Equine Adventure: USEF Youth Sportsman’s Career Workshop
RELEASE: July 10, 2008
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Kirsten N. Kimbler
“Wow…pinch me please! Can this be real?” I thought, as I stood, stunned in front of the life-size horse posters advertising the World Equestrian Games in the airport of Lexington, KY. What could possibly have brought a South Dakota girl like me to Lexington, the Horse Capital of the World? Well, the USEF Youth Sportsman’s Career Workshop, of course.
WARNING: the following information concerns the coolest horse vacation ever!
We (all of the national USEF Sportsman’s Award winners and our guests) were treated like royalty from the time we arrived at our hotel until checkout four days later. There were goody bags filled with horsy stuff—my favorite item is the red, white and blue USEF jacket given to each participant. We kicked off the workshop with a tour of downtown Lexington via a carriage ride on a beautiful Sunday evening. Gorgeous, flea-bitten grey Percheron geldings pulled our carriages. Our horse was gracious enough to pose for a stunning, slobbery picture after our ride.
The first full day of the workshop was packed to the brim! Although most of us were still half asleep on the bus, we quickly woke up when we arrived at the Keeneland Racetrack. We got to watch the morning workouts of some stunning Thoroughbreds. This was just another normal morning for the track veterans, but we were awed by the enormous, effortless stride of these sleek Thoroughbreds. The day held many more interesting tours, hopping from Dragonsmeade (a Morgan horse breeding facility) to the Gluck Equine Research facility (where many of the vaccines that you use to protect your horses today were developed), then to Walmac (a Thoroughbred breeding facility). We ended this fast-paced day at the Kentucky Horse Park, where we got to walk the Rolex cross-country course with course builder Mike Costello. Yes, we got to touch REAL ROLEX JUMPS! As one of the few four star three-day events in the world, Rolex Kentucky is incredible to watch on TV, but one really develops a newfound appreciation for the sport when one sees these jumps in person. The average person would have trouble scampering over most of the jumps, yet these horses make it look easy and fun. After dinner there was one more surprise planned for us—we got to create our own horse sculptures with Alexa King. Although we were a bit tentative at first, we all found our inner artist that evening. It was exciting to watch a wire armature and a slab of clay form into a three-dimensional horse.
As we rubbed the sleep out of our eyes on Day Two, we were greeted by the vibrant Kirsten Johnson, founder of Kesmarc. Kesmarc has been a pioneer in the field of equine rehabilitation. The Kesmarc Facility is fully equipped with a horse swimming pool, aqua treadmill, and hyperbaric oxygen chamber. Johnson explained that Kesmarc’s mission was not only to help horses recover from their injuries, but help them return to high-level competition. Some of the recoveries are absolutely miraculous. Johnson left us with some excellent advice, “Get an education, then seek out the person in your profession who does that particular job best in the world and learn from them.” As we left Kesmarc, I thought, “What could possibly top that?” Well, we were on our way to Rood and Riddle, one of Lexington’s largest equine veterinarian practices with over 50 veterinarians on staff. As we arrived, we could see a surgery being performed through the viewing window. They had vets in every equine specialty possible: ambulatory, podiatry, reproduction and surgery just to name a few. I loved the podiatry unit—they had some of the coolest therapeutic horse shoes I have ever seen!
After a zesty Asian lunch, we were off again, our next stop was Hallway Feeds, where we were shown the processing of horse feed from raw product to freshly bagged feed, which, by the way, we got to taste test! Rounding out our second day of tours was a visi