"Support and Promoting of Equine Awareness in Kentucky" Program Revolutionizes Equine Education
RELEASE: January 14, 2010
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Lindsay McCall
Renowned course designer and horse show manager Bobby Murphy has taken equine education to the next level by implementing the Supporting and Promoting of Equine Awareness in Kentucky Schools (SPEAKS) program. The SPEAKS program is designed to work with elementary schools and community groups to develop knowledge of the equine industry. From demonstrations at the horse park, to visits at the equine educational museums, SPEAKS goal is to educate the future of society about the importance and impact of the horse industry in their lives.
Inspired by the late Betsy Fishback, Bobby Murphy has great hopes for the future, and reflected on the origin of SPEAKS, recounting, "Betsy made my work with children on equine education, a passion for me," and as such, "the program has been a part of my life ever since."
During this past holiday season, Murphy made a trip home to Lexington, KY, to further develop SPEAKS. While in Lexington, he met with childhood friend, Sara Thorton. Thorton grew up in Lexington on former Kentucky Governor Brereton Jones' Thoroughbred farm, Airdrie Stud. Thorton recalled her most memorable moments of growing up on a horse farm, the foremost of which was "waking up in the middle of the night to go down to the barn with my family to see the foals being born," adding that, "as the foals grew older, I used to come home after school and ride the horses around the farm." This memory meant the world to Thorton.
The aforementioned childhood of Thorton is demonstrative of the horse's invaluable presence in one's life. Although, "horses have always had great meaning to mankind," Murphy explained, "it seems as though the connection to horses is beginning to fade as time progresses." Hoping to give children an opportunity to learn about the beauty, power, and passion horses have to offer, Murphy visited Thorton's third grade class at Simmons Elementary School in Woodford County, KY.
Historically, the horse has always had a significant purpose—aiding in developing society whether "in war as Calvary, in agriculture&dmash;growing crops, or in transportation." Ensuring the value of the horse continues in the eyes of mankind will require a concerted effort of passionate horsemen and women integrating equine education into the curriculums of Kentucky schools.
"Equine education can be implemented in every subject for students of every age," Murphy said, adding that it is applicable across the board, "from figuring the arc at which a horse jumps over a fence in mathematics, to the biology of an herbivore." The educational possibilities of incorporating the horse into all schools are exponential.
The process began with support from the local community. Murphy contacted the Kentucky Horse Park's Executive Director John Nicholson, and Nicholson graciously donated coloring books, crayons, and equine literature, including literature regarding the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
Building upon Nicholson's donations, Joanie Morris of the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) donated equine folders, pins, mouse pads, and other equine items. Some of the most valuable donations SPEAKS received from the USEF included large equestrian posters, which are of great use in visually explaining the many different disciplines of the equestrian sport.
With help from the many generous supporters, Murphy was able to spend the day with Thorton's class, describing everything from colors and breeds of horses, to how large a horse's stride is, to how a rider would go about navigating a hunter course versus a jumper course. Bringing to light the many different connections the third graders had to the horse world, Murphy was able to make being a part of the equine industry more important in those children's lives.
Murphy truly enjoyed the experience, and in describing how the children inspired him, commented, "I was amazed to find out how most of the children had ties with the horse industry. Take for instance a third grader named Frankie, whose reward for doing well in school is spending a day at the farm where one of his family members is employed, riding around on the John Deer Gator, and interacting with horses." Unfortunately, the emotional attachment Frankie has been fortunate enough to experience with the horses is no longer seen, as often as it once was, in the lives of children.
"When the USEF, the USHJA, the Kentucky Horse Park, Kentucky Horse Shows LLC, the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, the community, and educators work together, the passion for the horse will illuminate more and more people each day just as it illuminated the third graders at Simmons Elementary School this December," Murphy concluded.
Upon discovering how influential their program has proven to be in schools, SPEAKS is looking to the future and is in the process of applying for a grant. With a grant at a value of $215,000 the SPEAKS program would impact the lives of 640,000 kids at 1,100 schools in the state of Kentucky. Specifically, SPEAKS would be able to function through the Department of Education, which would open them up to more elementary schools across Kentucky and beyond. Until Murphy receives the grant, he will continue to donate his time with the support and funding of those who make the SPEAKS program possible.
Throughout the month of April, Murphy will head back to the classroom, visiting different schools. During the May horse shows at the Kentucky Horse Park, the SPEAKS program, with the funding and support of Hugh Kincannon and Robby Murphy of Kentucky Horse Shows, LLC, and with the permission of Simmons Elementary Principal, Larry Caudill, will give students the opportunity to take a field trip to the park for a full day of equestrian enlightenment.