Business

New group hopes to unite non-Thoroughbred horse business people

Robin DeGraff, whose DeGraff Stables in Midway is an equine reproduction business and whose stallions include quarter horse IndyGo, helped start the Kentucky Equine Networking Association.
Robin DeGraff, whose DeGraff Stables in Midway is an equine reproduction business and whose stallions include quarter horse IndyGo, helped start the Kentucky Equine Networking Association. Charles Bertram | Staff

The artificial insemination of horses is, let's say, highly technical and not well-known in these parts because Thoroughbred racehorse breeding rules require, well, let's say, that both horses be present instead of only one.

Still Robin DeGraff makes a living sending frozen semen from champion quarter horses and paint horses on her farm near Midway to farms all over the world. And even though she represents a smaller piece of the Horse Capital of the World than the Thoroughbred industry, she wants to strengthen the equine businesses that get less attention.

So DeGraff and a host of people who feel the same way have started a new group, the Kentucky Equine Networking Association, to provide networking and resources to the many horse businesses around Kentucky that focus on different breeds and disciplines.

"We all might be able to benefit from being able to get together and promote our pleasure horses, sport horses, saddle horses, et cetera," De Graff said. "There are so many breeds here besides Thoroughbreds, we thought that there really was a place for all trainers, instructors, people involved in providing services, to talk about what's available and what we need help with."

The group has had two start-up meetings, which attracted more than 100 people each. One of the biggest topics that came up, DeGraff said, was how to make it through a bad economy.

KENA was in the works before the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games this fall in Lexington, but the showcase of eight equestrian disciplines certainly spurred interest in how multifaceted the horse world is.

Long-time Thoroughbred breeder Ted Kuster attended the Games on several days and started to learn more about people in other disciplines in Kentucky, such as dressage, show jumping and eventing.

"The horse industry is vital to Central Kentucky, whether it's Warmbloods, Thoroughbreds, trotters, Morgans," Kuster said. "We need to keep the industry going, and this is one way to help."

As a Thoroughbred breeder, Kuster said, he was particularly interested in how many sport horses are part or pure Thoroughbred, such as event horses that were unsuccessful on the track.

"That's another avenue for our Thoroughbreds, and I wanted to learn more about it," Kuster said.

The Games also brought in Emmett Ross, a Texas-based endurance riding trainer who was the discipline manager for the endurance event. He attended the first meeting of KENA and plans to spend more time in the Bluegrass with other endurance events.

"The sport horse industry is growing in Kentucky," Ross said. "I think there's a lot more people in the Bluegrass area who have horses besides Thoroughbreds, and there's a lot of investments going on there. KENA makes a lot of sense."

DeGraff said KENA will continue to have meetings with speakers on various topics as organizers determine the best way to prioritize what its members want to learn and do. She would like to see monthly field trips, where KENA members could go to equine businesses or stables to see what they can learn.

DeGraff also is involved with the Kentucky Horse Council and said KENA will focus much more on equine business than recreation.

"We want to make sure what we're doing is developing a professional group so that people can improve their horse-related businesses," she said.

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