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Horses, of course

1 Jun


Kentucky is horse country: horses for racing, for showing, for sport, for pleasure. So it’s only natural that Scott Kendall (’84 DVM), an equine veterinarian who hails from Iowa City, Iowa, would choose to settle in the Kentucky Bluegrass Region, often called the horse capital of the world.

Scott is a veterinarian at Woodford Equine Hospital in Versailles, Ky., not far from the city of Lexington. Horse farms abound in the region. Scott describes himself as an “ambulatory” vet, meaning he travels from horse farm to horse farm within a 50-mile radius, aiding in the breeding, foaling, and other health maintenance of thoroughbred horses.

It’s a big job.

“It ends up being more of a lifestyle than a job,” Scott says. “You start early every day. It’s seven days a week…people expect you to be available 24/7.”

And horse breeding is big business: The state of Kentucky produces around 33 percent of all thoroughbred foals born annually in North America. More than 75 percent of Kentucky Derby winners are Kentucky bred, and eight of 11 Triple Crown winners were bred in the state. Top horses have sold for up to $16 million at public auction.

Even when Scott takes off his “doctor” hat, he’s still surrounded by horses. He and his wife, Elise, own a 90-acre horse farm in Paris, Ky., just north of Lexington. They currently have about 20 horses of varying breeds.

And in his spare time?

“I enjoy going to races,” he says. “It’s a big deal in Kentucky.”

An Iowa Stater in Kentucky’s bluegrass region

29 May

We picked the best week of the year to be in Kentucky: Derby Week.

If a little kid’s year revolves around Christmas or summer vacation, a Kentuckian’s year revolves around Derby.

Like: You can’t wear white until after Derby. Or: You can plant tomatoes after Derby.

Julie Hunsinger Mink (’82 psychology, ’88 statistics) rarely goes to horseracing’s most famous event, the Kentucky Derby, held annually the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs in Louisville. (“I don’t like big crowds,” she says.) But she thoroughly embraces the weeks-long festivities filled with parties, fireworks, and fancy hats.

As for horse racing, Julie much prefers Keeneland, an older, more genteel racetrack in Lexington. Races are held at Keeneland for three weeks each spring and three weeks each fall. And, like Churchill Downs, spectators get dressed up and wear big hats.

“Getting dressed up is part of the fun,” Julie says. “You can’t wear the same hat twice.”

Julie was born in Lexington, but her family moved frequently for her father’s mining career. She lived in Iowa from 1977 to 1988, 10 years of which were spent in Ames. Twenty years ago she moved back to Kentucky to work at Investors Heritage Life Insurance Company in Frankfort, where she is currently the vice president and chief actuary.

Frankfort is the capital of Kentucky and home to two capitol buildings – an old one built in 1830 and a “new” capitol built in 1910. (Julie explained that there was a dispute between Louisville and Lexington over which city should be Kentucky’s capital – and somehow Frankfort was chosen.) Frankfort’s other claim to fame is a scenic cemetery built on a bluff overlooking the town and containing the grave of Daniel Boone.

During our visit to central Kentucky with Julie as our tour guide, we learned that bourbon can only be called bourbon if it’s produced in Kentucky. To illustrate, she took us to the Four Roses bourbon distillery in Lawrenceburg, Ky., where we tasted three different bourbon “recipes” (for research purposes only, of course.)

Although Julie calls Kentucky home – she lives in Lawrenceburg with her husband, Dick, and son, Shane — she still keeps in touch with her friends from Iowa State, reuniting with a large group every couple of years in different parts of the country.

“My Iowa State friends are the best friends ever,” she says. “They’re the people I have known the longest. They’ve known me at my best and at my worst.” This summer, they’re all headed for Ames.

“I couldn’t be prouder of the fact that I’m an Iowa State graduate,” she says. “We’re few and far between in Kentucky.”

It’s a big country

10 May

As we were driving along on our latest VISIONS Across America trip (to Kentucky, North Carolina, and Virginia), Jim observed, “It’s a big honking country.” Actually, he may not have said “honking;” I cleaned up the quote a bit because this is a family-friendly blog. But I agree: This is a BIG country. We drove 2,700 miles last week, much of it off the interstate highway system, so we were in the car for a very, very long time.

It’s worth it, though. This project just keeps showing me more and more that Iowa State alumni are doing amazing things, many in their own quiet way.

Our first state was Kentucky, and, yes, we were there during Derby week but we didn’t attend a race. We did meet with two alumni who are involved with horses: Julie Hunsinger Mink (’82 psychology, ’88 statistics), who loves to go to the races, and Scott Kendall (’84 DVM), an equine veterinarian. Both live near the Lexington area, which may be the most beautiful part of the state. Those horse farms are absolutely stunning.

Julie is the chief actuary for Investors Heritage Life in Frankfort. She took us on a tour of central Kentucky, from the Keeneland race track to the Four Roses bourbon distillery (above) to the historic capital of Frankfort. (I promise, we just had a sip of that bourbon. I am not a big fan.)

As you can imagine, Scott (shown at left with his vet clinic on wheels) is very busy tending to horses in the area, plus he and his wife Elise have a horse farm of their own. Scott is a veterinarian at the Woodford Equine Hospital in Versailles, Ky.

We left Kentucky and took a winding road to Boone, N.C. (Mapquest suggested we take Interstate 75, but Jim prefers the “scenic route.”) I will admit it was quite beautiful, and we went through a lot of cool little towns.

In Boone we met with Joe Otto, a 2007 history grad who is in graduate school at Appalachian State University. Boone is an awesome place, and we had a great time with Joe, learning about his area of study and hiking at the Julian Price Memorial Park, a short drive down the Blue Ridge Parkway. Just as I am not a big fan of Kentucky bourbon, I am not a big fan of falling into a creek. So thanks, Joe, for keeping me on my feet the whole way.

Coincidentally, our next alum visit was also in Boone: Jeanne Mercer-Ballard (’89 interior design), an interior design professor at Appalachian State. Jeanne lives in a passive solar home on 10 acres in nearby Zionville. We met with her on a busy day: all of her design students were displaying their final projects on campus.

More long and winding roads took us next to Staunton, Va., another very cool town, and nearby Verona, home of alumna Jane Cornelius Steele (’74 family environment). Jane’s story caught my attention when she wrote that, “I’m nestled in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia … living on a river and raising chickens.” Jane made us a delicious breakfast (so much better than the continental breakfasts we’d been eating in our hotels), and we got to meet the chickens. Jane has had a multifaceted career in physical therapy and health communications.

We couldn’t be so close to Shenandoah National Park without stopping by after our work was done. Unfortunately, the park was socked in with dense fog. Or maybe it’s actually fortunate, because if it wouldn’t have been foggy we might still be there.

Welcome to…

5 May

Jim and I are putting some serious miles on the rental car. Yesterday we were in four states. We started our day in Kentucky, crossed briefly into Virginia and Tennessee, and ended up in North Carolina. I had a bit of a scare at the Tennessee state line because the area right in front of the welcome sign where we had our photo taken was thick with poison ivy. I was wearing sandals. After I tromped through it, Jim mentioned the poison ivy. Great timing! I scrubbed my feet and hoped for the best – and didn’t end up breaking out.

So far we’ve met with four alumni; tomorrow we meet a fifth. Right now we’re in Staunton, Va. We’re having a great trip, meeting some really interesting folks, and enjoying this truly spectacular part of the United States.

I’ll write more when I get back to Ames and post Jim’s pictures!

Next stops: Kentucky, North Carolina, Virginia

9 Apr

We’re making final travel arrangements and appointments with alumni in our next three states. It’s getting harder and harder to decide which alumni to feature in each state, because you’re sending us so many great story ideas. I wish we could meet with every one of you! But since time and money won’t allow that, we’re doing our best to choose representative alumni from each state.

I should mention that when we go to Virginia, we’re focusing on just the southern and western portions of the state. We’ll do a separate trip to Washington, D.C., next year, so we hope to pick up a few more Virginians on that trip.

I hope you’ve noticed that we’ve had a lot more activity on our state pages lately. Especially in the three states we’re visiting next, we’ve seen a huge increase in postings. Check it out!

We don’t have too many photos being sent to us for the state photo galleries, however, so if you have photos of yourself, groups of alumni, family photos, or just pictures of your state, please send them our way and we’ll be happy to get them posted for you. I’m working right now on the photos that Jim and I took in Georgia, South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. We’ll get those posted in their respective state photo galleries soon.