Providing a better way to tell the horse industry's story is the goal of a new non-profit organization that will become a central booking outlet for tours of Kentucky farms, equine clinics, and local equine attractions.
The supporters of Horse Country, Inc., have worked for newly two years on this initiative and announced Jan. 14 the hiring of Anne Sabatino Hardy to serve as its first executive director.
"As owners, breeders, farm managers, and veterinary practitioners we hope this can be our piece of the fan development puzzle; to share the story of the horse—from birth, to racing, and back to breeding," said Price H. Bell Jr. of Mill Ridge Farm and Nicoma Bloodstock. "By offering authentic, unique, coordinated experiences we will share with the public the history and stories of these amazing athletes who inspire us every day."
Bell said the group worked early on with Disney Institute to learn the principles of storytelling and managing the customer experience. The goal, he said, is to connect visitors with the story of the horses, the land, and the people, and to develop fans of farms and clinics.
"Stakeholder farms and members of the board have been working for nearly two years to make this idea a reality, and have grown in supporters every step of the way," Bell said. "Together we have developed a sustainable model. Now, with staff, we're beginning the next phase."
Hardy is a longtime Lexington resident and graduate of Asbury University. She has lived abroad and traveled throughout the Middle East with husband, Jacob Hardy, a business owner and Lexington native. Hardy most recently worked with Associations International, a full service association management company in Lexington.
"Kentucky has a wealth of tradition and history in the equine industry, and visitors flock to our racing and sport facilities, but it's sometimes challenging to access the farms and clinics," said Hardy. "There is tremendous demand for experiences at those locations, and for encounters with the horse. We believe that opening the gates and providing memorable experiences will make true fans of our farms and clinics. It's exciting to see those who steward this beautiful land and care for these incredible athletes coming together to support that effort."
The Horse Country, Inc., board of directors includes Clifford Barry (Pin Oak Stud), Headley Bell and Price Bell (Mill Ridge Farm), Brutus Clay (Runnymede Farm), Dr. Luke Fallon (Hagyard Equine Medical Institute), Allison Hancock (Claiborne Farm), John Philips (owner, Darby Dan Farm), Mary Quinn Ramer (president, VisitLEX, Lexington's convention and visitor's center), Randy Thompson (Darley America), and Shannon Arvin (Stoll Keenon Ogden law firm).