Karen Gustin has been the executive director at the Kentucky Equine Adoption Center in Nicholasville, Ky. since April 2012.
How and when you were introduced to Thoroughbred racing? My father was originally from Kentucky and would visit Keeneland often with his relatives, and I remember him talking about what a treat it was to go to the races! I first visited Keeneland when I moved here in 2012.
What is the Kentucky Equine Adoption Center? We are a premier, all-breed horse rescue and take in horses that are abused, abandoned, neglected, and from owners who can no longer care for them. We rehabilitate, put the horses in a retraining program, and then adopt them out. We work diligently to put the right horse with the right person, and we strive to make a good connection between the two. We also facilitate educational opportunities for students, the general public, and equine industry personnel through clinics and workshops. We are very proud of our curriculum-based Take the Reins Education Program, sponsored by Alltech, and our Heads Up Hearts Open Equine Growth and Communication Program that we launched last year.
Are there breeds other than Thoroughbreds at the Kentucky Equine Adoption Center? Yes, we are an all-breed facility, so we take any kind of equine. We get everything from Quarter Horses, to Standardbreds, to the occasional Draft horse and mule. Because of the connections and partnerships that we have with our veterinarians, we are able to rehabilitate and treat horses that others may not have the time or resources for. For many, many horses, we are their last chance at a productive life. We are humbled that we are able to care for so many horses that have so much to give back to us.
How can people learn more? By visiting our website, liking us on Facebook, and by attending our fundraisers and events, many of which are held at the center. We also have a very active volunteer program, which is a great way to get involved. If there is a volunteer out there who is handy at mechanical and farm work, we would be very interested in talking with him or her!
Are the horses adoptable? Yes, the eventual goal for every horse is adoption. People complete an adoption application, and once they decide to adopt, a contract is signed between the adopter and the center which outlines the necessary care for the horse. Each horse has an adoption fee.
How can people visit the Kentucky Equine Adoption Center? We are open by appointment, and are pleased to be offering tours on Fridays and Saturdays through Horse Country Tours, beginning in March. Our tours will focus on our general operation and learning some of the back stories of our horses, as well as participating in our Equine Chef Center, where visitors will get an opportunity to create and make horse treats for a few of our horses. After they put their culinary skills to use, visitors will be able to offer their treats to the discriminating palates that our horses have!
What is the TAA and what does it mean for the Kentucky Equine Adoption Center? The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance is a huge supporter of the work that we do at KYEAC. Their support allows us to continue to offer the high-quality care and training that all our horses deserve. Their attention to aftercare and their professionalism is fantastic, and we are proud to be accredited by them.
What’s your favorite breed of horse? I don’t just have one! My favorite breeds are Thoroughbreds and Warmbloods.
Your favorite racetrack: Keeneland, of course!
Your favorite Thoroughbred racing event: The Breeders’ Cup World Championships
Other sports/teams you follow: I was an avid Chicago Bulls Fan and L.A. Lakers fan!
Three words that define what Thoroughbred racing means to me: Opportunity, strength, and power
Favorite all-time Thoroughbred: Ruffian
My personal best moment in the sport of Thoroughbred racing: Watching American Pharoah cross the finish line in the Belmont Stakes.
Favorite jockey: Mike Smith
Who are your heroes? Phil Jackson, coach of the Bulls and Lakers. He is my hero because he is able to take a group of individual athletes and mold them into a cohesive team. His style is one that can be implemented into any kind of work situation.
I also have tremendous respect for the athleticism that jockeys must possess to do their jobs. Their training, dedication, and bravery are amazing.
Person in equine you’d like to have dinner with: Mike Smith
Philosophy on life: I am definitely a glass half-full person. I try to find the best in people and work with them to do good things for the world.
Favorite non-Thoroughbred racing sports event you have attended: The Mount Marathon Race, a mountain running race held on July 4 in Seward, Alaska. I was able to participate in 1989 and 1990. It’s an extremely challenging 3- to 3 ½-mile round-trip race, that has an elevation gain of 3,000 feet over a distance of 1 1/2 miles.
Best book you recently read: “Harry & Snowman”
Favorite animal other than a horse: Dog
Favorite food: Again, not just one: Mexican and Italian
Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere where there is a warm beach on the ocean.
Favorite city: Lone Pine, Calif. And, not really a city, but Liard River Hot Springs in the Yukon Territory is one of my favorite places.
Favorite musician/band: Two of my favorites are Death Cab for Cutie and Bon Jovi.
Favorite TV show: I don’t watch TV … just Neflix, Amazon, etc. My favorite genres are sports (any kind), foreign films, and cooking competitions.
Favorite hotel: Any kind of Marriott
Favorite movie about horses: “The Horse Whisperer”
Alma Mater: Colorado State University
Favorite memento: A paper crane lei from Hiroshima – to remind me of peace.
Favorite dessert: Ice cream
Favorite drink: ½ diet coke, ½ pepsi – all the taste, half the calories.
Favorite scent: Plumeria
No. 1 Bucket-List item: I would love to meet Phil Jackson!