Thursday, May 12, 2011

Savoring Springtime

It seems the spring is on the fast-track to leaving, though it feels like it just arrived! This time of year always gets crazy busy, what with our Seniors getting ready to graduate, The Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, the Kentucky Derby, the last of our Equine Scholars events, the Keeneland Race Meet, the start-up of horse shows and everything else!
Here is a VERY brief update of what we have been up to:

Every year we tour Hagyard Equine Medical Institute -- which means all our Scholars could potential see this hospital four times during their tenure at Georgetown College! While this might seem like a bit much to you, every time we go, we learn something new. This year we got to see babies, get up close with the treadmill and get a good look at the new covered they installed for the sport-horse vets. Very cool!

We also got to go tour the United States Hunter Jumper Association museum, thanks to Kristyn Kay. Kristyn spoke of how the museum obtains pieces they display, as well as of her job at the museum. Carrie Vaught, Programs and Education Ambassador, spoke of her role at the Association as well.

Thanks to the incredible generosity of Shannon White, we got an INCREDIBLE tour of Fare's Farms, which is located behind beautiful Keeneland Racecourse. Shannon spoke on myriad aspects of running a Thoroughbred operation -- everything from fencing and painting to foaling and selling. She is a true wealth of knowledge. Shannon is a huge supporter of our Program and we simply cannot say enough good things about her or about Fare's Farms! (isn't this face sweet?)

Our Scholars had an amazing opportunity this spring: To meet, in person, retired jockeys Chris McCarron  and Pat Day. Invited to Georgetown College as part of our ongoing Conversations with Champions series, the senior Scholars were invited to Dr. Crouch's home to meet with the jockeys prior to their televised interviews.

Reese Koffler-Stanfield, head trainer at Maplecrest Farm as well as an international high performance competitive dressage rider, opened her farm to us to speak a bit about her career in the highest levels of the sport. Reese regularly goes out of her way to help the Equine Scholars Program and has employed numerous Scholars as her working students. Her farm, located just minutes from Georgetown College, is simply breathtaking.

One of the only events that is mandatory for our Scholars to attend is the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event.Our students can volunteer in various capacities, everything from ushering during dressage and showjumping days to driving golfcarts for the VIPs to working with the accounts during the actual events. The passes they get allow them to get into all four days of the event for free! Everyone's favorite is the cross-country day.

Also, there was an extra-special freestyle reining competition that took place on Saturday night. Can you recognize this superstar eventer-turned-reiner?

If you guessed Karen O'Connor, you're right! :)

As May blasted onto the scene, our students attended Derby events and cracked down to study while things kicked into high gear in the ESP offices as well. With booths at the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association Nationals and Rolex, we're still cleaning up from being out of the office for so long!

We are lucky enough to also have a wonderful working relationship with both Horse Illustrated and Young Rider magazines. Rising Senior Marina Byrd and I got to do two "how to do horse show hair" videos that can be found here:

Graduation is Saturday -- here's to hoping for blue skies and sunshine!
Hope you enjoyed this very brief pictoral of the last two months! We will be updating our blog more regularly (hopefully) as we get back into our routine.

Friday, April 1, 2011

A Case of the Big Scaries

Trying something new for the first time can be scary, whether it's a new sports team, a new barn, a new club or even bigger, more-permanent new things: a new town, a new school, a new house or a new job.

This past Saturday, we got to spend some time with a few of our incoming Equine Scholars. All students who were accepted to Georgetown College for the fall of 2011 were invited to campus to be recognized for their scholarships and to come to campus one more time before they enter as first-year students in the fall. 

After the students arrived on campus, they went to the Chapel, where Johnnie Johnson of Admissions and Dr. Crouch spoke briefly. Pictures were then taken by group: for example, all Equine Scholars and Global Scholars, recipients of the Christian Leadership scholarship, the Parks Baptist Scholarship, etc. There werea lot of flashes going off! We then headed into the Alumni gym to eat.

I was lucky enough to get to sit with Chelsea Kraus and Lindsey Woosley (who I keep wanting to call Lindsey Woolsey) and their families during dinner. In addition to getting to know these two fabulous girls better, I got to interact with their parents, something I really enjoy as I don't get to see them much!

When asked about what they were most looking forward to, these girls, and all our Scholars, really, seem to have the same answer: the freedom. When asked what they were most anxious about, the answer tends to be the same: the freedom. What originally is seen as a double-edged sword for our students ends up being their most-loved aspect of college ... the ability to choose.

It's rare to find someone who truly embraces change. I for one am not a fan, I love routine and love knowing exactly what I need to do and what is expected of me. College is a huge break from the "norm" for all of our students. All at once they find themselves without parental guidance on things like what to eat, when to study, when to go to bed and what to do with their free time. ("Free time" is a bit of an anomaly with horse people, as we all know -- every spare second we have tends to be occupied by our large, four-legged best friends!)

But really, college is not something to fear. It isn't a scary place, I promise! Georgetown College is not somewhere where you will feel all alone in a brand-new place. This small college is chock full of people who care about our students -- everyone from professors to staff (including us!) to the cafeteria workers (yay Miss Jo!) -- and who strive to make students feel welcomed and loved. Though your parents might not be with you here at college, you are not alone, by any means. Each person on this campus is here because they want to see you succeed and they truly care about each and every student on this campus.

While I can understand being afraid to make a big life change (or things like flying, spiders and public speaking), I can't understand what makes my horse afraid of some things. Like this Buford steer.

I mean, come on. This horse has been ridding in the ring while this thing was being pulled behind a four-wheeler and people were practicing roping on it -- never batted an eye. This weekend though, you would have thought I was asking him to walk into a ring with horse-eating monsters as reluctant as he was to simply be in the general vicinity of it. Horses. Sheesh. This is Iggy's "big scary." What's yours?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Art of Being Homesick

I admit it ... I'm 30 years old, and I still get homesick.
I have lived in Kentucky for almost seven years; I went away to college and went home only for a brief spell between jobs. But .... I still miss it.

Homesickness is something we deal with quite a bit with our Scholars--it tends to hit hardest when they first get to campus. For many of our students, it's their first time away from home and from family for an extended period of time.

In an effort to combat homesickness, we do an event dubbed "Pegasus Camp"  two days before the rest of the students get to Georgetown College. Our Scholars get to move in early and we get to spend two entire days with them. We do all kinds of fun stuff:  play icebreakers to get to know each other, tour farms, go see what's happening at the Kentucky Horse Park, visit equine entities that might be too far away for us to get to during the year (think KESMARC--Kentucky Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center--and KER--Kentucky Equine Research), go to dinner, go bowling or to a baseball game, and overall just get to know one another.

The purpose of this camp is twofold:
1. We want every Scholar to know someone when they go to class that very first day. It's amazing what one familiar, smiling face can do for nerves!
2. We want them to really get a taste for what this Program entails.

Our Program is completely different from any other equine program in the country: We seek to show our kids how many different jobs there are in the equine industry by taking tours; listening to speakers; and having them intern, job shadow and network so once they graduate, they can step right into an equine field. And really, we have a lot of fun.

If our kids can make it through that first weekend away from home, they usually stick around :) Though it can be lonely when you're in the dorms with just a few other students, soon the dorms are full and people are bustling around night and day. Our Scholars always have the option to room with other Scholars, as well; sometimes it's nice to have someone who REALLY understands muddy boots, equine ailments and the need to "talk horse" at all hours of the night ...

We suggest that as soon as they begin to get sad that they try to do something else, whether it is chatting with a friend, going out for a ride or (and this is their least favorite) even starting homework to try to get their attention on something other than their desire to go home. And, most importantly, we want them to know they can always call me or our Program Coordinator, at any time. We're pretty good at making people feel better, too!

I don't think we ever get over being homesick if home is a place you truly love. Though I now consider Kentucky my "home," in truth, home will always be in Ohio, with my parents on a small farm surrounded by massive trees and an old horse or two in the pasture.

I think George Washington said it best:
I had rather be on my farm than emperor of the world.
How true it is.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring has Sprung in Kentucky ...

The weather is wild here in Kentucky: It was a beautiful day yesterday, close to 80 degrees and perfectly sunny with a light breeze ... tomorrow, however, we're looking at a high of 45 and rain .... BOO! I guess the only thing beneficial is it might make all of our allergies calm down for a bit. Our Scholars, especially those from out of state, are sneezing and rubbing their eyes from all the pollen. They'll quickly learn the benefits of a good allergy medicine!
One of the most noted "rites of passage" for the changing seasons here in the Bluegrass, besides allergies, is BABIES!!! And of course our favorite form of babies are the foals. There is something simply breathtaking about being able to drive not even 10 minutes from downtown in any direction and being surrounded by beautiful farms for miles and miles. We tend to joke that we're worried one of us will randomly drive off the road as we gawk at the fuzzy bundles racing through their paddocks, playing with their foal friends or simply taking a much-needed nap. It's wild to think that one of these long-legged, semi-uncoordinated animals might one day be the next Kentucky Derby or Oaks winner ....
We were lucky enough yesterday to go to Fares Farms and be given a wonderful tour by General Manager Shannon White, who is just a phenomenal woman. The Thoroughbred industry can be tough if you're female ... and Shannon is very willing to offer her insights into the industry to our Scholars. We can't thank her enough for all she has done! We got to tour mare and foal barns, peek at paddocks that are being redone, discuss bloodlines and the Thoroughbred industry and even pet a foal. It was a wonderful field trip for our students and we're so excited that Shannon is so good to us. We couldn't have asked for a better tour guide!
This morning, I got to get an even-more-up-close peek at a fuzzy foal, this one named "Patty" for her birth on Saint Patrick's Day (we all hope she's got the luck of the Irish!). I moved one ready-to-pop mare to Peninsula Farm (also a fabulous supporter of our Program -- they gave us a tour of their Standardbred facility back in the fall!) to foal out and brought another momma and baby back to their home farm. Needless to say, I couldn't resist snapping this pic of her.
As corny as it sounds, I really can't believe how fast they grow up!