The Breeders’ Cup Forum: The Future of Equine Education in the Bluegrass - Horse Racing News | Paulick Report

The Breeders’ Cup Forum: The Future of Equine Education in the Bluegrass

Dr. Nancy Cox, co-chair of the blue-ribbon nominating committee that will be responsible for selecting members of the board of directors of the HISA Authority as well as members of its two standing committees: Anti-doping and Medication Control, and Racetrack Safety.

Nancy Cox was recently promoted to the dean of the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and the Environment, replacing former dean Scott Smith.

Cox, previously the associate dean of research in the college, was the founding administrator of the university's equine studies department, which works closely with the Thoroughbred industry in Lexington, Ky. She holds degrees in English and animal physiology, and has worked both as a researcher and administrator in Mississippi.

What's the difference between UK's equine program and other college equine programs like those at the University of Louisville or the University of Arizona?
The UK undergraduate program is called Equine Science and Management, and by and large it focuses on horse production and business management, with different areas of emphasis available to the student. Our program focuses on all types of equine enterprises, and our extension programs focus on all types of enterprises as well.  The U of L program is in a business school, whereas our program is in an agricultural school. The AZ program is in the agricultural school but focuses on the racing industry primarily, according to its course descriptions. However it is really important to note that our program considers U of L a partner and we involve each other in teaching courses for both programs.

What are your goals for your new position as dean?
The College of Agriculture, Food and Environment is a strong college with a distinguished record of scholarship and service. Among my goals are: 1) to lead a strategic planning process to reflect the college-wide mission that now formally includes “food” and “environment” 2) to serve businesses in the agriculture (including horses) and forestry business 3) to expand our already strong experiential learning for students, and 4) to strengthen business management and accountability as we incorporate the new university financial model.

How is the equine science and management program fitting into the state's economy in terms of producing people who go on to work in the equine industry, and what are your goals for it going forward?
Our program has graduated 83 students, of the 71 graduates who responded to a survey, 72 percent are employed in the equine industry and 21 percent went for additional schooling (graduate/professional school, vet school and Darley Flying Start Program).

Our undergraduate population is about 65 percent out-of-state students.  But it should be recognized that the industry is full of business leaders who came here to the horse capital to major in one of any number of studies at UK. It is important to note that our undergraduate major, Equine Science and Management, involves a lot of industry input, through internships, guest lectures, and a formal advisory committee. We want to get this right, and we are all in this together!

How do you see the College fitting into the state's horse industry, now and looking ahead?
The College made a deliberate effort in 2005 to increase our services to Kentucky's signature industry. We hired additional faculty and redirected some positions to add to the research strength of the Gluck Equine Research Center and the Animal and Food Sciences programs. Now, we have a robust undergraduate program with approximately 266 students, a high-impact economic studies effort that brought us the 2012 Kentucky Equine Survey, and significant programs in pasture and environmental management.

As a land-grant university, we do teaching, research and outreach programs to advance knowledge to support the industry. Looking ahead, we will continue to work closely with our stakeholders to brainstorm about new programs that are needed.

Interestingly, the KY Equine Survey was first suggested by some members of the Kentucky Thoroughbred Farm Managers Club. We want our Equine Programs members at UK to serve in that sort of a partnership, with all breeds represented in the Commonwealth.  Another thing the College has helped with is the recognition that horses are a key part of the agricultural economy, in partnership with Farm Bureau, KTA/KTOB, the Kentucky Department of Agriculture and the American Horse Council.

What new projects are on the horizon in the College that the Thoroughbred industry should know about?
Our college will always continue to ask the hard, long term research questions like production of vaccines and improving reproductive health in our Gluck Equine Research Center, or the impact of nutrition on lifetime performance of broodmares and racehorses in the Animal and Food Sciences Department. We are making great strides in parasitology research, and for the first time we are developing economic impacts of parasites and disease so that the industry can make better decisions.

We also have developed new programs in pasture and environmental management, which we will continue to strengthen. An expert group of county agents makes sure that the latest management techniques get to our stakeholders through many different educational programs, including Horse College.

The results of the statewide equine survey came out last year. Was there anything about those numbers that surprised you? How can the racing industry use those figures?
First let me say that the survey was done with the best methodology available in this country, so we have confidence in the numbers.  A lot of people thought there were more Quarter Horses than Thoroughbreds until we did the survey. The survey also underscores the investment in infrastructure for the industry being the highest, by far, of any state that has done a survey.

As to the racing industry, economic impact of the racing sector was $1.28 billion, and the breeding and competition segments of the industry make significant contributions as well – to the tune of an economic impact of $710 million and $635 million, respectively.  Also, the breeding sector is responsible for the highest number of jobs – direct and indirect jobs created by presence of equine industry in KY is over 16,000.

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