The Kentucky Equine Networking Association (KENA), a newly formed equine networking and educational group for equine professionals involved in pleasure and performance horse breeds, held its second meeting Nov. 16 in Lexington, Ky.

The dinner meeting featured speakers John Nicholson, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Park, and Rich Wilcke, director of the University of Louisville Equine Industry Program.

Nicholson congratulated the group on its efforts in helping make the recent 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games successful. As executive director of the Games' hosting venue, Nicholson had much to say about the event's impact on Kentucky.

"The (Games) were a reflection of the success of the Kentucky Horse Park, not the other way around," Nicholson said.

He noted the contributions of the Gluck Equine Research Center, the state veterinarian's office, and the Kentucky Horse Council, particularly, for their collective efforts in convincing Games' organizers that the competitions should be held in Kentucky and the results of hosting the Games as "being in nothing less than a renaissance.

"For many of us, (horses) are beyond a business ... this is an affair of the heart," Nicholson said.

Wilcke then took over as the dinner's featured speaker and talked about principles in making horse businesses successful. Wilcke stressed the importance of business planning in all endeavors and noted 99% of all new businesses fail, many in the first three years--a sobering statistic that is true across all markets.

He went on to describe the perceived risk in equine operations by banks and insurance companies, which often do not understand the economics specific to the horse industry and are consequently hesitant to invest and take risks with horse operations.

"That means you don't just have to have a business plan, you have to have a very, very good business plan," Wilcke said, remarking on how an equine business can secure those investments.

He acknowledged the nature of many horse people is to be hands-on with their operation, but many forget to be proactive in planning their operations. He urged the group to spend more time working on their business instead of in their business.

"Fretting about it when you're driving along in your pickup truck is not the same thing as planning," he said. "It's much better to think about the what ifs when you're sitting at your desk and it hasn't happened yet."

Wilcke suggested managers of horse operations take the time to outline their strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats as part of their business plan construction process.

In conclusion, Madelyn Millard, past president of the Kentucky Horse Council board of directors thanked both speakers and sponsors and invited all to the next KENA meeting Jan. 20.

More than 140 people attended the meeting, many of whom had attended the inaugural KENA meeting in September. That kind of continued interest is exactly what organizers said they hoped for.

"I was pleasantly surprised ... we had people from all different breeds and all different parts of the industry, which is exactly what we wanted," said Ed Squires, MS, PhD, Hon. Dipl. ACT, executive director of the Gluck Equine Research Foundation and director of advancement and industry relations at the Gluck Center.

KENA was created as a joint effort between the Kentucky Horse Council and the University of Kentucky as an opportunity to unite nonracing breed industries in Central Kentucky.

Natalie Voss is a recent graduate in equine science and management and an equine communications intern for the UK Equine Initiative.

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.

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