Kathy Hopkins Kentucky Horse Park
Thur Sept 6, 2007 at 12 p.m. (ET)
Among her duties as Director of Equine Operations at Lexington's Kentucky Horse Park, Kathy Hopkins counts such diverse activities as the planning, organization, management and care of all equine areas and horses at the Park, including the Hall of Champions, the Draft and Carriage Divisions, the Breeds and Farrier Area, and the Education Department which encompasses the community education programs, youth riding, and the Mustang Troop. And as if that were not enough to keep her busy, Kathy also teaches three classes for the North American Racing Academy while working with her husband and son to run Southern Trace Farm - a Fayette County operation dedicated to breeding Thoroughbred sport horses.
Kathy's more than 40 years experience in the equine industry includes stints as Director of the Kentucky Equine Institute, a program sponsored by the Kentucky Farm Managers and designed to produce graduates ready to enter the equine profession as well-qualified racing and farm managers, trainers, farriers, jockeys, and sales and marketing repsresentatives.
She has also served as an Instructor in the Thoroughbred Track and Exercise Rider Training Program of the Kentucky Equine Education Program (KEEP), a post-secondary program training students for employment in the racing industry through an intensive curriculum including the anatomy and physiology of the horse and breaking, training, and riding technique.
Mount Pleasant, SC:
I think it's amazing how much you do for the Kentucky Horse Park! I visited about three weeks ago, and I remember seeing John Henry with an IV. I know he was a little tired from his walks, is he better now?
Thank you for asking. John is feeling much better. The weather in Lexington has been extremely hot and humid, many of the horses have had problems keeping properly hydrated and their body temperature regulated.
Under the advise of our veterinary staff, we supplemented John with fluids and installed a large misting fan to assist in keeping him cool. The precautions and procedures we have in place for John Henry are the same as those you would need for any elderly humans.
Exercise is important to his emotional and physical well being, however, even his walks must be curtailed during the extreme heat.
Bourton-on-the-Water, Cheltenham UK:
Cigar is one of my all time favourite racehorses. I was wondering how he is and if he is still terrorizing John Henry and the older horses? What would his normal day comprise, and does he still have a huge fan club? From the photos I have seen, he looks to be a very happy horse.
Cigar is indeed a very healthy and happy horse. Cigar maintains a schedule very much like the other stallions on most Central Kentucky farms. He is out in the paddock during the evening and is supervised by our night watch staff. He is brought up in the morning and groomed, and remains in the stall during the day except for the morning and afternoon presentations.
As the winner of almost $10 million, Cigar still has many fans. He is a beautiful horse and with his great conformation and animated disposition he is definitely a crowd pleaser.
New York, NY:
I'm thinking of starting a second career, full time in the horse business. I have experience foaling and I've spent a couple seasons doing general work around a breeding farm and for a trainer at the track, sort of as a hobby. I have a background working in business for the last 20 years and I'm interested in starting a career full time in the horse business. I realize I must be versatile and want to hit as many areas as possible, as I'm ultimately interested in starting my own bloodstock business. I see you've been an instructor in many of the areas of my interest. My biggest question is: I'd like to learn to exercise ride -- when I was younger, I rode a little, but not much. Is it realistic to think that someone approaching 40 (in good shape) could take on such a task?
Exercise riding is physically and mentally demanding, you need fast reflexes and agility to properly do the job. Your other areas of interest would be more feasibly attained and without the inherent risk of injury that accompanies the life of an exercise rider.
Toms River, NJ:
Of all the horses who are permanently stabled at the park, who do you consider to be your greatest ambassador and why?
All of the horses that reside on the Kentucky Horse Park are great ambassadors in their own individual way. Be it the mini, looking eye to eye with the toddler, seeing a live horse for the first time or the giant draft horse reminding visitors of a previous time in our country's history, each has its own special role.
Of course, John Henry has accomplished a great deal for the racing industry and is a statement to "what might and can be" -- he has a special place in everyone's heart.
Toms River, NJ:
About Da Hoss, he was always so injury prone during his racing career; do you experience any of the same problems at the Park? How often? How severe? etc. It looks like he has a wonderful personality. Can you use that at the Park?
Da Hoss is just a great guy! He is easy to get along with and is very kind and understanding with our visitors. He has never had the best feet, and hoof care is always at the top of our list with him. Da Hoss, along with the other residents at the Hall of Champions, is on supplements for the health of his joints and cartilage.
John Henry is now being walked every day and it is obviously good for him. At some of the finest stud farms, stallions are ridden on a daily basis. Are Cigar and Da Hoss being ridden every day at the park?
We don't ride either Da Hoss or Cigar. They are both good about self exercise in the paddocks and stay very fit. We carefully monitor their diets to keep them at the proper weight.
Sugar Land, TX:
Seeing the recent video of John Henry on his daily walk was just heartwarming. He looks great. I was wondering if Cigar will start on this daily program in the future. Thank you for the great care that you and the others give to all of the residents of the Kentucky Horse Park. What a wonderful haven for these deserving animals.
Thank you for your comments. It is possible that at some point we might start a controlled exercise program such as walking.
Since Cigar is a stallion, there are more considerations to take into account when walking him among the visitors. At this time, he is doing a great job of keeping himself fit through exercise in the paddock. The location of the Hall of Champions puts the residents in the center of the Parks activities, and Cigar enjoys watching all the activity.
John Henry's walks started out in his paddock to assist him in maintaining muscle tone. John quickly became bored with this routine and demanded on enlarging the scope of his walks until he was dragging his poor caregivers allover the KHP.
Would Funny Cide be welcome at the horse park in the future if his owners decide that he should be able to be viewed by his fans later on in life after serving as a stable pony?
The Kentucky Horse Park would definitely enjoy and welcome Funny Cide should his owners decide that would be the best option for him.
Where there ever any discussions held concerning Barbaro coming to live at the horse park?
There were indeed discussions concerning Barbaro. The Kentucky Horse Park was ready to assist in any possible manner to find and create the best possible environment for him. It would have been an honor and a privilege to have him here in Lexington.
What degrees do you have that helped land you this wonderful job with the Kentucky Horse Park?
I grew up in Lexington riding hunters and attended the Thoroughbred sales and racing under the mentorship of a retired US Cavalry officer. I stayed in Lexington and graduated with an undergraduate degree in education and a field of intensity in equine science and graduate hours in post secondary education.
I read an article about a horse park in Colorado that was similar to our horse park. One thing that they have that I think would be wonderful for the Kentucky Horse Park is a membership. If you had a membership to their park, you could ride (your own horse) in the park on certain days and you could also use the park's facilities for clinics, practicing for shows, trail riding, and things like that. Is there any possibility that our horse park will ever do something like that?
The Kentucky Horse Park is continually growing and evolving. We have lots of new projects and exciting times ahead as we prepare for the World Games of 2010.
Through our special events department, we offer the opportunity for groups and individuals to visit the Park for schooling on certain specified dates. Throughout the year there is a vast array of clinics and educational opportunities for riders and horse owners.
If you visit our website you will find information on all these activities.
I do not know of anyone else that is busier then you are. I am very interested in what it feels like when you see John Henry. He must bring to mind some awesome feelings to see this old champion. I read that his whole attitude has changed to a much kinder, gentler John.
What can you say about John? It was a great day when he arrived at the Kentucky Horse Park . He had a special relationship with his groom Jose Mercado and at that time I worried about the repercussions of them having to eventually saying goodbye. That and turning him loose in a paddock for the first time led to a lot of sleepless nights. But we all survived and it seems unbelievable that John will turn 33 in four months.
We all have great memories, of the barn filling with baskets of carrots and peppermints, the trip to Keeneland and the decision to return him to California to put him back on the track and our and the fans relief when he returned to Kentucky.
John is extremely intelligent and has enjoyed both tormenting and loving us through the years, he knows just how to keep everyone in line! He still has the eye of an eagle and reflexes to match so we still have to watch our toes; however, he does show his softer side a little more often.
Do you try to recruit "retirees" from racing or show careers to the KY Horse Park to spend their remaining years there? If so, do you have a list and who is on that "watch list"?
We have been so fortunate in the past that we actually don't have to "recruit". The KHP receives many more requests than we are able to accomodate. We have only limited facilities for horses that are actually retired and many show horses who may not be up to the rigors of competition but who are still healthy and sound participate in the daily presentaions held in our Breeds Area.
Mt. Sterling, KY:
I love John Henry and, if I were having a birthday party for my daughter, could you have a special day planned for her with John and what would it cost? If John is not available, would there be any other champions that are available for petting and riding?
All of the horses on the Kentucky Horse Park are availale for vistors to see on a daily basis. Through our Special Events department we would be able to plan a birthday party for your daughter and include special activities such as petting and riding.
Hi Kathy, congratulations on the many many things you are involved in. What is a sport horse, and do you own any racing horses?
Because of the extreme athletic ability and versatility of the racing Thoroughbred, this breed has also competed extremely successfully in the sports of dressage, jumping, and eventing.
The bloodlines of many of our top racehorses can also be found in the pedigrees of top international equestrian sport horses. At present, my family has one two-year-old in training that will be making his first start in the near future.
St. Simons Island, GA:
What does it mean during a race that a horse is "rank?" The announcers never say what that means, and I can't tell what they are doing (wrong) amongst all the other horses.
"Rank" is a general term that is used to describe various types of behavior, from rearing, bucking, kicking out in the paddock and saddling area to being difficult for the jockey to rate and control during the race.
I had a chance to visit the KY Horse Park last year and absolutely relished the chance to see John Henry and Cigar that close. As a HUGE Lava Man fan, it would be great to see the West Coast champ in Kentucky when he retires. I'm sure he would be a huge draw. Any plans that you are aware of to acquire Lava Man or some of the other good geldings who are winding down their careers?
Thank you for your interest and suggestions. Unfortunately, at this time we only have 6 stalls at the Hall of Champions, so we are very limited in the number of horses that we can accept. We work very closely with Old Friends, which is a wonderful facility that also affords the public the opportunity to meet our past champions.
Can this E-Influenza hit our horses here and would the older horses in the Hall of Champions be at risk?
Yes, all horses are at risk for diseases such as this; however, we work very closely with our veterinary staff and maintain all the residents of the KHP on a very aggressive vaccination and preventative medicine routine.
I am intrigued by the "Mustang Troop." Can you explain what that is?
The Kentucky Horse Park teams the youth of our inner city with adopted wild mustangs. Most of the youths involved have never touched or had any contact with horses prior to entering the program. The participants are educated in the proper care and handling of horse and are taught to ride.
As they pass through the program and increase their skills, they become part of the Mustang Troop precision drill team and have the opportunity to travel and participate in events such as the Presedential Inaugural Parade.
We work on developing their academic and personal skills and expose them to professionals within our community to inspire them to enlarge the scope of their dreams and goals.
How do you obtain horses for the Parade of Breeds? Are they donated? Do you actively try to find horses of different breeds to fill in the gaps?
We work on a daily basis with all breed registries and organizations to offer them the opportunity to promote and educate the public on their particular breed. It is the goal of this division to offer the visitors access to as many different breeds as possible. Many of the horses who reside in this area represent endangered and rare breeds. Most of the horses are on loan, which allows us to rotate as many breeds as possible.
Is the North American Racing Academy going to begin accepting applicants interested in other types of industry jobs in addition to potential jockeys (like training, etc)?
The plans for NARA include the addition of a "Horseman's Pathway " course which would focus on the skills needed for graduates to pursue carreers in the industry other than racing. In addition, plans are in the works to enlarge the scope of the education department of the KHP to offer more in the way of short courses and seminars which would address the need for training such as this.
Oklahoma City, OK:
I am eight years old and have just started taking riding lessons. How can I become a jockey?
I would encourage you to devlop your riding skills under a qualified professional and to maintain good grades. Riding huntseat will assist you with the balance and skills that you will need to become a jockey. Learning all aspects of the care and anatomy of the horse will also be to your benefit. The more knowledgeable you become, the better you will be able to perform your duties. After high school, attending the North American Racing Academy would be the best career path for you. Good luck!!
Can you tell me more about the Thoroughbred Track and Exercise Rider Training Program of the Kentucky Equine Education Program? How does one enter such a program?
This program no longer exists; however, the North American Racing Academy would be the place to start.
What do you think is the most important role the Horse Park fulfills?
The Kentucky Horse Park is foremost an equine education and entertainment facility acting to support and showcase the horse industry and dedicated to man's relationship with the horse.
What plans and preparation are underway or planned for the 2010 USEF events being hosted by the Kentucky Horse Park? Will regular events such as the Hall of Champions show and Show of Breeds be affected?
Plans are well underway for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. The KHP will greatly benefit from the new and expanded facilities that will be completed for the games. These wonderful additions to the KHP will carry us forward after the games are complete. The normal Park activities will indeed continue and will only be enhanced by the games.
LAST UPDATED: 1:03 P.M (ET)
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