By TIM THORNBERRY
LEXINGTON, Ky. — Winter is often the time of year horse lovers and riders have to cut back on time with their favorite animals, but this year a new mid-season event will give those equine aficionados a day of fun, learning and interaction all based around the state’s signature industry.
The Kentucky Horse Council (KHC) recently announced the first Kentucky Round-Up, set for Feb. 2 at the Alltech Arena located at the Kentucky Horse Park.
“This is the first year of an event we plan to have every year,” said Ginny Grulke, KHC executive director. “This really has two sides to it, but probably the most important side is getting the average citizen in Kentucky, and families in particular, in an environment where they learn about horses and touch them and feel them, and basically take away the intimidation factor.”
Unlike a school field trip, Grulke explained this event is designed to also get parents involved and make them comfortable with the idea of their children being around horses.
“We feel like that no matter what the children want to do, if the parents don’t agree with that or feel comfortable with it, the activity will never happen,” she said.
Anna Zinkhon, KHC president, expanded on that idea, to livestock in general. “Kentucky Round-Up is a way for the Horse Council to address an issue which all of agriculture faces,” she said.
“Less young people today are comfortable around horses and other livestock because the family farms are disappearing. Getting the kids off the couch and into the barn not only introduces them to the wonder of horses, but also has tremendous character and health benefits.”
The day will include fun activities related to horses for children, including live horses and doings that don’t involve animals, such as stations where they learn to rope a cow and horse-driving, arts and crafts and a reading corner, according to Grulke.
“For the parents, we have put together a series of speakers on the hour that address those considering or would like to consider getting their kids into horses,” she said. This information will include how to become involved with horses without owning a farm or a vehicle in which to haul the animals.
“You don’t have to have a farm, truck and a trailer. I think that’s the most important thing. A family can be involved with horses without buying the whole package,” Grulke said.
“You can go to a horse rescue and volunteer to work; you could go to horse shows and help with managing the show or helping get the horses in and out of the show ring or grooming but you don’t have to own the horse. You could go to the Horse Park and volunteer.”
There are many other opportunities to be involved, such as riding lessons at local stables and riding trails.
Grulke said there will be sportsmanship sessions for riding competitively, talks about safety since that is a big concern for parents and all the clubs young people can join that are involved with horse activities, including 4-H, FFA, the Pony Club and Scouts.
There will also be panel discussions on the topic of buying and boarding one’s own animal and information for new horse owners, including nutrition and being safe around the horse. There will even be something for the advanced horse enthusiast concerning diseases to look for, water quality issues and information about the Kentucky Proud marketing program as it relates to horses. A series of clinics on various topics are also on tap.
The event will feature door prizes and vendors with a selection of horse-related goods. Rounding out the event will be ring demonstrations that include a mounted patrol, a drill team, a mounted shooting demonstration, barrel racing and carriage driving, to name a few.
But the day doesn’t stop there. Country music singer and Kentucky native John Michael Montgomery will perform in concert that evening.
Grulke said a key part of this one-day event is to carry it beyond that day by gathering email information from attendees as part of their signing up for door prizes, and sending information once a month about the horse industry.
Then, a few times during the coming year, there will be sponsored free field trips to get people close to other horse activities.
Grulke said this type of event will inform the public of the diversity within the horse industry, noting it’s not only a state full of racehorses. “The last equine survey done in 2005 basically said that racehorses, in terms of number of horses, are something like 25 percent of our horse population,” she said.
“I think this will be an educational event for that whole aspect of the other horses. That’s important because the average person generally doesn’t get involved with racehorses.”
That doesn’t mean the Thoroughbred industry won’t be interested. Grulke said from a workforce development standpoint, children who start riding horses when they’re young may become interested in Thoroughbreds; they become a feeder system of sorts for the racehorse industry.
For more information, visit www.kentuckyroundup.com