Turf Manager Certification Program Successfully Launches
With turf racing events steadily gaining in popularity on the racing calendar in the United States, the newly launched Racecourse Manager Certification Program: Turfgrass as an Equine Sports Surface focused on turf cultivation, conditions and impacts. The continuing education program stems from the combined efforts of the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA) Safety and Integrity Alliance, the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment; and the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory (RSTL).
Launched in June with three live-streamed webinars, the program provides intensive research-based education for horse industry professionals so they more fully understand recent trends and research on equine surfaces and the broad impacts of surface on equine performance.
“With the increased popularity of turf racing and demand on turf courses in North America, it made perfect sense to start this series with a focus on turf racing and the use of turf in other equestrian sports. And partnering with the University of Kentucky and the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory provided for a superior educational platform,” Alex Waldrop, NTRA CEO, said.
Providing information to racetrack superintendents and equine facility managers with information to help address the increased pressure on equine turf surfaces in North America: turf cultivation, conditions and impacts were a main focus. The three live-streamed sessions included:
- “Selection of Turf for Climate Zones,” (Mike Goatley, PhD, professor and extension turfgrass specialist, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University; Gregg Munshaw, PhD, director of agronomy for Mountain View Seed; Elizabeth Guertal, PhD, Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences, College of Agriculture Auburn University; Logan Freeman, MTC Board member and golf course superintendent at Mountain Branch Golf Club in Joppa, Maryland; Michael D. Boekholder, director, field operations at Philadelphia Phillies; and Geoffrey Rinehart, turf management lecturer, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Maryland)
- “Cultivation of Turf Compaction and Wear,” (Jim Pendergest, general manager at The Thoroughbred Center; Michael D. Boekholder, director, field operations at Philadelphia Phillies; Leif Dickinson, superintendent at Del Mar Thoroughbred Club; Sean Gault, consultant and former director of Thoroughbred surfaces at Woodbine; Geoffrey Rinehart, turf management lecturer, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Maryland; Logan Freeman, MTC Board member and golf course superintendent at Mountain Branch Golf Club in Joppa, Maryland ; Trey Rogers, PhD, professor, turfgrass research - golf course renovations - Sports Turf and Golf Turf Management Programs; Turfgrass Research, Michigan State University College of Agriculture & Natural Resources; and Elizabeth Guertal, PhD, Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences, College of Agriculture Auburn University)
- “Measurement of Turf Condition,” (Sarah Jane Hobbs, PhD, equine and human biomechanics, School of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Central Lancashire; Alison Northrop, senior lecturer, Nottingham Trent University; Lars Roepstorff, Swedish University of Agriculture; Elizabeth Guertal, PhD, Department of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences, College of Agriculture Auburn University; and Mick Peterson, PhD, director of the Racetrack Safety Program at UK and Executive Director of the RSTL
“With more than 20 presentations from 13 different speakers across multiple universities and organizations, not to mention time zones, this was a big undertaking. We were really pleased with the interest from the horse industry at large, though this was originally conceived for racetrack superintendents and such. I’m pleased to see participation across the spectrum of horse activities,” Peterson, said. “The certification program is an excellent example of the land-grant university mission—to take research-based, practical information to the public so they can put it into practice. I’m pleased that our audience, which grew each session and peaked at 32, will have this material to help them understand and make sound decisions about their equine surfaces, whether it’s a turf race or training course, a polo field or an eventing course.”
Participant feedback has been very positive across equine disciplines.
“I signed up for this course as I am the owner of grass arena polo club. We have three grass fields and one grass arena. I am personally responsible for the grass arena which is located south of San Antonio, Texas. The opportunity to get expert information on how to maintain a turf field was extremely welcome. Once the class started, I was amazed at the information that was presented and the opportunity to follow up with all the instructors and presenters. I really enjoyed the course,” Karl Hilberg, a founding member of the Central Texas Polo Association, said.
“The turf meeting was excellent—technical, practical and scientific topics were discussed. It also gave us the opportunity to see what is happening on the other racetracks and how others are managing the procedures in different types of climate. It was great!” said Paulo Nania, racing surfaces engineer at Woodbine Entertainment.
Information about the program is available here.
Videos of the presentations can be watched for free on the UK Ag Equine Programs YouTube channel. The University of Kentucky will be administering the certification program. The fee to take the certificate test is $50, and email notification will be sent when the testing portion for the certificate launches in July. Racecourse Manager Certification Program: Turfgrass as an Equine Sports Surface was sponsored by John Deere. Other sponsors include Duralock, Horsemen’s Track and Equipment, Inc. and Equinox Racing.
This is the first of a series of continuing education programs for horse industry professionals. Sign up to receive email updates here. Follow the Equine Sports Turfgrass Alliance on Twitter at @equineturfgrass.
Karin Pekarchik, MS, senior extension associate for distance learning in the UK Department of Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering and founder of the UK Female Equestrian Health and Wellness Community of Practice, and Sydney Carter, equine undergraduate major and communications intern with UK Ag Equine Programs, provided this information.