Phase 1, March 2005-January 2006 

The Equine Initiative was established by College of Agriculture, Food and Environment Dean Scott Smith in March 2005 and announced by University of Kentucky President Lee T. Todd, Jr. in May 2005, putting into place a radical change in how the college served Kentucky’s signa­ture equine industry with a suite of services appropri­ate for a land-grant university. The changes were in line with the excellent services already being provided for other agricultural species and areas of emphasis by the college.

The Equine Initiative represented a partnership be­tween the college and the horse industry. It was established through efforts of college faculty and administrators, the Gluck Equine Research Foundation, the Kentucky Thorough­bred Association/Kentucky Thoroughbred Owners and Breeders and many other important industry partners.

During its formation, a planning committee from within the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment was also appointed to begin the process of developing the Equine Initia­tive. In addition to a main committee, sub committees met and began to develop education, research and extension components.

The overall committee was chaired by Dr. Lori Gar­kovich, Community and Leadership Development. Committee members included:

  • Dr. Craig Carter, Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center (now Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory)
  • Dr. Bob Coleman, Animal and Food Sciences
  • Dr. Rick Durham, Plant and Soil Sciences
  • Dr. Laurie Lawrence, Animal and Food Sciences
  • Dr. James MacLeod, Veterinary Science
  • Dr. Leigh Maynard, Agricultural Economics
  • Dr. Karen McDowell, Veterinary Science
  • Dr. Lee Meyer, Agricultural Economics
  • Dr. Daniel Potter, Entomology
  • Dr. Ray Smith, Plant and Soil Sciences
  • Dr. James Strickland, USDA ARS-FAPRU
  • Dr. William Witt, Plant and Soil Sciences
  • Dr. Neil Williams, LDDC (now VDL)
  • Dr. Craig Wood, Agricultural Communications
  • Kimberly Brown, MBA, project coordinator

Administrative contributions were made by the associate deans within the college at that time:

  • Dr. Nancy Cox, Associate Dean for Research 
  • Dr. Mike Mullen, Associate Dean for Academic Programs
  • Dr. Larry Turner, Associate Dean for Extension

This time period was also one of information gather­ing and early planning for a sustainable and successful structure for the Equine Initiative.

One of most compelling sources of information dur­ing Phase 1 came from a series of listening sessions. These focus group-like sessions were held around the state and sought input from stakeholders within all facets and breeds of the equine industry. These ses­sions helped define stakeholder priorities and were instrumental in setting the course for the Equine Initia­tive. Many of the core aspects of the current Equine Programs came from this input.

Some of the biggest issues and reoccurring themes to emerge from these sessions included, but weren’t limited to, the need for:

  • A strong undergraduate degree program
  • Increased research on issues directly relevant to the equine industry
  • Better communication and informational resources
  • An increase in outreach programs specific to the equine industry

In addition to these listening sessions, more than 100 responses were gathered from the general public via an online survey available on the newly launched Equine Initiative website.

Another important source for information came from within the College of Agriculture, Food and Environment itself. Feedback was solicited from departments and individuals within the college who were actively working on equine-related projects, had a stake in the equine industry or had a vi­sion of having a role in UK’s developing relationship with Kentucky’s equine industry in the future.

During this time, the Equine Initiative was also recog­nized as a Commonwealth Collaborative, a term used to depict some of UK’s most innovative projects or endeavors addressing Kentucky's priority needs and elevating the Commonwealth's quality of life. From this designation, the Equine Initiative was awarded $10,000 in sup­port for its early activities.

In this initial year, new and redirected faculty and staff positions were created; planning was started for an undergraduate degree program in equine science; new research programs in economics, pastures and forages, disease and reproduction were established; a horse pasture management program was pilot tested to launch in 2006; and new partnerships were developed or explored with other universities and colleges and the equine industry.