Edited News Release
This spring, Churchill Downs and the Klein Family Learning Center/WinStar Library and Classrooms (Learning Center) will offer The Groom Elite ™ Program, which has never been offered in Kentucky. The program, which can host 30 grooms at a time, will begin May 10. The program is free to students and is sponsored by the Kentucky Derby Museum and the Kentucky Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association.
"The Groom Elite program is an excellent opportunity for horsemen to further develop their practical skills and understanding of their work," said Jennifer Hoert, director for the Learning Center and chief organizer and fundraiser for the program. "This will increase groom confidence and lead to safer conditions and more satisfied trainers."
The Groom Elite™ Program is a educational program developed for licensed horsemen. The program is delivered in both English and Spanish to accommodate the backstretch demographics. Topics range from horse anatomy and behavior to shed row safety and test barn procedures. At the end of the course, a groom's skills are assessed, and if the student mastered the course content he or she will become certified Groom Elite. In general, this class is a 34-hour intensive classroom and hands-on learning experience.
It is expected students in this program will range from those with a college degree to some who have difficulty reading or writing. With this in mind, Susan O'Hara, former co-chair of the National HBPA Education Committee, with assistance of the Equine Extension faculty from Texas A&M University, and C. Reid McLellan, PhD, former professor and director of Louisiana Tech's award-winning Equine Program, designed the program to maximize the use of visual aids and hands-on exercises to support each of the 14 lessons. The Elite Program is incorporated as a non-profit corporation in Texas.
Enrollment is open to licensed backside workers, and tuition is free because of sponsorships. The students are given lunch during each of the classes, and will receive a jacket and a diploma when they pass the course.
The Learning Center, located on Churchill Downs' backside, offers free computer, art, and language classes to racetrack employees. A successful first season of the program will lead to additional courses at Churchill Downs in the fall and at Trackside next winter.