A Thoroughbred Job

Grad gets first-hand look at Kentucky Derby

Recent CAFNR graduate Liz Schroepfer, Animal Science ’11 and a minor in Agricultural Economics, is participating in the Kentucky Equine Management Internship. This unique twenty-two week internship provides hands-on experience in the Kentucky thoroughbred industry.

All KEMI interns first complete a one-week orientation course that acquaints students with the KEMI program, offers information on job opportunities for graduates and provides a general overview of the components of the Kentucky thoroughbred industry. Following orientation, interns are employed full-time at participating commercial thoroughbred farms where they work six days a week, 48 hours a week.

“I was drawn to the spring KEMI internship program for its ability to provide interns with hands on experience at farms in the Lexington, Ken. area,” Schroepfer said.

Liz Schroepfer with MU Top Twistin Star at the MU Horse Farm in 2010

Schroepfer’s typical day at Margaux Farm, her assigned farm, begins at 7 a.m. in the foaling barn where she helps take care of new foals and assists in turning out mares that have not yet foaled. She then heads to another barn that contains mares and older foals to turn them out for the day and clean the stalls. After feeding and cleaning, Schroepfer will often help out at the breeding shed.

“About mid-morning, the veterinarian arrives so I get to assist him during his rounds,” Schroepfer commented. “Once the vet is finished we typically take a lunch break and then start afternoon chores of feeding, bringing mares and foals in, and preparing the barn for the next day. Once all the horses are inside we check the foals to make sure they all are healthy.  If time allows we then try to rinse off the legs of those mares that look close to foaling so they are clean when the newborn foal starts trying to nurse.  If everything goes smoothly and gets finished on time we usually are finished with our day around 4 p.m.”

Learning About the Industry

The full work day provides Schroepfer with an overview of the intensive management practices used on commercial thoroughbred breeding operations, and has taught Schroepfer about the vast number of resources the thoroughbred industry has.

“Being in the industry and seeing the amount of care these horses get is incredible,” Schroepfer said. “I attribute this to the fact that this industry is for the most part concentrated in the Lexington area and thus so many farms have access to the best veterinary clinics, veterinarians, farriers,and researchers available.”

A mares and foal at Margaux Farm, where Schroepfer is interning.

As one of the exciting perks of the internship, Schroepfer and her fellow interns get to attend the 2012 Kentucky Derby.

“The Kentucky Derby is my favorite horse race, as it begins all the excitement in the race for the Triple Crown,” Schroepfer said. “The first time I can remember watching it was in 2002 when War Emblem won.  I didn’t know any better then and was cheering for him since I liked his jockey’s silks and his name.”

Although Schroepfer is not directly involved in this upcoming horse racing season, she has been paying attention to and following the major contenders for the Kentucky Derby, she said.

“The foals I am currently working with will make their way to the racetrack at the age of two, so I will be watching in a few years to see if any become successful racehorses,” Schroepfer related. “You never know where the next Kentucky Derby winner will be from!”

Schroepfer first began working with horses in high school when she volunteered with equine assisted therapy. She continued working with horses and broadened her equine knowledge at MU.

A Volunteer Start

“My freshman year of college I started volunteering at the MU equine farm and that summer got a job working with the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdales at Grant’s Farm in St. Louis,” Schroepfer said. “Since then I have spent many hours at the MU farm, both in and out of the classroom, along with my summers at Grant’s Farm to gain my current level of equine experience.”

Schroepfer credits her time volunteering at the MU Equine Teaching Facility for preparing and teaching her the skills needed for her current internships.

“My most valuable preparation from CAFNR for this internship came through my hands on experience and years of volunteering acquired at the MU Equine Teaching Facility with Marci Crosby,” Schroepfer said. “When I entered the program I had limited experience and knowledge of horses, but over the course of four years I learned just about everything I have needed to succeed during my internship.”

A mares and foal at Margaux Farm, where Schroepfer is interning.

The best thing students interested in getting involved in the thoroughbred industry can do is to start networking, Schroepfer says.

“This is an industry where everyone knows everyone else, so you never know who may know of a job opening,” Schroepfer said. “Attending lectures and meetings are great ways to meet others in the industry as well as just being at the racetrack. For those honestly interested in working in the industry I would suggest looking into the KEMI internship or another internship that gets them out working in the industry and making contacts.”

Schroepfer will be attending the MU College Of Veterinary Medicine this August as part of the Class of 2016.  She hopes to specialize in theriogenology and work in the breeding industry.

Equine 101

  • Foal -the term for a young horse, especially those under one year old
  • Foaling -to give birth to a foal
  • Mare -an adult female horse
  • The first Kentucky Derby race occurred in 1875 and was 1.5 miles long. Since then, the length of the race has been changed to 1.25 miles. Today, the race attracts an average of 150,000 visitors each year, including celebrities, presidents, and even Queen Elizabeth.
  • This year’s Kentucky Derby will be held May 5, 2012 and with coverage beginning on NBC at 6 p.m. (central time). .
  • In the early 1900s, owners of the winning Kentucky Derby horses started sending their horses to the Preakness Stakes in Maryland and the Belmont Stakes in New York. In 1930, sportswriter Charles Hatton referred to the same horses running the three races consecutively as the “Triple Crown.” The Preakness, which is the shortest of the three races at 1 3/16 miles, will be held May 19. The Belmont Stakes, which is the longest of the three races at 1 1/2 miles and is known as the “Test of Champions,” will be held June 9. Winning all three of the races is considered the greatest accomplishment in thoroughbred horse racing. Only 11 horses have won all three, according to ESPN. The last horse to win the Triple Crown was Affirmed in 1978, 33 years ago!
  • The MU Equine Teaching Facility houses a quarter horse breeding program that is the primary teaching tool for care and management courses. The Equine Teaching Facility assists in teaching approximately 100 undergraduates interested in equine science each semester, and approximately 20 percent of animal science students declare horses their primary interest. The spring semester equine breeding management class is responsible for breeding and foaling of all mares at the farm. Those foals are then trained alongside donated horses by students in the fall semester’s equine behavior and training class.
  • Student volunteers at the MU Equine Teaching Facility are responsible for daily feeding, turnout, stall cleaning, grooming of horses, performing foal watch, handling weanlings and yearlings, practicing routine health care and disease prevention, and assisting with the sale horse preview.