Ky. college home to only jockey school in US

Ky. college home to only jockey school in US
Published: May. 5, 2023 at 4:04 PM CDT
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - In the Kentucky Derby, the horses get a lot of the attention. But what about the jockey? Where do they get their start?

For some of them, their starting gate is in a classroom at Bluegrass Community & Technical College. It’s home to a unique thoroughbred simulator and the only jockey school in the united states.

BCTC’s MK simulator is the only model of its kind in the U.S. The simulator horse is sensitive to pressure points the jockey is placing on a horse, including if you’re off balance.

“It allows me to work with a student on their balance on the form without the dangers that would come working on a live horse,” said Equine Program Coordinator Dixie Kendall.

They put a lot of focus on rider safety. A recent study in Maryland showed, on average, a jockey fell once every four race days.

“They have a mind of their own,” said jockey student Halie Page. “It’s dangerous riding in a car. It has an engine. You can shut it off. You can’t shut off a horse.”

The reward for Kendall is seeing a former student in the winner’s circle. On her very first mount in the profession, jockey Erica Herrforth won her first race, and it happened at Churchill Downs.

“That was more exciting than when I won my first race as a licensed trainer,” said Kendall.

Before the students get their jockey silks, they have to start on the ground floor mucking the stalls. They have 12 former racehorses boarded at the Thoroughbred Center that can teach these young jocks the reigns.

“The jockey definitely takes a lot because you have to be mentally and physically fit,” said jockey student Cassidy Kellison.

The equine program at BCTC also teaches students about breeding, sales and other capacities of the horse industry.