by Sara Gordon
Sara Gordon, a junior at Virginia Tech, interned for The Equiery in the summer of 2016. Since then she has been immersing herself in the Maryland Thoroughbred industry.
For a young person considering future careers, looking at the Thoroughbred industry, especially with the notion to become involved, can be intimidating. But the reality is, the “sport of kings,” filled with historic equine bloodlines, families and traditions, stands with open arms ready for new blood, new ideas, and driven people to implement them.
The Maryland Thoroughbred Career Program (MTCP) was created by Jordyn Egan and Cricket Goodall of the Maryland Horse Breeder’s Association. Inspired by the Godolphin Flying Start program (a two-year leadership and management training program in Ireland specializing in international Thoroughbred racing), they wanted to offer young adults the opportunity to get to know all aspects of the Maryland Thoroughbred industry. Although only one week, the MTPC was flexible in how it could be tailored to each individual selected depending on the students’ specific career interest. Throughout this program, no career idea or plan was too far-fetched. The outside world may just see the horses, jockeys, and trainers, but the industry is made up of so much more. But students didn’t need to know exactly what they wanted to do in the industry to be able to explore it. For me, I am pursuing a degree in multimedia journalism with a minor in equine science at Virginia Tech. An interesting combination, but one that would flow perfectly into my hopes of working in the publication/media/communication side of the industry.
Our week started off with an introduction to the MHBA staff, while all of us participants got to know each other as well. We were able to sit in on a Horseland meeting for the Maryland State Fair, as well as speak with Ross Peddicord of the Maryland Horse Industry Board, who provided insight into the current state and future plans for the horse industry in Maryland. In just the first day of the program, we had been exposed to the MHBA, MHIB, the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred magazine staff, and a meeting with Mike Hopkins of the Maryland Racing Commission.
Despite the short time frame of the program, it was jam-packed with constant travel to each new location. Highlights included: visits to Fair Hill (Elkton) and the Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center, Heritage Stallions (Chesapeake City), Sagamore Farm (Reisterstown) and The Mill of Bel Air (Bel Air). We had meetings with members at the Laurel Park racing office, listened to Steuart Pittman discuss the creation of the Retired Racehorse Project, and spent a day at the races with the Maryland Horse Council.
In the span of six days, we managed to visit six major Thoroughbred farms, dozens of important members in the Thoroughbred community, and explored various associations and topics reflecting the variety within the industry.
Although I listed all of them as separate entities, the one thing everyone we met during the program repeated was that being in the industry isn’t just a job, it’s a way of life. Everyone had their own personal story of how they worked their way up the ranks, whether they had originally planned to become a part of the industry or not. Whether you prefer the marketing, regulation, publication, breeding, training, or Thoroughbred aftercare, there is no limit to the opportunities available.
Being a part of this program, especially the first class, has truly been one of the best experiences of my life. Going into the program, I knew that I wanted to continue being involved with horses for the rest of my life, and previous experience working on a Thoroughbred farm had set my eye on the industry. But this program has truly cemented my dedication to becoming a part of this industry.
I know that the six of us who participated this summer will treasure the experiences and connections made, and we are especially grateful to Jordyn Egan for putting in so much effort to make it as special as it was. I look forward to seeing this program thrive and its participants lead the change that is necessary for Maryland to once again take its rightful place as a leader in the nation’s Thoroughbred industry.
Top 10 Tips from the Maryland Thoroughbred Career Program
1. Gateway opportunities are the most important, take advantage of those (Ross Peddicord – MHIB)
2. Personality goes a long way (Mike Hopkins – Maryland Racing Commission)
3. Always have a clear idea of what’s important to you (Kathy Anderson – Equine Veterinary Care at Fair Hill Training Center)
4. If you’re going to be in the business, know who’s developing your horses (Willie White – MHBA)
5. You put yourself into a better position by chasing what you think is a good horse, rather than what’s good on the market (Louis Merryman – Heritage Stallions)
6. Whatever you can do to learn finer points of communication is very important (David Richardson – MTHA)
7. You must carry on despite criticism, continue what you’re doing (Tom LaMarra – MTHA)
8. If you choose a job in this industry, know it’s going to be your life (Sal Sinatra – MJC)
9. Respect the people who work with you and around you (Phoebe Hayes – Director of Horsemen’s Relations at Pimlico)
10. There are plenty of ways to get a horse-fix, as well as plenty of ways to make a career (Cricket Goodall – MHBA)