Kentucky University Makes Horse Industry a Priority

The University of Kentucky has launched an initiative designed to ensure its programs are responsive to the needs of the horse industry in the state.

The College of Agriculture Equine Initiative is a partnership between UK and the horse industry. The Gluck Equine Research Foundation, Kentucky Thoroughbred Association, Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders, and College of Agriculture faculty and administrators facilitated the partnership.

According to a May 23 release from the College of Agriculture, the program will be conducted in partnership with the Kentucky Equine Education Project and other equine organizations in the state. UK president Lee Todd Jr. cited the importance of the horse industry to Kentucky.

"Horses represent Kentucky's number one agricultural enterprise with nearly a billion dollars in sales annually," Todd said in a statement. "As the state's flagship, land-grant research institution, we have a responsibility to do everything we can to protect this industry that is so important economically and to our Commonwealth's very identity."

The initiative calls for creation an equine planning committee that will "develop comprehensive solutions to challenges confronting the industry," the release said. Meetings will be held around the state to get input on new programs.

Todd supports hiring another epidemiologist at the Livestock Disease and Diagnostic Center to create a real-time information system to handle disease outbreaks and diagnoses. During the recent General Assembly, the center received $8.5 million for improvements.

Todd also said UK received a $6-million gift from the estate of Janet Koller. The money will be used to study diseases as well as challenges facing the horse industry.

"The equine industry is a global industry today, one in which clusters of economic activity form around areas of success," Todd said. "UK must be a partner with our horse agribusiness community to sustain--and improve upon--our success. If UK is going to be a catalyst for a new commonwealth, one of our most important initiatives must be to help our already established areas of success maintain their progress."

The UK initiative follows efforts by Kentucky Gov. Kentucky Ernie Fletcher to promote the state's signature horse industry. The Fletcher administration was behind legislation passed earlier this year that shifted about $15 million in sales taxes on stud fees to breed development programs for Thoroughbreds, Standardbreds, Quarter Horses, and other breeds.

The Gluck Equine Research Center at one time conducted regular research at the behest of the Kentucky Equine Drug Research Council, which receives about $800,000 a year for such projects. The program was suspended last spring, however, and there has been no word as to its reinstatement.

There has been behind-the-scenes talk within the Kentucky racing industry that efforts could be made to establish an equine drug-testing lab in the state. Currently, the tests are performed at Iowa State University.