Corrie Buckles, 18, had her hands full Thursday, "lunging" with a thoroughbred mare named Sassy at the Locust Trace AgriScience Farm in Lexington.
Lunging is a method of exercising a horse at the end of a long line. And Sassy, being in a cooperative mood, was soon trotting in a circle around Corrie and following her directions.
Corrie, a senior at Henry Clay High School, has loved horses most of her life, but hasn't had much experience with highly strung thoroughbreds.
But she is getting that experience now, thanks to a new partnership between Locust Trace and the North American Racing Academy (NARA), which is a part of Bluegrass Community and Technical College.
Under the arrangement, students like Corrie can take NARA classes at Locust Trace, earning dual credit toward high school graduation and a certificate or associate degree in equine studies from BCTC.
Various classes are available. Corrie is taking equine physiology, learning her way around thoroughbreds and getting a leg up on an equine career at the same time. She isn't sure just what that career will be yet, but she knows she wants to be around horses.
"I'd rather be outside working with horses than inside any day," Corrie said Thursday.
Locust Trace and NARA kicked off their new partnership when schools opened this fall. About 25 Locust Trace students are enrolled in classes under the program, according to school officials.
The Fayette Public Schools opened Locust Trace in 2011 as a vocational training center where county high school students could study agricultural and equine sciences.
The North American Racing Academy, founded in 2006, is best known for its jockey training program. But NARA also offers a "horseman pathway" through BCTC, which helps students prepare for many different careers in the horse industry, from training race horses to managing stallion barns. The Locust Trace-NARA partnership focuses on the horseman pathway.
"We wanted people to know that training jockeys isn't all we do," said Remi Bellocq, executive director of equine programs at BCTC. "So, we've been working toward becoming a workforce provider for the horse racing and breeding industries."
Students participating in the classes at Locust Trace range from kids who'd hardly touched a horse before to youngsters who have been around horses most of their lives, said Lori Mays, who teaches some of the classes.
Students in the program also can learn from some of the area's top horsemen.
Earlier this week, thoroughbred trainer Ken McPeek lectured at Locust Trace on selecting and training horses. McPeek, a graduate of Tates Creek High School and the University of Kentucky, has won more than 115 stakes races in his career.
The overall intent is to provide more opportunities for students like Corrie Buckles who believe the horse industry is where they're supposed to be.
"I love the program," she said.