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HORSE FARM WORKERS' EDUCATIONAL ASSISTANCE FUND
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Dear Thoroughbred Breeding and Racing Family,
I was a guest recently on Steve Byk's great show, “At the Races.” At the end of my interview, Steve said, “Rob, after decades of success, what do you continue to be most proud of?”
He might have been expecting me to name a favorite horse or a Grade 1 win. But without hesitation I replied, “The Horse Farm Workers' Educational Assistance Fund.”
When it comes to horses, I've been very lucky to have teamed up over many years with Tom Evans of Trackside Farm where I based Foxfield and Liberation Farm's broodmares. But far and away more important than the many successful horses bred and co-bred was the day in 1996 when Tom and I (with Fred Seitz) launched this scholarship Fund for children of full-time horse farm workers in central Kentucky.
All of us in the industry owe a deep debt to workers at the farm level who do so much to make everything else possible. Those who dedicate themselves and stick with it work long hours for little pay. Often in harsh conditions, they clean stalls, groom and care for nicks and injuries, foal mares and tend babies, turn out and bring in, maintain safe ground and fences, and do a thousand other necessary tasks needed for giving future sale and racehorses the best start possible. Now, at Thanksgiving and every day, I give heartfelt thanks to every one of them.
What better way to show our gratefulness than by giving their children a “leg up” on making their dreams a reality.
These young people I have come to know are quite extraordinary. Many are the first in their family to attempt education after high school. They are the complete opposite of feeling “entitled.” They have internalized their parents' work ethic and have tremendous potential. Most work 10-25 hrs/wk while carrying a full course load. Our main goal is to provide enough money and personal support so that each scholar can succeed by making schoolwork their number one priority.
And succeed they do. We have awarded 684 annual scholarships over the last 24 years, with scholarships averaging over $2,000 per year. And the success rate has been tremendously heart-warming. Many scholars after graduation have pursued helping professions — teaching, nursing, social work, and the ministry. Others have gone into sales or business. Most importantly for our industry, many have returned to farming and working with horses. One scholar even became Director of Racing at a major North American track.
Because the Fund has a volunteer Board, over 90% of donations (all tax deductible) flow through to scholarship recipients. Current Board members are Tom Evans (President), Dan Pride (Vice-President), Judge Wilson (Secretary), Mary Ryan (Treasurer), Stu Pollard, Chet Blackey, and me. Carl Pollard is Advisor to the Board and Muffy Stuart is the earth-angel Coordinator of the Fund who provides wonderful, personal support and encouragement to our scholars throughout the school year.
Our education Fund depends on donations to keep on keeping on. So please visit our website and help us support this remarkable group of young people.