari-mutuel wagering.”

Exacta Systems machines are currently in use at Kentucky Downs, Ellis Park and Red Mile in partnership with Keeneland. Parimax and Ainsworth Game Technology machines have been approved by Kentucky Horse Racing Commission, but are not included in this ruling.

This is a big win for KEEP and for our entire industry. Since 2011 HHR has contributed over $31 million dollars the Kentucky Thoroughbred and Standardbred Development Fund. This has increased purses significantly at Kentucky Downs and in 2018 has provided for an additional $1.5 million dollars in purses at Ellis Park, Keeneland and Churchill Downs. The increase in purses at Kentucky Downs and Ellis Park have created a summer racing circuit in Kentucky with quality races that attract trainers and owners from all of the country.

The result of this successful wagering alternative has put Kentucky’s horse racing industry on a positive trajectory in nearly every measurable category, where many other competing states have plateaued or are shrinking. What this means for Kentucky is that the horse industry – which is responsible for $4 billion in economic impact and 80,000 direct and indirect jobs – remains robust and healthy.

“Obviously we are very pleased with the Court’s well-reasoned and detailed ruling,” said Kentucky Downs president and KEEP Legislative Committee Chairman Corey Johnsen. “Judge Wingate carefully considered the facts and found that Exacta Systems and our historical horse racing is pari-mutuel and complies with Kentucky law.

ABOUT KEEP
The Kentucky Equine Education Project, Kentucky’s equine economic advocate, is a not-for-profit grassroots organization created in 2004 to preserve, promote and protect Kentucky’s signature multi-breed horse industry. KEEP is committed to ensuring Kentucky remains the horse capital of the world, including educating Kentuckians and elected officials of the importance of the horse industry to the state. KEEP was the driving force in the establishment of the Kentucky Breeders Incentive Fund, which has paid out more than $141 million to Kentucky breeders since its inception in 2006, and pari-mutuel wagering on historical horse racing, which has been responsible for more than $32 million to purses and more than $24 million to the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund.

KEEP works to strengthen the horse economy in Kentucky through our statewide network of citizen advocates. To learn more about how you can become a member or support our work, please visit www.horseswork.com.

Learn About Equine Tourism in Kentucky at Castle & Key Distillery

Learn About Equine Tourism in Kentucky at Castle & Key Distillery

Join KEEP at Kentucky’s newest distillery, Castle & Key, on October 2 for the next event in the Equine Summit Luncheon Series. The luncheon topic will be Equines and Tourism in Kentucky. Learn more about this event and register here.

The event will feature special guest speaker Regina Stivers, Deputy Secretary of Kentucky Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. 

Additional speakers include representatives of Horse Country, the University of Louisville and Visit Lex.

KEEP Announces Position on Legal Sports Wagering

KEEP Announces Position on Legal Sports Wagering

Lexington, Ky. (Wednesday, September 5, 2018) – Today, the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP), Kentucky’s equine economic advocate, released a white paper outlining KEEP’s position on legal sports wagering in Kentucky. The white paper details what will be critical to allow for a successful implementation of sports wagering in Kentucky, following the Supreme Court of the United States’ ruling in May that struck down the previous law that limited sports wagering to just a few states.

The white paper, which can be accessed here, provides four key criteria that any proposed legislation in Frankfort should include in order to secure continued success for Kentucky’s signature industry, as well as provide an environment for sports wagering that will benefit the state’s budget and Kentuckians across the Commonwealth. The four criteria are:

  • Sports wagering is made available at Kentucky’s racetracks
  • The Kentucky Horse Racing Commission is named the regulatory body overseeing sports wagering
  • The tax rate on sports wagering is competitive
  • A portion of any revenues on sports wagering benefits the horse industry

Doug Cauthen, Chairman of the KEEP Board of Directors, commented on the release of the white paper, “KEEP has worked diligently, over the past several months with member racetracks, farms, owners and horse enthusiasts all throughout the industry, to reach a position on sports wagering that unifies the industry. Fortunately, the horse industry sees the great opportunities that exist for legalized sports wagering in Kentucky and have coalesced around this white paper.”

Elisabeth Jensen, KEEP’s Executive Vice President who oversees the organization’s daily operations added, “Now it is critical that the legislature takes up the issue in an expeditious manner to prepare for January’s session. With sports wagering already becoming available in a number of other states, Kentucky must be at the forefront of this opportunity and not wait until neighboring states have acted and it is too late. KEEP applauds the work of the bipartisan panel of legislators currently working on this issue and we look forward to sharing the white paper with them.”

“Coming to consensus on anything can be difficult in an industry with interests as disparate as our’s.” Jensen continued, “However, on this issue, we all see the great potential that sports wagering can bring to the state. Currently, Kentucky’s horse racing industry is unparalleled in nearly every metric when compared to other states. Not only could sports wagering benefit the state financially, but it can also be done in a way that will preserve and grow the success that horse racing has seen in this state over the last decade.”

ABOUT KEEP
The Kentucky Equine Education Project, Kentucky’s equine economic advocate, is a not-for-profit grassroots organization created in 2004 to preserve, promote and protect Kentucky’s signature multi-breed horse industry. KEEP is committed to ensuring Kentucky remains the horse capital of the world, including educating Kentuckians and elected officials of the importance of the horse industry to the state. KEEP was the driving force in the establishment of the Kentucky Breeders Incentive Fund, which has paid out more than $141 million to Kentucky breeders since its inception in 2006, and pari-mutuel wagering on historical horse racing, which has been responsible for more than $32 million to purses and more than $24 million to the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund.

KEEP works to strengthen the horse economy in Kentucky through our statewide network of citizen advocates. To learn more about how you can become a member or support our work, please visit http://www.horseswork.com.

KEEP and Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center Announce Partnership to Address Equine Industry Job Needs

KEEP and Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center Announce Partnership to Address Equine Industry Job Needs

The two year project will work to build a talent pipeline in Kentucky for the equine industry

Lexington, Ky. (Wednesday, June 20, 2018) – The Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP), Kentucky’s equine economic advocate, announced today that it has partnered with the Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center’s statewide Talent Pipeline Management™ (TPM) initiative.

As one of three state chambers of commerce chosen by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation to pilot this initiative, the Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center project will focus on creating a talent pipeline of qualified candidates for jobs in the fields of manufacturing, healthcare, construction and more. Over the next two years, the project will work with these key industries to develop strategies to meet Kentucky’s growing workforce issues.

Recognizing that the horse industry is a unique and critical part of Kentucky’s economy, with an economic impact of nearly $4 billion annually and responsible for more than 80,000 jobs, KEEP and the Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center embarked on this partnership to address the job needs within the industry across the state.

Elisabeth Jensen, KEEP’s Executive Vice President who oversees the operations of the organization, commented on this announcement saying, “During my tenure at KEEP, we have been focused on the economic impact the horse industry has on Kentucky and all Kentuckians. Addressing our industry’s labor issues is an integral part of that and we are looking forward to pioneering this approach to the issue with the Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center.” Jensen also added, “With the improving economy, the demand for a capable workforce has increased at the same time that the industry has faced a shrinking and inconsistent immigrant labor pool. It is essential that we build a talent pipeline of Kentuckians to meet the opportunities and challenges that the horse industry will encounter in the near future.”

The Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center will hold meetings throughout the two year project to develop strategies to improve Kentucky’s workforce issues across six different industry areas, including the horse industry. Participating employers, employer-led associations and education providers will build partnerships while using a demand-driven concept in order to connect employees and employers.

Beth Davisson, Executive Director of the Kentucky Chamber Workforce Center said, “We are excited by the opportunity to partner with KEEP to strengthen the equine talent pipeline in Kentucky. Together we will strengthen the Equine Workforce using an approach that is unique to Kentucky, and the nation through the Chamber Foundation’s TPM™ system.. The Kentucky Chamber’s Workforce Center is dedicated to supporting our state’s economy and ensuring we build the workforce needed to help Kentucky thrive. This partnership with KEEP will allow our state to better support the Equine Industry and honor its critical importance in Kentucky.”

Cheryl Oldham, Senior Vice President of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Education and Workforce, said, “Yesterday’s education systems aren’t meeting the needs of today’s learners and tomorrow’s workers. The state-based TPM Academy™ will empower state, local and industry leaders to tackle this problem. By coming together to develop a statewide strategy for closing the skills gap, business leaders will be equipped with the tools they need to hire and develop a strong workforce.”

ABOUT KEEP
The Kentucky Equine Education Project, Kentucky’s equine economic advocate, is a not-for-profit grassroots organization created in 2004 to preserve, promote and protect Kentucky’s signature multi-breed horse industry. KEEP is committed to ensuring Kentucky remains the horse capital of the world, including educating Kentuckians and elected officials of the importance of the horse industry to the state. KEEP was the driving force in the establishment of the Kentucky Breeders Incentive Fund, which has paid out more than $141 million to Kentucky breeders since its inception in 2006, and pari-mutuel wagering on historical horse racing, which has been responsible for more than $32 million to purses and more than $24 million to the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund.

KEEP works to strengthen the horse economy in Kentucky through our statewide network of citizen advocates. To learn more about how you can become a member or support our work, please visit http://www.horseswork.com.

KEEP Announces New Board of Directors Leadership and Members

Doug Cauthen will serve as Chairman and four individuals join the Board of Directors

 

Lexington, Ky. (Wednesday, June 13, 2018) – The Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP), Kentucky’s equine economic advocate, announced changes and additions to the KEEP Board of Directors.

Doug Cauthen, who has served on KEEP’s Executive Committee, is the new Chairman of KEEP’s Board of Directors. Cauthen is a founding board member of KEEP and is currently a partner of Doug Cauthen Thoroughbred Management, LLC. Cauthen’s wealth of experience in the horse industry and his role in shaping KEEP make him a natural choice as leader of the organization.

Cauthen will be joined in leadership of the KEEP Board of Directors by Ken Jackson who will serve as Vice Chair. Jackson is a partner of Kentuckiana Farms and Lexington Selected Sales Company. Jackson also currently serves on the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission.

Elisabeth Jensen, KEEP’s Executive Vice President who oversees the organization’s operations, said, “I am excited about the new additions and changes to KEEP’s Board of Directors. KEEP’s influence grew leaps and bounds under Corey Johnsen’s tenure as Chairman and we will continue to build on that success with Doug Cauthen and Ken Jackson’s leadership.”

Corey Johnsen, the immediate past-Chairman of KEEP’s Board of Directors will serve as Chairman of KEEP’s Legislative Committee. The Legislative Committee advises KEEP’s advocacy and policy goals.

Additionally, four new individuals were added to KEEP’s Board: Kiki Courtelis, David Ingordo, Dan Real and Adrian Wallace. Courtelis is the CEO of Town & Country Farms and a member of the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Ingordo is a bloodstock agent for Ingordo Bloodstock Services. Real is Regional President of Caesar’s Entertainment, South. Wallace oversees Nomination Sales for Coolmore America at Ashford Stud.

Jensen added, “Kiki Courtelis, David Ingordo, Dan Real and Adrian Wallace bring fresh perspectives to the Board and we have all of the right components to advance KEEP’s mission and strengthen the economic impact that the horse industry has on Kentucky and all Kentuckians.”

Chairman Cauthen said, “KEEP plays a critical role in promoting, growing and protecting the horse industry in Kentucky. We are at an important moment in determining the future of the equine economy in Kentucky and KEEP’s work is more important now than ever. I have pledged to serve as Chairman of KEEP during this upcoming year while there are plenty of opportunities and challenges ahead of the organization. I plan to pass the torch to another pair of able hands next year. We want vibrancy in our leadership and keeping fresh hands involved is one way to do that.”

ABOUT KEEP
The Kentucky Equine Education Project, Kentucky’s equine economic advocate, is a not-for-profit grassroots organization created in 2004 to preserve, promote and protect Kentucky’s signature multi-breed horse industry. KEEP is committed to ensuring Kentucky remains the horse capital of the world, including educating Kentuckians and elected officials of the importance of the horse industry to the state. KEEP was the driving force in the establishment of the Kentucky Breeders Incentive Fund and pari-mutuel wagering on historical horse racing, both of which have greatly contributed to Kentucky’s continued success across all metrics in the horse racing industry.

KEEP works to strengthen the horse economy in Kentucky through our statewide network of citizen advocates. To learn more about how you can become a member or support our work, please visit http://www.horseswork.com.

KEEP Launches Equine Summit Luncheon Series

KEEP Launches Equine Summit Luncheon Series

Lexington, Ky. (Tuesday, May 15, 2018) – The Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP), Kentucky’s equine economic advocate for Kentucky’s horse industry, officially announced the KEEP Equine Summit Luncheon Series. The luncheon series will be a near-monthly event, taking place across the state and featuring keynote speakers who will address topics of critical interest to the horse industry and horse people across the Commonwealth.

Discussing topics such as stallion seasons, marketing and advertising, handicapping, workforce issues, employment, tax laws and more, the luncheon series will feature individuals at the top of their fields in the horse industry, political leaders and academic experts.

In 2016 and 2017, KEEP hosted an annual conference in October, but according to KEEP’s Executive Vice President, Elisabeth Jensen, the luncheon series will allow more individuals around the state to participate in these important discussions throughout the year.

“The KEEP Equine Summit Luncheon Series allows KEEP to take the issues most important to the industry and focus on them in a way that we were unable to during our annual conferences. Additionally, because the luncheon series will travel throughout the state, we can reach and inform more Kentuckians about the importance and impact of the horse industry on the state,” said Jensen.

On May 30, 2018, KEEP will kickoff the luncheon series at the famed Taylor Made Farm. The topic of this first luncheon is “The Dollars and Cents of Standing Stallions.” The luncheon will focus on the economics of Stallion Seasons, from standing to breeding to seasons and shares and everything in-between.

To ensure that the luncheon series is accessible to any individual interested in learning more about the issues that impact the horse industry, KEEP announced that the prices for the inaugural year of the luncheon series will be just $10 for KEEP member and $25 for non-members.

Online registration for the first luncheon is now open. Visit https://horseswork.com/equine-summit-luncheon-series for more information about the series and access to registration for the luncheons. For inquiries about joining the Equine Summit Luncheon Series as a sponsor, email info@horseswork.com.

ABOUT KEEP

The Kentucky Equine Education Project, Kentucky’s Equine Economic Advocate is a not-for-profit grassroots organization created in 2004 to preserve, promote and protect Kentucky’s signature multi-breed horse industry. KEEP is committed to ensuring Kentucky remains the horse capital of the world, including educating Kentuckians and elected officials of the importance of the horse industry to the state. KEEP works to strengthen the horse economy in Kentucky through our statewide network of citizen advocates. To learn more about how you can become a member or support our work, please visit http://www.horseswork.com.
KEEP Members Tell Frankfort to Not Saddle Our Horses with the Pension and Budget Crises

KEEP Members Tell Frankfort to Not Saddle Our Horses with the Pension and Budget Crises

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Thursday, March 15, 2018) – Facing threats in two introduced bills and with other proposals being considered, the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP), Kentucky’s Equine Economic Advocate, urges Kentucky lawmakers to not increase the tax burden on Kentucky’s signature horse industry.

Through an email campaign by KEEP’s grassroots supporters and through one-on-one meetings in Frankfort, KEEP’s message to legislators has been simple: proposals to increase the tax burden on the horse industry would irreparably cripple Kentucky’s competitive edge for equine business, threatening the economic engine that provides 80,000+ direct and indirect jobs for our Commonwealth.

In two tax reform bills that have been introduced so far, the six percent sales tax exemption for the purchase of horses two years old or younger by out of state buyers would be eliminated. With similar sales tax exemptions provided in competing states such as Florida, Maryland, New York and Pennsylvania, Kentucky’s horse industry would be dealt an immediate blow as those states would likely become the recipients of increased equine business.

“Eliminating the sales tax exemption for out of state buyers gives other states a competitive advantage over Kentucky,” said John Sikura, owner of Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm, leading consigner and KEEP board member. “At a time when our industry is shrinking we need to strengthen Kentucky as the center of our industry and not create vulnerabilities to our position as the thoroughbred capital of the world. The industry is not a birth right to Kentucky but one we need to protect and incentivize not tax out of state buyers and give them a reason to buy and sell elsewhere.”

The horse industry contributes significantly to the Commonwealth’s bottom line. In addition to the nearly $4 billion annual impact of the industry, including the rapidly growing tourism sector, more than $21 million was collected in total excise tax from Thoroughbred and Standardbred racing in 2017 alone. When including breeding and other equine related fees, that number raises to more than $40 million.

Duncan Taylor, president of Taylor Made Farm and KEEP board member noted the negative impacts that the loss of the sales tax exemption could have on the Commonwealth, “Kentucky has a chance to become the next Napa Valley with the Bourbon Trail and Horse Country tours allowing people behind the scenes to be our guest. This builds a tax base on food and beverage, hotel rooms and more. Some job estimates for the horse industry range as high as 96,000 when considering secondary impacts such as tourism. That will only grow if the state doesn’t tax us out of the state. Taylor Made sells 1,000 horses a year and 970 of them are sold in Kentucky. If you start to tax out of state horse buyers, the horses Taylor Made will sell in Kentucky will drop to zero rather quickly.”

“With the budget and pension crisis and impending tax reform, everything is on the chopping block. Our legislators need to hear from us,” commented Elisabeth Jensen, KEEP’s Executive Vice President, after multiple meetings with leadership and members of the relevant committees.

KEEP encourages industry participants and horse enthusiasts to contact Frankfort and ask that they do not increase the tax burden on Kentucky’s horse industry. Kentucky residents can go to horseswork.com/advocacy to send a message to their legislators.

 

ABOUT KEEP

The Kentucky Equine Education Project is a not-for-profit grassroots organization created in 2004 to preserve, promote and protect Kentucky’s signature multi-breed horse industry. KEEP is committed to ensuring Kentucky remains the horse capital of the world, including educating Kentuckians and elected officials of the importance of the horse industry to the state. KEEP works to strengthen the horse economy in Kentucky through our statewide network of citizen advocates and our foundation, which has awarded more than $700,000 to local Kentucky equine organizations. To learn more about how you can become a member or make a contribution, please visit www.horseswork.com.

Second Annual KEEP Day in Frankfort Showcases the Importance of Kentucky’s Horse Industry

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Monday, February 19, 2018) – The Kentucky Equine Education Project staged its second KEEP Day in Frankfort, with horsemen and horse enthusiasts of all breeds and disciplines interacting with state legislators to discuss the economic importance of equines in their home districts.

A prevalent message: Kentucky didn’t become the Horse Capital of the World by being a one-trick pony. Horses of all types contribute significant assets to local economies and have a valuable impact on the quality of life all across the Commonwealth.

 

Rep. James Kay with Sharon Ohler of the Kentucky Paint Horse Club and Jerelyn Duncan of the Kentucky Arabian and Half Arabian Breeders Alliance.

“The impact of our breeds on our local economy is underestimated. We have folks in this state who are breeding and exhibiting horses. They’re spending money on feed, spending money employing help in the barns and trainers. They’re spending money on hay for horses, bedding horses, with fencing suppliers,” said Sharon Ohler of the Kentucky Paint Horse Club, referencing the three-day Paint-O-Rama show in April at Frankfort’s Lakeside Arena that is one of the breed’s largest in the world. “And when we have an event like the one coming up, we’re bringing 200-300 people into this area. We’re going to dine in the local restaurants, pump trucks full of fuel and stay at local hotels.”

“There are thousands of horses in the state who will never run on a racetrack but whose owners pump thousands of dollars into the economy.”

Rep. John Sims, Rep. Sannie Overly and KEEP executive vice president Elisabeth Jensen.

Horses of all breeds form a $4 billion industry in the Commonwealth, supporting an estimated 100,000 in direct and indirect jobs and spanning all 120 counties. Kentucky is home to 35,000 operations with at least one horse, totaling 242,400 equines and $23.4 billion when including related assets, according to a University of Kentucky Department of Agriculture survey.

Elisabeth Jensen, KEEP’s executive vice president, called KEEP Day “a great opportunity for us to connect the dots” for legislators, with 20 Kentucky representatives and senators coming by the casual two-hour event.

“I was very pleased that so many individuals from throughout the horse industry in Kentucky – the Quarter Horse industry, Arabian, Paint Horse, the Hackney ponies, different breeds and associations – had an opportunity to interact with legislators who might not have realized that they had horses and horse businesses in their district,” she said.

Jensen said important connections come out of KEEP Day. She cited Horse Country executive director Anne Hardy meeting with Regina Stivers, the deputy secretary of the Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet. Horse Country is an initiative that makes tours at breeding farms and prominent equine facilities readily accessible to the public.

“They talked a lot about the tourism opportunities for the horse industry,” Jensen said.

Those participating in other breeds also expressed appreciation for how Thoroughbred racing helps the larger horse industry. That includes the Kentucky Horse Breeders’ Incentive Fund that provides award money for 11 non-racing breeds, made all the more important with some breeds’ decreasing numbers. The KHBIF is funded by a percentage of the sales tax on the stud fee when a mare is bred to a Kentucky stallion, with Thoroughbreds overwhelmingly financing the program. The incentive awards for horses residing in Kentucky are earned through shows and contests in the state.

Norm Luba of the Kentucky Quarter Horse Association and Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer

“It’s the only breeding fund in the country to include non-race breeds,” said Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer of Georgetown, who spearheaded the enabling legislation for the KHBIF. “If Kentucky is going to remain the Horse Capital of the world, we need to think beyond the racing breeds because they have an economic impact on their local communities in every county across the state. This is a way, through competition, for breeders’ incentive funds to be earned. And I’m glad to see the fund is alive and well and helping some of these breeds remain viable.”

Rep. James Kay of Versailles said it was important for his colleagues to understand the extent of the equine industry and that it involves much more than racing.

“When you expose the entire world of the horse industry, all the different breeds and many different jobs it creates, it gives the people a new reason to be supportive,” he said.

Rep. Phil Pratt, National HBPA general counsel Pete Ecabert, Kentucky HBPA executive director Marty Maline.

Rep. Phillip Pratt, whose district includes parts of Fayette, Owen and Scott counties, noted the horse industry’s broad reach, using the example of  businesses not directly involved in horse racing that depend on work and services provided to Keeneland.

“It leaves a large economic foot print, without a doubt,” Pratt said. “We need to make sure it stays here in Kentucky.”

Norm Luba of the Kentucky Quarter Horse Association said he appreciated the opportunity to meet with lawmakers, including those who might not have realized the massive number of horses in the state. There are about 45,000 Quarter Horses in Kentucky, according to the UK survey.

“KEEP continues to represent the interests of owners of many breeds of horses important to the health of the horse industry in Kentucky,” Luba said. “Those of us who are Quarter Horse enthusiasts appreciate members of the Kentucky Legislature recognizing the contributions the horse industry makes to economic development within our Commonwealth.”

Eric Hamelback, chief executive officer of the National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association that represents Thoroughbred owners and trainers across the country and Canada, said Kentucky is the beacon for other states when it comes to the horse industry.

 

Rep. Adam Koenig, Mountain Pleasure Horse Association president Robin Little (middle) and MPHA vice president Becky Layne.

“Kentucky is the shining example of what can be accomplished when horsemen, racetracks and other equine organizations and the legislature work together. So much of the Thoroughbred industry in the Commonwealth appreciates other horse breeds and understands that helping them is in everybody’s best interest,” said Hamelback, who lives in Bourbon County. “KEEP and the various breeding funds we have that are assisted by Thoroughbred racing and breeding demonstrate that we’re all better working together. Not every district has a racetrack. But every district in Kentucky has horses.”

 

 

 

ABOUT KEEP

The Kentucky Equine Education Project is a not-for-profit grassroots organization created in 2004 to preserve, promote and protect Kentucky’s signature multi-breed horse industry. KEEP is committed to ensuring Kentucky remains the horse capital of the world, including educating Kentuckians and elected officials of the importance of the horse industry to the state. KEEP works to strengthen the horse economy in Kentucky through our statewide network of citizen advocates and our foundation, which has awarded more than $700,000 to local equine organizations. To learn more about how you can become a member or make a contribution, please visit www.horseswork.com.

Second Annual KEEP Day in Frankfort to be Held February 15

Second Annual KEEP Day in Frankfort to be Held February 15

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Wednesday, February 7, 2018) – The Kentucky Equine Education Project is staging its second KEEP Day in Frankfort on Thursday, February 15, 2018, providing a convenient setting for those involved in the industry to share with state legislators the importance of horses to their districts’ economy.

The event will run from 12:00 PM – 2:00 PM in Room 129 in the Capitol Annex. The informal setup will allow industry stake-holders, including horse enthusiasts and racing fans, to interact with a variety of state senators and representatives.

Horses of all breeds form a $4 billion industry in the Commonwealth, supporting an estimated 100,000 in direct and indirect jobs and spanning all 120 counties. Kentucky is home to 35,000 operations with at least one horse, totaling 242,400 equines and $23.4 billion when including related assets, according to a University of Kentucky Department of Agriculture survey.

“KEEP Day is a convenient way for people working in businesses connected to equines, as well as those who show, ride and own horses, to meet with our lawmakers and let them know that every county and district benefits from horses,” said KEEP executive vice president Elisabeth Jensen. “We encourage those involved with every breed and discipline to come and show support for our signature industry that creates so many jobs.”

Created in 2004 to preserve, promote and protect the state’s signature industry, KEEP represents and advocates on behalf of Kentucky’s entire horse industry – all breeds and equine pursuits.

“People might be surprised to know how many trail-riding and pleasure horses there are in Kentucky – about 80,000,” Jensen said. “While there are about 54,000 Thoroughbreds in the Commonwealth, there also are 45,000 Quarter Horses and 36,000 Tennessee Walking Horses. All these horses eat grain and hay provided by our farmers, and their owners buy trucks, trailers, tractors and tack, also paying for an array of services such as boarding, instruction and training, farriers and veterinarians. We want those voices heard at KEEP Day and encourage participants to let their state legislators know that they are attending.”

Rep. James Kay of Versailles said at last year’s inaugural KEEP Day that horses are an important economic tool even in areas of Kentucky that aren’t home to high-profile breeding farms or racetracks.

“We absolutely benefit from the horse industry every day in ways that people don’t always understand,” Kay said. “We need to do a better job articulating that, and showing the economic driver that the industry is for our people.”

ABOUT KEEP

The Kentucky Equine Education Project is a not-for-profit grassroots organization created in 2004 to preserve, promote and protect Kentucky’s signature multi-breed horse industry. KEEP is committed to ensuring Kentucky remains the horse capital of the world, including educating Kentuckians and elected officials of the importance of the horse industry to the state. KEEP works to strengthen the horse economy in Kentucky through our statewide network of citizen advocates and our foundation, which has awarded more than $700,000 to local equine organizations. To learn more about how you can become a member or make a contribution, please visit www.horseswork.com.

KEEP Calls on Congress to Lift the Cap on H-2B Visas and Protect Kentucky Jobs

KEEP Calls on Congress to Lift the Cap on H-2B Visas and Protect Kentucky Jobs

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Thursday, February 1, 2018) – Citing the signature horse industry’s increasing difficulty in finding enough workers, the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP) is asking Kentucky’s Congressional delegation for support in getting cap relief for H-2B visas as well as rejecting any measure that would decrease those non-immigrant visas.

KEEP represents all horse breeds and disciplines throughout Kentucky. Whether it’s a racing stable, show barn, riding program, boarding facility, sales consignor or horse farm, the inability to get enough help threatens those businesses’ economic health and hamstrings the ability to grow.

The National Horsemen’s Benevolent & Protective Association, which represents almost 30,000 Thoroughbred owners and trainers throughout the United States and in Canada, stands with KEEP in its letter to Kentucky’s U.S. senators and representatives, said Eric Hamelback, the National HBPA’s chief executive officer.

The H-2B visa program is critical for seasonal and small businesses lacking sufficient domestic workers to adequately staff the unskilled and entry-level positions vital to their success. The H-2B visa program allows those businesses to supplement their American workforce with well-vetted returning workers who come to the United States for up to 10 months of seasonal employment before returning home.

The H-2B program currently has a Congressionally-mandated cap of 66,000 visas for the entire country. The horse world competes with seafood processing, roofing and construction, landscaping and golf courses, carnivals and state fairs, food concessions and fast food, forestry, stone quarries and a myriad of other industries for those visas.

Exacerbating the situation is Congress’ failure to fund continuation of the exemption allowing those granted H-2B visas to return to America for more seasonal work without counting toward the 66,000 cap. The first half-year cap of 33,000 visas for Fiscal Year 2018 was reached on Dec. 15. The second half of the cap begins April 1, with the United States Department of Labor already receiving 92,576 requests as of a week ago.

Research shows that every H-2B visa creates and sustains 4.64 American jobs.

“It is difficult to see how Kentucky’s horse industry escapes harm without the cap being lifted,” Elisabeth Jensen, KEEP’s executive vice president, wrote on behalf of her board in the letter to Kentucky’s Washington contingent.

“Kentucky is leading the country when it comes to the horse industry and its economic impact. With nearly 100,000 jobs, more than 242,000 equines and 35,000 horse operations in Kentucky today, we are confident about the future of the industry and its positive trajectory for the future. However, without a lift in the cap of H-2B visas, that future is in danger. I hope that you will take on this issue and work to benefit all Kentuckians by ensuring a full workforce for the industry that has the No. 1 impact on the state’s economy.”

Jensen said KEEP is pushing for long-term labor solutions through recruiting and retaining a home-grown workforce. Remi Bellocq, executive director of equine programming at the Bluegrass Community and Technical College’s North American Racing Academy, will chair a new KEEP workforce development task force, she said.

KEEP asks industry participants and horse enthusiasts to contact Washington, including through social media, about the H-2B program’s critical role. Kentucky residents can go to horseswork.com/advocacy to send a message (prepared or personalized) to their U.S. Representative as well as Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul.

The H-2B Workforce Coalition recommends using the Twitter hashtag #saveH2B and tagging @SecretaryAcosta (Department of Labor), @DHSGov (Department of Homeland Security), @USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) and @WhiteHouse. KEEP encourages Kentuckians to tag @SenMajLdr (McConnell), @RandPaul and @RepAndyBarr, with Lexington Congressman Andy Barr a co-sponsor of H.R. 2004, the Strengthen Employment And Seasonal Opportunities Now (SEASON) Act.

ABOUT KEEP

The Kentucky Equine Education Project is a not-for-profit grassroots organization created in 2004 to preserve, promote and protect Kentucky’s signature multi-breed horse industry. KEEP is committed to ensuring Kentucky remains the horse capital of the world, including educating Kentuckians and elected officials of the importance of the horse industry to the state. KEEP works to strengthen the horse economy in Kentucky through our statewide network of citizen advocates and our foundation, which has awarded more than $700,000 to local Kentucky equine organizations. To learn more about how you can become a member or make a contribution, please visit www.horseswork.com.

Elisabeth Jensen Joins KEEP as Executive Vice President

Elisabeth Jensen Joins KEEP as Executive Vice President

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Wednesday, January 3, 2018) – The Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP) has tapped lifelong horse enthusiast and Race for Education co-founder Elisabeth Jensen as its new executive vice president.

Joe Clabes, KEEP’s executive director since April 2015, is leaving KEEP to become senior consultant and strategist with the business-management consulting firm Loch Harbour Group and to pursue other business opportunities in the Thoroughbred industry.

“Elisabeth has a passion for the horse industry and is a proven leader and administrator,” said KEEP chairman Corey Johnsen. “She is perfectly positioned to embrace KEEP’s core mission and move the organization forward. Joe Clabes and his team accomplished a number of important achievements, and we wish him all the best in his new endeavor.”

Under Clabes, KEEP helped pave the way for equines to officially be recognized as livestock in Kentucky – an integral step in the push for sales-tax parity, launched the popular Seattle Slew license plates to raise money for the organization’s charitable foundation and created a multi-breed conference that brought prominent policymakers and officials in to address issues facing those who own or work with horses.

“KEEP is the economic advocate of the Kentucky horse industry and has been the driving force behind more than $200 million in additional purses and breeders’ awards since 2006,”  Johnsen said. “We continue to make progress towards sales-tax parity and will make sure KEEP is on the cutting edge of all issues affecting our industry such as immigration and workforce development. Elisabeth will be a strong leader in those areas while also expanding our important grassroots efforts.”

Jensen, who started her new position this week, said KEEP’s priorities mesh with her own interests and she embraces the opportunity to tackle those challenges.

“That’s my passion – immigration, labor, workforce development and education,” she said. “At Race for Education, our focus is educating young people and attracting them to the industry. That falls into one of the goals of KEEP. I’m really, really excited about it. I think there is a lot of good work we can do.

“Having a sufficient and capable workforce is a huge issue to our industry, to all facets – whether it’s the racetrack or the horse farm. Even inside the tracks, for hospitality and other positions. Those jobs are hard to fill, and we need to find a way for the industry to address those things.”

In other changes: Stephen Huffman, a partner in HCM Governmental Relations, is replacing Clabes as KEEP’s chief advocate with the Kentucky State Legislature. KEEP staffer Will Glasscock also is assuming an expanded role in the organization’s legislative efforts. Veteran horsewoman Mary Midkiff, a prominent horsewoman and author with extensive background in multiple disciplines, takes over grassroots development.

The Race for Education, which Jensen co-founded in 2002, now will be administered by the KEEP Foundation. The program provides services such as scholarships and financial literacy training to students in the equine industry with financial need. The Race for Education has provided more than $7 million in scholarships and educational programs, earning recognition from the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives. Jensen and The Race for Education received the University of Arizona Race Track Industry Program’s Outstanding Contribution to the Racing Industry Award in 2011.

Jensen grew up in Indiana, attending New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology and the Wood Tobé-Coburn School, earning a degree in design and merchandising. She worked as an executive for Disney Consumer Products in California, where she rode and showed on the hunter-jumper circuit before moving to Kentucky to pursue a career in the Thoroughbred industry.

Jensen is married to Kentucky Horse Racing Commission executive director Marc Guilfoil and has a son, Will. They raise cattle on their farm in Lexington.

Inspired by Will, Jensen in 2016 founded a basketball camp for young athletes with special needs in 2016 in association with Special Olympics. She served for six years on the State Advisory Panel for Exceptional Children, advising the legislature and governor on policy related to special education. She continues to serve on the Kentucky Department of Education’s Parent Advisory Council. She also serves on the boards of the Groom Elite Program, Old Richmond Road Neighborhood Association and was appointed by Lexington Mayor Jim Gray to the Fayette County Greenspace Commission.

ABOUT KEEP

The Kentucky Equine Education Project is a not-for-profit grassroots organization created in 2004 to preserve, promote and protect Kentucky’s signature multi-breed horse industry. KEEP is committed to ensuring Kentucky remains the horse capital of the world, including educating Kentuckians and elected officials of the importance of the horse industry to the state. KEEP works to strengthen the horse economy in Kentucky through our statewide network of citizen advocates and our foundation, which has awarded more than $700,000 to local Kentucky equine organizations. To learn more about how you can become a member or make a contribution, please visit www.horseswork.com.