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Horse Coalition Celebrates 10th Anniversary

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Kentucky Horse Council
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Ten years ago, a group of concerned Kentucky horsemen formed a coalition to improve the economics of the state’s signature horse industry.  Designed to represent all equine breeds and disciplines, the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP) was founded this week in May, 2004. 

Since its inception, KEEP has been the driving force for numerous horse industry accomplishments.  The first was legislation which created the Kentucky Breeders’ Incentive Fund (KBIF).  Previously, the sales tax from stud fees went to the state’s General Fund.  Since the creation of the KBIF, that money has been paid to the breeders of Kentucky-breds totaling $97,660,834.

"Prior to the passage of the KBIF, mares and stallions were leaving Kentucky in droves for the lucrative incentive programs in other states," said Bill Casner, Founding member and Vice Chairman of KEEP.  "The KBIF bill is certainly the most significant piece of legislation in recent history.  The exponential economic impact of the KBIF far exceeds the $97 million distributed."

KEEP also played a major role in the development of pari-mutuel wagering on historic horse racing.  Since Sept, 1, 2011, Instant Racing has generated $6,371,928 for purses and $4,974,387 for the Kentucky Thoroughbred Development Fund. 

Another primary focus has been the Grassroots outreach program which serves all equine breeds and disciplines. With unwavering support by team leaders and members in each of the 120 counties in Kentucky,  KEEP's Grassroots program has contributed $598,436 to nearly 900 local horse shows, 4-H, FFA, Therapeutic, trail riding and equine education organizations throughout the state since 2006.   

KEEP, along with the Kentucky Horse Council, worked with the Department of Agriculture to reclassify horses as part of the state’s agricultural industry. Farms are now eligible to apply for matching marketing funds as part of the highly successful Kentucky Proud program.

"We are pleased to report that the efforts of KEEP have made a positive economic impact on the Kentucky horse industry," said Bob Heleringer, Executive Director of KEEP. "Due to the commitment and support of thousands of industry members, we have a solid foundation in place. Our organization will work together to build on this momentum and create further growth over the next ten years."

Ongoing goals regarding legislative issues include the passage of a bill that would eliminate the sales tax on equine feed and equipment and introduce legislation to keep Kentucky pari-mutuel tax rates competitive with other racing states. KEEP will continue to monitor activity in Frankfort and offer support for any beneficial equine legislation that protects and strengthens the industry.

Paul Hitchcock earned his Masters in Communications from Morehead State University and Bachelors in Radio-TV/Psychology from Georgetown College. A veteran broadcaster for more than 40 years and an avid fan of blues, jazz and American roots music. Hitchcock has been with WMKY since 1986 and was named General Manager in 2003. He currently hosts "Muddy Bottom Blues" (Fri., 8pm-9pm), "Nothin' But The Blues" (Sat., 8pm-12am), "Sunday Night Jazz Showcase" and "Live From The Jazz Lounge" (Sun., 8pm-9pm) and "The Golden Age of Radio" (Sun., 2pm-3pm). He also serves as producer for "A Time For Tales" and "The Reader's Notebook."
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