Reflecting on the experience in the program last summer, here are some highlights from the group:
Since her experience in 2017, Gregory has greater faith in her future aspirations. “Participating in this program further solidified my desire to become an equine nutritionist,” she said. “It gave me a much greater appreciation for all of the other careers one can have [in it], but reminded me where my true passion lies.” Gregory hopes to gain a year-long internship at Kentucky Equine Research in Versailles, Ky. and afterward, plans to return to Maryland to pursue a master’s degree. She ultimately wants to serve in a position within the industry doing research, consulting, and/or teaching. As for her ideas of how the industry could get the younger generation more involved, she said, “Take them on a tour of the farm, show them your training equipment and explain why you use it, let them watch a horse be worked, etc. It’s the things they can see, hear, smell, and experience that outweighs anything they could be taught in a lecture or classroom.”Tabitha Gregory, of Frederick, is finishing her junior year at the University of Maryland College Park, where she continues to pursue a degree in Animal Science. Since her experience in the MTCP, she has become a dedicated member in on-campus organizations such as the Maryland Equestrian Club and Block and Bridle. Gregory has also assisted with two equine research studies and plans to volunteer for a third this summer, while continuing to work as an assistant at the Maryland 4-H Foundation and as an employee of the UMD Thoroughbred Breeding Program. Despite a busy schedule in and out of the classroom, Gregory has still managed to keep in touch with the industry by enjoying races and betting at Laurel Park, while also keeping up with breeding news and following prominent sires and their offspring.
Sidney Boots, of Lexington, Ky., is set to graduate from the University of Kentucky this month and is spending her final months abroad student teaching in Australia. Boots will be receiving her degree in Agricultural Education, with a minor in Agricultural Economics. In addition, she is the Horse Racing Club president, a Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders Association member, and a Keeneland College Ambassador. Outside of the months she’s spent abroad, Boots has remained in her positions for racing and sales at Keeneland, but plans to start looking for a full-time position in the industry once she graduates. Her experience within the MTCP gave her the confidence she needed to continue to explore the industry. “I got to see Winx race in Australia, and I had to pursue that opportunity on my own. I got to shadow in the racing office at Keeneland, and I don’t know that I would’ve pursued that chance without already having experienced the racing office in Maryland,” she said.
In the meantime, as she wades her way into more industry involvement, she maintains contact with MTCP’s coordinator and leader, Jordyn Egan, as someone to go to for advice. Boots also reunited with connections at Country Life Farm at Keeneland sales. Although born and bred in Kentucky, she has a special place in her heart for Maryland and the efforts for getting more young people more involved in the industry, “I have really enjoyed seeing what Maryland has done to attract youth, including youth days at the races and the MTCP itself. I think the Thoroughbred industry in general can do a better job of marketing that they are willing to help young people get involved,” she said.
John Piassek, of Cranford, N.J., is wrapping up his senior year of college, graduating this spring from Loyola University with a degree in Business Administration, with a Marketing concentration. Outside of class, he remains active within the industry, particularly on the web, as the managing editor of Danonymous Racing, while also running the “This Week at Laurel” Twitter account. Along with his experience in MTCP last summer, he also worked for the New York Racing Association during the 2017 racing season, as a member of the “Bets Squad.” In this position, he helped new customers learn more about horse racing, while answering questions about their experiences. He continues to be a popular name on Twitter, handicapping the races at Laurel Park and sharing his insightful opinions on races and future contenders. He plans to stay in Maryland if he gets the chance. “I hope to stay involved in the industry in Maryland, as it’s one of the fastest-growing states for Thoroughbred racing, and has been putting out a thriving and exciting racing product over the last few years,” he said.
His thoughts on the industry as a whole have “changed for the better,” through his experience of learning about and meeting big players behind the scenes, overall making the sport more interesting. And when it comes to attracting a new generation, Piassek believes betting is the key. “There’s no better betting game out there than racing; the complexity and excitement of it make it a thrill. Several tracks, such as Keeneland and Saratoga, have started up elaborate fan-education programs, and their model ought to serve as an example for tracks everywhere,” he said. “If you improve fan education, the intimidation barrier is lowered, and people become more interested in betting.”
Since her time in MTCP, Katie Brooks, from Columbia, graduated from the University of Maryland College Park in December 2017, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science. She spent time working at Shamrock Farm, in Woodbine, where she worked with yearlings in preparation for the Fasig-Tipton yearling sale last fall. Through the experience she gained at Shamrock, she also had the opportunity to learn how to handle some of the farm’s stallions. From there, she got the chance to work with the hat contest during Maryland Million Day in the fall, and has been spending the 2018 spring semester as an intern in the Kentucky Equine Management internship program.
Brooks is spending six months on a farm in central Kentucky that focuses on breeding and foaling. “From my latest experiences, I would definitely say I am now more involved in the industry. MTCP not only showed me what I was interested in, but also whatI wasn’t or couldn’t see a career for myself in. As of right now, I am still leaning toward becoming an equine veterinarian,” she said. After completing the program, Brooks held onto the advice that stuck with her most, “make sure you network and make a name for yourself.” She has kept in contact with her fellow interns, as well as Egan, and found many opportunities through professionals in the industry that she met during the program. She believes it just takes getting one foot in the door to reach a whole group that can pull you all the way through it. “I was lucky to have Dr. Amy Burk, with the UMD Equine Breeding Program, to initially introduce me to the Thoroughbred industry and help spark my love for it,” she said.
Megan George, of Reisterstown, nears the end of her senior year at University of Maryland College Park, where she will receive a degree in Animal Science with a focused track in Pre-Veterinary medicine. After MTCP, she spent last summer working with Katy Voss at Chanceland Farm in West Friendship, handling weanlings, yearlings and broodmares. She is an intern associate manager for the UMD Thoroughbred Breeding Program and is also a teaching assistant for the course “Equine Reproductive Management.”
After she graduates, George will be preparing for a position she’s accepted with a non- profit ministry Cru in Australia, which starts in January 2019. She also plans to work in research or in a veterinary practice, building upon existing skills. Ever since her time in MTCP, George has honed her focus for the future and remained proactive in seeking out opportunities within the industry, which she hopes other youth will take advantage of. “Don’t be afraid to take risks and let yourself grow from every experience,” she said. “Not every moment will meet your expectations or come with ease, but approach them all with an open mind, patience, and resilience.” She plans to apply to veterinary school, specializing in a field such as reproduction or exercise physiology.
And now, a note from the writer, of Woodbine: I am in Blacksburg, Va., finishing my junior year at Virginia Tech, where I am pursuing a degree in Multimedia Journalism with a minor in Animal Science/ Equine emphasis. I have authored articles covering the experience of the program published in the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred in August 2017, as well as The Equiery’s September 2017 edition. In August, I made the trip to Saratoga Springs, N.Y., for the Equestricon convention, and had the opportunity to shadow interns of the Saratoga Special daily newspaper. The majority of my extracurricular time has been spent competing on Virginia Tech’s Hunter Team and managing public relations for the Virginia Tech Equestrian Club.
Not growing up following racing or being involved at the track, I wasn’t always sure I would be able to find a place within the industry. But a love for Thoroughbreds and MTCP helped eliminate the intimidation factor and really showed me all there is to do and experience, while providing amazing connections that I’ve been able to utilize. As for this summer, I will work as a full-time intern for the Maryland Horse Council and The Equiery, and hope to be able to cover the second year of MTCP.
One thing I heard repeatedly throughout the week was the need to bring the younger generation into the industry, so it’s time to do that. Piquing interest for potential careers is great, but it’s time we had more offerings to gain experience from those in the industry themselves. If you are a part of the racing industry, no matter the capacity, take a chance on a working student, volunteer, or intern.