Lexington, KY – June 2, 2010 – On Friday, May 21, 2010, third graders from Simmons Elementary School in Woodford County, Kentucky, had a chance of a lifetime. The young children visited the spectacular Kentucky Horse Park as part of the SPEAKS program. The acronym stands for Supporting and Promoting Equine Awareness in Kentucky Schools (SPEAKS) program. The SPEAKS program is a way to take equine education to the next level. Bobby Murphy, who has been the main component of spreading the SPEAKS vision, visited Simmons Elementary School in December 2009 and found that the program can be just as effective in the classroom as it could be at the Kentucky Horse Park. Five months later he fulfilled his promise to bring the children to the Kentucky Horse Park for this wonderful opportunity.
Representatives from Young Professionals Committee of the United States Hunter Jumper Association (USHJA), ambassadors from Just World International, and young riders from the Kentucky Spring Classic were present to teach the children many basics about the sport and what makes horses so important in their lives. The third graders’ eventful day commenced with a tour of the brand new facilities built for the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. This tour included the Kentucky Horse Park, the new Indoor Arena, and many other parts of the park. Just World International representatives Daniel Bluman, Reed Kessler, Alexa Dixon, and Caitlin Ziegler taught the next session. They explained the techniques behind maneuvering a course, how to count strides, and what is important while on a hunter or jumper course. With jumps provided by Just World International and Jessica Newman, children were able to experience the hunter and jumper world on a smaller scale.
Adding to the day’s activities was a session where the children were given the opportunity to interact with a pony in person. This exhibition allowed the children to learn how to physically react to different dispositions of horses. After a quick break for lunch, the school children were given a tour of the International Museum of the Horse. Caitlin Ziegler of Artisan Farms accompanied the group for the tour of the museum to answer any questions the kids had about horses. This museum is provided by the Kentucky Horse Park to give all members of the community a lesson about the history of horses, the multiple disciplines, the different breeds and their purposes.
A few years ago the late Betsy Fishback had this idea to educate children in elementary schools about the importance of horses. Bobby Murphy has moved the SPEAKS program into a full-blown educational project. The idea is to encourage and foster children as they grow and become adults to continue to enjoy horses as part of their lives. Thereafter, they will educate their children and so forth.
The SPEAKS program is just in its infancy but it is already growing exponentially. With support from the Kentucky Horse Park, The Kentucky Horse Park Foundation, The United States Equestrian Federation, The United States Hunter Jumper Association, Just World International, Kentucky Horse Shows, LLC, the city of Lexington, and the State of Kentucky this program will one day move into schools at the elementary level which will encourage appreciation of all equines therefore continuing the growth of all breeds and disciplines all over the world.
Maria Jones, Donor Relations Manager for the Kentucky Horse Park Foundation, noted, “The Kentucky Horse Park and the Kentucky Horse Park Foundation are thrilled to partner with SPEAKS here at the park. We enjoy helping educate our children and future generations about the importance of the horse, the historical significance, and the economic impact it has on all of our futures. We also love that this type of program encourages elementary age children to have a great time with horses. Ultimately, that is why we love the horse it helps us enjoy ourselves.”
Murphy is excited to give this amazing opportunity not only to one grade school but to many more in the future. Murphy plans on continuing to educate children on every aspect of the horse and create more equestrian enthusiasts. Murphy stated, “This tour would not have been possible without everyone’s assistance. I would like to thank everyone who donated their time and in particular Kentucky Horse Shows LLC managers Hugh Kincannon and Robby Murphy who paid for the fuel to transport the children to the Kentucky Horse Park. This has been a very exciting transformation and I am looking forward to more visits to the Kentucky Horse Park. The park signifies a place where all of the dots representing every discipline athlete, spectator, program, farmer, and every person involved in horses can be connected to really ensure the future of our industry.”
About the SPEAKS program:
The SPEAKS program is designed to work with elementary schools and community groups to develop knowledge of the equine industry. From demonstrations at the horse park, to visits at the equine educational museums, SPEAKS goal is to educate the future of society about the importance and impact of the horse industry in their lives.
Thanks to these participants below who donated their time at the Kentucky Horse Park:
Alston Kerr John Nicholson Jessica Newman Denise Quirk Reed Kessler Christina Serio Daniel Bluman Katherine Newman Alexa Dixon Caitlin Ziegler Simmons Elementary School Teachers and Parents
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