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KEEP meeting a success

May 27, 2004

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The first town hall meeting of the Kentucky Equine Education Project Wednesday (May 26) was a rousing success, with more than 600 members of the horse industry on hand at the Kentucky Horse Park near Lexington. The Standardbred industry was well represented as KEEP officials discussed goals for 2004.

KEEP was formed in early May and is in the process of forming a board of directors and hiring an executive director and staff. Its mission is to education the public and legislators on the importance of the horse industry to the Kentucky economy.

KEEP hopes to raise $1.5 million by the end of the year. Memberships range from $100,000 to $5, with an emphasis on numbers. KEEP chairman Brereton Jones said the effort would require participation by as many people as possible, with a goal of having a legislative strategy in place for 2006.

"Every single horse is equal to every other horse," Jones said of the non-partisan, multi-breed nature of KEEP. "This isn't a Thoroughbred thing or a Standardbred thing. It's a Kentucky horse thing."

Ken Jackson of Kentuckiana Farm noted the operation has bred about 1,000 mares in the last four or five years, but few were bred in Kentucky. Kentuckiana has eight stallions in four jurisdictions, but only one is in Kentucky, and only because he is too old to move elsewhere.

"Everyone can see from the Standardbred perspective Kentucky isn't a viable market," Jackson said.

Dr. Luel Overstreet, the western Kentucky owner/breeder known for the "Bluegrass" horses, recalled when he would breed 70 mares in Kentucky in the last 1970s and early 1980s. That number gradually declined, and now he has about 30 mares, all of which are bred in Indiana.

"I did have one Kentucky-bred last year, but it was a mistake," Overstreet said. "The mare was bred to the wrong horse."

Overstreet said the public and legislators must be made aware of how much is lost when horses are moved from Kentucky to other states. He cited everyone from feed suppliers to the people who muck stalls.

KEEP has no legislative agenda, but officials have discussed what they call an unfair tax structure in the state.

"I don't think we'll be ready to influence the General Assembly in 2005," Jones said. "We won't be ready to be a major influence until 2006."
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