Career Networking at Equestricon
Get to Equestricon. Seriously. The world’s only international horse racing convention, trade show and fan festival will be at the epicenter of the racing universe on Breeders’ Cup week in Louisville — and a must-attend event for anyone interested in starting a career in the sport.
Whether you’re a student, a young professional looking to work in racing or someone who has started a career in horse racing but wants to meet a broader range of people in the field, Equestricon is a once-a-year educational and networking destination. Generally speaking, the entire convention, is about creating more access to the sport and providing opportunities for attendees to meet people who have a shared passion for horse racing. But career development is heavily emphasized in the convention program, which will be held on Monday, October 29, and Tuesday, October 30, at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Downtown Louisville.
Monday’s lineup at Equestricon (you can find a complete schedule by clicking here) features two different career workshops that focus on networking and mentorship within the industry. The first session, sponsored by the University of Louisville Equine Industry Program (EIP), features several young graduates of the program who are building careers in different facets of the Thoroughbred racing industry. The workshop leaders include Liz Crow, a partner in both BSW Bloodstock and ELiTE Sales as well as the stable manager for Ten Strike Racing, trainer William VanMeter, and Santa Anita Park and TVG host Megan Devine.
“The Equine Industry Program wanted to partner with Equestricon as we have the same target audience – horse racing fans,” said Terri Burch, interim director of the University of Louisville’s EIP. “Since the inception of our program, it has attracted people, young and old, who have a passion for horse racing. Our graduates are found throughout the racing industry. Equestricon was started out of that same passion and love for horse racing. The excitement and buzz that surrounds Equestricon is contagious and we could not be more compatible partners.”
Also slated for Monday is another career-focused workshop sponsored by the University of Kentucky Ag Equine Programs. The session will explore other career paths in the horse racing industry and allow attendees to ask questions to some of the most influential young leaders in the racing industry, including Walker Hancock, managing director of Claiborne Farm.
Tuesday’s Equestricon program features a Young Professionals in Racing Networking Hour. Sponsored by the Maryland Horse Breeders Association, the networking hour is an informal meet-up that will provide young racing professionals, as well as those looking to get their feet in the door, an opportunity to to meet, chat, and expand their networks. The networking session is scheduled to take place in the Sagamore Social Lounge, which is contained within the main exhibit hall on the convention floor.
Some of the young industry leaders who will be participating in Monday’s career mentorship programming will also be attending Tuesday’s networking hour. Liz Crow, an EIP graduate will participate in both sessions. In a short period of time, Crow has become one of the fastest rising stars in racing. With BSW Bloodstock she has managed stables for many well-known clients and, most notably, purchased 2018 Kentucky Oaks winner Monomoy Girl as a yearling. Along with president and founder Brad Weisbord, Crow is a partner in ELiTE Sales, whose consignments have included Grade 1 winners like Tepin, Paola Queen, and Decked Out.
Crow also manages the stable of Ten Strike Racing, who recently achieved its first graded stakes win with Ezmosh’s facile victory in the 2018 Arlington Classic (G3). While she has wide-ranging roles in the racing industry now, Crow did not grow up inside of the sport. She did go the track as a child with her grandparents and rode horses in high school but she certainly didn’t inherit her chops in bloodstock, consignment, or stable management from just going racing.
“I didn’t know exactly how you could get involved, which is what a lot of young people don’t know,” Crow said. “U of L was the spot that taught me that you can be a trainer, you can be a bloodstock agent, you can be a million different things. I loved everything that they provided me with the opportunity to learn. They had a bunch of internship programs, racing clubs where you could go to different farms, Ashford, Three Chimneys, and go to Churchill. It really opened me up to seeing a lot of different parts of the industry that I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to see.”
By getting involved in Equestricon’s career programming, Crow will be able to provide advice and guidance that she would have found valuable when she had finished school and started to make her own way in the racing industry.
“I wish I had been able to talk to someone in their twenties, who had just graduated and gone on to do a career, and picked their brain on what exactly would have been a good idea as far as a path. I thought this was a good way to help out, help other kids figure out what they want to do when they graduate,” she said.
Historic Claiborne Farm is where Walker Hancock got his education. Today, he’s in high-demand as one of the youngest farm managers in the country; his experience is steeped in the traditions he grew up around, and he’s also aware of his responsibility to move Claiborne and the sport of racing into the future. That responsibility includes opening the doors and helping people who are passionate about the sport build their careers.
“I was born and raised on Claiborne Farm and am a fifth generation horsemen. It is all I have ever known and wanted to do,” he said. “I fell in love with horses and the farm at a young age and didn’t ever consider doing anything else. We at Claiborne take great pride in helping young people flourish within our industry. In the past several years we have groomed and helped interns and young hires work their way up the ladder at Claiborne where they later were hired by other major horse farms in manager positions including Brookdale, Godolphin, WinStar, Blackburn, and of course Claiborne.”
Like Crow, Hancock will also be in the Sagamore Social Lounge on Tuesday for the Young Professionals in Racing Networking Hour, which is sponsored by the Maryland Horse Breeders Association (MHBA). The informal nature of the networking hour, seeing as it is taking place in a lounge setting, creates an atmosphere that Hancock thinks will be conducive to relationship-building.
“They will have the chance to introduce themselves to influential people at major horse farms in hopes to jumpstart their own careers,” he said. “If I was an aspiring horseman or woman looking for employment in the thoroughbred industry I would not miss this opportunity.”
Jordyn Egan is the director of development for the Maryland Horse Industry Foundation (the MHBA’s charitable arm). MHBA and Maryland Million, Ltd., were active participants in Equestricon 2017 in Saratoga, which is where Egan got to experience the breadth of programming available at the convention to attendees trying to launch a career in the sport.
“Personally, as a young professional that attended last year, I found the entire convention to be a very good networking opportunity. The location and timing is key, it is difficult to get that many industry professionals in one place at one time,” Egan said.
Sponsoring the networking hour at Equestricon this year is tied into MHBA’s ongoing efforts to cultivate the next generation of racing industry employees and business leaders. The Maryland Horse Industry Foundation (MHIF) launch of the Maryland Thoroughbred Career Program last year was specifically designed to introduce equine-inclined youth to the variety of careers available in the Thoroughbred industry.
“The program was very well received and we are now developing more programs to keep those people engaged as they progress through their careers,” Egan said.
Browsing through the list of panels, workshops, seminars and other events at Equestricon, it’s evident that the convention’s strength is the dynamic, or wide-ranging, nature of the interest areas that are covered. Whether it’s racing photography, aftercare, equine health, racing ownership or partnerships, breeding, handicapping or wagering, it’s all covered at the massive convention. That assortment of programming gives attendees, especially younger people who might be looking to start a career in racing, a lot to consider.
“It is easy to get laser-focused on where you want to go and overlook opportunities that are available right now,” said Egan. “I think it is important to solicit feedback from people within the industry along the way so you don’t miss out on something simply because you never thought about it. Many people are born with or develop a love of horses early on. That often leads to participation in some sort of horse-related hobby, which frequently goes by the wayside when ‘real life’ hits. With racing, you can take that love of horses and turn it in to any type of job you want – training, veterinary medicine, accounting, publishing, nonprofit management – anything!”
Back at the University of Louisville, Burch echoed the same sentiments, expressing excitement about the doors that could potentially be opened through Equestricon.
“Racing, historically, has been a difficult industry to break into and relies on networking within the industry and building those relationships that lead to future careers,” she said. “Many of our students love the industry yet don’t come from a racing background or family. As society becomes more and more urbanized, families are more removed from the farms and rural communities and it is more difficult to get a start. Therefore, connecting EIP graduates and others in the industry with our current students and racing fans alike bring the necessary connections needed to align new graduates with careers in horse racing.”
The first step for anyone who doesn’t yet have a ticket to Equestricon is to visit equestricon.com. Tickets for the convention start at just $10. Access to dozens of panels and the aforementioned career workshops are included with a two-day “All-Access” pass to Equestricon, which is priced at $65 (slashed in half from the 2017 convention).
New for 2018 — and a way for fans to earn free admission to the convention — is the Equestricon Ambassador Program. Signing up is free, and people who promote the convention and sell tickets can earn valuable rewards and experiences. These include several networking opportunities including a day with a trainer, a day with an owner, and a two-day pass to the Breeders’ Cup. You can read full details of the ambassador program and sign up to participate at http://equestricon.com/ambassadors.