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Horse Industry Looks To Bourbon Trail For Inspiration

You’ve heard about Kentucky’s popular Bourbon Trail. Now, another of the state’s signature industries is looking to create a similar experience.

It’s one thing to watch a horse race from the stands – and another to meet the horses and their caretakers close-up. It’s that difference a new coalition dubbed Horse Country, Inc. hopes to make for tourists and equine enthusiasts in Kentucky.

"The last thing a fish can describe is water and sometimes that's how we view our industry," says Horse Country board member Price Bell. "What we do every day we don't do a great job of connecting people to it."

Bell says the idea is to create horse farm fans, people who actively keep track of the ins and outs at the farms they visit. He also wants to see tourists directed to the experiences most likely to resonate with them.

"If you're a family of five and you have children, three of them under the age of five, a stallion operation may not be the best place to entertain your children. However, at the Horse Park they have an amazing pony petting exhibit," Bell offers as an example.

A report by consultants McKinsey & Company found the racing fan base declining at a rate of about four percent annually. Horse Country executive director Anne Sabatino Hardy says other reports reveal an untapped demand for an expanded horse experience in Kentucky. She tells WUKY she would measure the success of the organization with one question.

"When someone leaves a farm, are they a fan?" Hardy says. "Every time we've seen folks have experiences and encounters with the horse and the farm, they leave a fan. They leave energized and excited and engaged in a way that they might have not been before."

The Bourbon Trail attracts an estimated 750,000 visitors annually.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.
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