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Equine rescue center takes reins on education

A local equine rescue center recently caught the attention of media outlets thanks to a program that allows them to “Take the Reins” on teaching students about horses and the value of being a responsible community member.

Take the Reins is a program started by the Kentucky Equine Humane Center in Nicholasville during the 2016-2017 school year.

The program has two main purposes, one is to educate children about the importance of taking care of horses properly, how to give back to the community and what a rescue does. Two, it serves as a funding stream that will help the center continue doing what it does best, rescuing horses.

When the program began, over 700 children from a pilot school had the opportunity to interact with and learn about horses from various professionals including Alltech animal nutrition experts, farriers, veterinarians, artists, equine dentists and animal welfare representatives.

During this upcoming school year, the program will cater to three schools from Lexington; Ashland Elementary, Landsdowne Elementary and Christ the King.

“The way it works is each school sponsors a horse that they choose, and that horse is the focal point of their study for the year, or at least until it gets adopted,” Karen Gustin, Executive Director of the Kentucky Equine Humane Center said. “So all the projects they do and the things they learn about center around that horse.”

Take the Reins can support curriculum areas including science, math, language arts, social studies, history and art.

At the end of the semester, students will take a field trip out to the center’s 70-plus acre farm where they will get to meet, interact and have pictures taken with the horse.

During that field trip, students will also have the option to visit Alltech — the corporate sponsor for the Take the Reins program for the past two school years. 

“They’ve really been supportive in helping us get it off the ground,” Gustin said.

The company provides a nutritionist and tours of their facility to complement the tours that are given at the Kentucky Equine Humane Center. During the tours, students learn responsible horse ownership.

The equine center will meet with schools who wish to participate in the program individually to discuss the school’s curriculum and how Take the Reins can be tailored to fit it. 

“We’re pretty much geared toward fourth graders because that’s where Kentucky history is taught, and horses are such a big part of the history of Kentucky,” Gustin said.

Though the program is targeted to fourth graders, other grades could be accommodated.

Currently, the center is only funded to serve three to four schools a year, and though Gustin said they are set for the 2017-2018 school year, schools who are interested are welcome to contact the center. The schools do not have to pay anything for the program thanks to All Tech’s sponsorship.

Schools or anyone interested in learning more about the Take the Reins program can contact the Kentucky Equine Humane Center or visit their website at www.kyehc.org/. 

Currently, the center cares for 50 horses — its full capacity — of various breeds who have been neglected, surrendered or abused. 

“We’re pretty much always full,” Gustin said. “Or as soon as horses leave, we have horses come in.”

It costs the Kentucky Equine Humane Center, which was the first certified equine rescue in the state of Kentucky, $500 per month to take care of one individual horse, this amounts to $6,000 a year.

“It’s a pretty big operation,” Gustin said. “We handle over 140 horses a year in and out of our facility, as far as surrender, rehab, and then eventually adoption, because the goal for every horse is eventually to be adopted.”