LEXINGTON, Ky. (LEX 18) — A collaboration between a well-known horse racing company and the Ed Brown Society is breaking barriers for African American students to enter the equine industry.
"I really appreciate the initiative that Ed Brown Society and First are doing with this program. I think it has the potential to really influence and impact the industry," said Deja Robinson, one of the interns selected.
The Ed Brown society was created by thoroughbred owners Ray Daniels and Greg Harbut, who are well-respected in the equine industry, to create opportunities for young people of color to gain industry exposure.
"We have found a lane to really merge and use our voices owners in this business, to gain access and to build relationships and to be a connector," said Daniels.
Two students, Deja Robinson, and Charles Churchill received the initial internships at a Florida horse racing track provided through a collaboration between The Stronach Group horse racing company 1/ST.
"I am looking forward to just the broad exposure that we'll have to a lot of different aspects of the industry," said Robinson, Senior at the University of Kentucky majoring in equine science.
Robinson is interested in the veterinary science aspect of the industry. An area, she hasn't seen a lot of people who look like her.
"I always loved animals. I was the child that brought home stray cat stray dogs and forced my uncle to bring a horse to my birthday party. And since then, I just knew I loved horses. Especially through riding, they were able to teach me a lot about myself as a person and just being patient understanding," said Robinson.
Robinson says she fell in love with the culture of horses and the power that they have to bring all types of people together.
Churchill is also a senior at the University of Kentucky. His goal is to work on the business side of horse racing.
"My main goal is to show a little more representation in the higher-ranking officials who are running the daily operations for horse racing," said Churchill. "Being from Louisville, I was always exposed to the Kentucky Derby, and so horses were a part of me just from birth. But as I got older, I started realizing that I wanted more of a focus."
Both students are grateful to the Ed Brown Society for opening the door to the opportunity.
"I'm such an advocate for the Ed Brown Society and was so happy to be a part of it because they are artificially bringing this to students to artificially bring that passion for horse racing that they wouldn't experience in any other scenario," said Churchill.
Co-founders Harbut and Daniels co-owned former Kentucky Derby participant Necker Island. Their goal is to continue to make progress for African Americans in the industry.
"It is a multi-billion-dollar industry and in fact, in the beginning of infancy of horse racing African Americans truly dominated the sport and the industry in all capacities," said Harbut. "I think it was around the time of Plessy versus Ferguson, we really see a concerted effort to remove African Americans in all capacities. And unfortunately, since that time, we've never been able to have the numbers and be at the same level of achievement or capacity of prominence from an executive standpoint. That's something that we're really wanting to change."
Stronach Group, doing business as 1/ST, has committed $150,000 over several years to cover all costs so select students can have a paid internship within the horse racing industry. Other students of color will be selected from other universities.