Competition horses, equine industry in holding pattern

Posted at 4:33 PM, Apr 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-13 22:10:11-04

WOODFORD COUNTY, Ky. (LEX 18) — Many aspects of our lives are grounded to a halt during the coronavirus pandemic. The equine industry is no different.

While some thoroughbreds are still racing, many horse farms around Kentucky are adjusting to losing income from canceled lessons and shows.

Over at Sunrise Stables in Woodford County, Coachella took his normal Monday trot inside the farm's arena. Usually at this time of year, Sunrise owner Melissa Moore is preparing Coachella and other horses for US Equine Federation competitions across the country.

"This is how we make our living. By showing, and by selling, and by raising horses," Moore said.

But as she was gearing up for competition last month, the coronavirus pandemic spread across the country. Effective March 16, the USEF recommended all organizers suspend all USEF-licensed events and that equestrians do not compete until the order expires. Right now, the recommendation is in effect until May 3.

"I think the horses feel it, and we feel it and we don't know what to do," Moore said.

Moore estimates half of her stable's income is from shows and sales, so she's making adjustments.

"Right now, just keep all my employees employed and take care of the horses. And that's what we're trying to do. It's hard," Moore said.

Moore is doing some things differently to keep herself, and her horses, engaged during this unprecedented time. She's showing them off on Facebook and using social media to interact with the equine community.

"I've gone on trail rides which is not something we normally do with our show horses," Moore explained. "We've been letting them out in the field, which is not something we normally do this time of year."

Moore says other aspects of the industry are affected too, pointing out that social distancing means that equine lesson programs have no income and breeding is slowing because of economic concerns.

"That's the last thing any equine industry needs right now is less mares being bred," Moore said.

Just like the Kentucky Derby is for three year-olds, many of Moore's events only take certain age groups.

"And what do we do if we don't get to show those three year-olds in those classes. Next year they're going to be four year-olds," said Moore.

Moore is hopeful competitions will resume in the next six weeks. But amid a lot of uncertainty, she's going to keep training and taking care of the horses.