Haggarty honored as KEEP Team Leader of the Year

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By Bryan Marshall

 Grant County resident James Haggarty became involved with the Kentucky Equine Education Project (KEEP) as a way to connect to equestrian activities and people.

Two years later, he was recognized as the 2008 KEEP Team Leader of the Year during a recent annual training banquet.

KEEP, which was formed in May 2004 to promote and protect Kentucky’s horse industry, has more than 150 county team leaders across the state. 

“I did the work because I felt each grant and each effort was important to those who benefited,” Haggarty said. “When I was chosen as Team Leader of the Year I realized that this was recognition from others who have worked equally hard. Recognition from your peers is very special.”

Haggarty and his family live in Berry where they enjoy trail riding, participating in parades on horseback and sharing family time on the farm.

He became involved with KEEP as both a member and team leader in 2006.

“I wanted to make it clear to our political leaders that horses aren’t just for the very wealthy,” Haggarty said about why he joined KEEP. “On a three-mile stretch of road where I live, there are more than 25 horses, most of them privately owned and not shown or raced. They are used mainly for recreation and kept on the farms because horses have been here for generations.”

In Grant and Pendleton counties, there is currently no public land for horseback riding — a problem Haggarty is working to change.

With Grant County Judge-Executive Darrel Link’s cooperation, a recreational ride area is being set up near Williamstown that would be suitable for training novice riders and horses.

“When I was a 4-H leader in Grant County several years ago, we were unable to have a club ride on public land in Grant County,” Haggarty said. “This will be rectified next year. At some time in the future, I would like to see horseback riders in the Curtis Gate Lloyd Wildlife Management Area near Crittenden. With public support, we might someday be able to ride the almost 1,200 acres in that Wildlife Management Area.”

Haggarty also helped initiate KEEP flags that could be carried during local parades in the county.

He has ridden horses in the 4th of July Parade in Lexington and in the Festival of the Horse in Georgetown with hopes of being allowed to ride in more local events in the future.

“We are still working toward acceptance of horseback riders in the (Santa’s Wonderland parade), maybe in 2009,” Haggarty said.

In Grant County, Haggarty also has been active in the local saddle and 4-H clubs, along with creating political support for Emergency Management Agency large animal rescue.

“The skills learned in large animal rescue will be used as needed on Grant County farms, and our EMA is better prepared to handle an emergency on the Interstate if one should happen during the (Equestrian) Games in 2010,” said Haggarty, who also has partnered with the Grant County High School JROTC to develop recreational/ training site for cadets and equestrians.

For Grant County youth, KEEP has provided a grant for recreational supplies for the 4-H horse group and for educational reference books to be used by the leaders for classroom activities. 

Haggarty said Kentucky’s $4 billion horse industry is the state’s signature industry and is responsiblefor 80,000 to 100,000 jobs.

As part of KEEP’s campaign, Haggarty said the group feels strongly that the thoroughbred industry must continue to work hard and grow.

“In order for Kentucky racing and breeding to continue to compete on a national and international levels, racetracks need to have supplemental income,” he said. “KEEP has been promoting expanded gaming since its inception, and last year supported Governor Beshear’s initiative on expanded gaming at the racetracks. “

Even before KEEP, horses have been a big part of Haggarty’s life over the years.

He has been an avid recreational rider for about eight years, and his wife’s family has had horses for about the past 80 years.

When Haggarty’s family lived in Minnesota, his daughters, Colleen and Allie, took riding lessons with him. 

 “I have ridden deep in the Minnesota bush, through and into swamps, been part of parades and ridden on a cattle drive in South Dakota,” he said. “Each time the horses and I face new challenges, and I enjoy the sense of accomplishment each new challenge brings.”