Montplaisir: How Educating People Can Better Our Horses’ Lives

In my new role as Equine Education Coordinator for the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP), I’ve been tasked with building awareness for the equine industry’s educational and employment opportunities. This includes creating relationships with youth organizations, leading outreach through events, and serving as an ambassador for the initiatives we have in place.

The industry struggles with recruitment and retention of workforce, and I repeatedly hear sentiments that today’s youth can no longer relate to this ‘way of life’. Countering that notion, I believe in maintaining a positive growth mindset, and in the transformative power of education. I also believe we already have a template for recruiting and developing people in the way we develop racehorses.

We begin working with horses at a young age, through lots of human contact and handling with foals, ground work with weanlings, and starting yearlings under saddle.

When working with a young horse, it is rewarding to see and feel the learning cogs starting to turn – the softening into your hands, ears intent on a human teacher rather than calling out for equine friends, head lowering and stretching out from poll to tail. Early training facilitates progression, establishes trust, and builds confidence.

We do not expect horses to succeed without a proper foundation, so why would we expect that of humans?

To find future racehorses, we go to sales and select prospects. When it comes to finding people for the workforce, the process should not be much different. Many of the under-30s I know who are working in the equine industry stumbled upon it by chance. Their stories range from turning on the television and catching a big race, going on a class tour to a farm, or introduction through a family friend or relative who was a casual fan. This process could be improved through intentional, strategic recruitment. Connecting with schools, integrating equine into existing curriculums, and demonstrating how horses can improve educational attainment are all ways to get kids thinking about careers with horses.

Even when we have our prospective racehorses, they are not loaded onto the horse van and shipped directly to the racetrack. They spend ample time at training centers, learning with other youngsters about how to gallop in company and on their own.

The Thoroughbred industry values experience in its employees, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve heard the phrase, “Young people need to pay their dues.” However, I have never had someone define to me exactly what this means. We cannot expect people to just figure out how to find a mentor, which technical training or university programs they should apply for, and where to locate internships. We must formulate a training plan, and outline the pathways required for gaining experience and upward mobility in jobs. This sets people up for positive experiences and success.

Finally, when we have our horses fit and ready for the track, we don’t expect them to win races without daily training. In addition to that training, they also receive time off and rehab to keep them mentally and physically healthy. No matter someone’s age, knowledge level or job title, continuing education should never be overlooked. There is no ceiling blocking anyone from being a more diligent employee, involved team member, compassionate manager, and devoted steward of the horse.

It comes down to this: the better we educate the industry’s workforce, the better the horses will be cared for. Hands guided by knowledge and experience are developed through a strong foundation – and maintained through continued training.

Annise Montplaisir is the equine education coordinator for the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP) and is a graduate of the Godolphin Flying Start program.

The post Montplaisir: How Educating People Can Better Our Horses’ Lives appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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