Turfgrass as an Equine Sports Surface certification program to launch in June

The National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, and the Racing Surfaces Testing Laboratory (RSTL) announced the dates for the launch of a joint initiative offering a Racecourse Manager Certification from the University of Kentucky.

The initial three-course program, entitled “Turfgrass as an Equine Sports Surface,” is designed for those already engaged in careers with turf surface maintenance. Free online classes will begin June 7 and will be archived. Individuals who complete the video courses and pass a test that requires a $50 fee will receive a certificate of completion from the University of Kentucky. Participating Thoroughbred racetracks that enroll their personnel will receive credit toward future accreditation by the NTRA Safety & Integrity Alliance.

The “Turfgrass as an Equine Sports Surface” courses are:

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June 7:                 Selection of Turf for Climate Zones
June 14:               Cultivation of Turf for Compaction and Wear
June 21:               Measurement of Turf Condition

The curriculum for the turf management course was developed by Michael “Mick” Peterson, Ph.D., Director of the Racetrack Safety Program at the University of Kentucky and Executive Director of the Racing Surfaces and Testing Laboratory (RSTL). Other participants in the online courses include turf experts:

  • Mike Boekholder, Boekholder & Associates;
  • Logan Freeman, Mountain Branch Golf Club, Joppa Maryland;
  • Michael Goatley, Jr., Ph.D., professor and extension turfgrass specialist, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University;
  • Beth Guertal, Ph.D., professor of Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences, Auburn University;
  • Gregg Munshaw, Ph.D., director of agronomy, Mountain View Seeds; and
  • Geoffrey Rinehart, MS, turfgrass management lecturer, University of Maryland.

Participating experts in equine biomechanics include:

  • Dr. Sarah Jane Hobbs, University of Central Lancashire;
  • Alison Northrop, Nottingham Trent University; and
  • Lars Roepstorff, Swedish University of Agriculture.

Racing industry leaders participating include:

  • Brian Jabelman, senior director of track operations, New York Racing Association;
  • Jim Pendergest, director of racing surfaces, Keeneland Racetrack;
  • Jamie Richardson, racetrack superintendent, Churchill Downs; and
  • Sean Gault, equine racing specialist, DCS & Associates.

Individuals interested in receiving additional information and pre-enrolling for the online sessions can visit https://www.ntra.com/rmcp/

“This is exactly the type of collaboration we envisioned when the Racing Surfaces and Testing Laboratory (RSTL) joined forces with the University of Kentucky Ag Equine Programs. The benefits of this interaction are undeniable as we seek to further protect the welfare of the horse and develop the industry’s future workforce,” said NTRA President and Chief Executive Officer Alex Waldrop.

“We have assembled a powerhouse line-up of instructors to cover multiple equine disciplines ranging from turf racing to polo to eventing,” said Peterson. “This will be a science-based curriculum for individuals who are serious about their profession and desire to be leaders in their chosen fields. We are starting with a turf curriculum, but future modules will focus on all types of surfaces and will include hands-on training with track maintenance equipment.”

“We are thrilled to see this program get off the ground and appreciate the support of NTRA. Our college has a strong commitment to getting our best information out to those in the real world who can use it,” said Nancy Cox, UK vice president for land grant eEngagement and College of Agriculture, Food and Environment dean.

“The science driving progress on racing safety includes not only the horses and riders themselves, but also clearly the racing surfaces on which they compete. It is exciting to see the optimization and application of knowledge from turfgrass science applied to the management challenges of turf racing,” said James MacLeod, director of UK ag equine programs and Elizabeth A. Knight chair and professor of veterinary science at the Gluck Equine Research Center.