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Article Updated March 22, 2023

LEXINGTON, Ky. (March 21, 2023) — The Kentucky Horse Park Mustang Troop program will return this summer with a new partner, CHI Saint Joseph Health’s Creating Safer Neighborhoods Initiative. This collaboration will allow the program to reach more youth in need from across Fayette County. 

The Creating Safer Neighborhoods Initiative, the health care system's youth violence prevention program in Lexington, encourages youth and community members to establish an intolerance for violence, creating a safer and healthier Lexington community. The program is supported through a grant from the CommonSpirit Health Mission and Ministry Fund. CHI Saint Joseph Health is part of CommonSpirit Health, which has hospitals and care sites in 21 states. 

The Creating Safer Neighborhoods Initiative will greatly impact the scope of the program. Founded nearly 30 years ago, the Mustang Troop invites underserved youth from the Central Kentucky community to a two-week summer horse camp experience held at the Kentucky Horse Park. Offered free of charge, the horse camp includes riding lessons, personal development activities, daily transportation, meals, riding apparel and mementos.

Each program participant is paired with a partner and a horse and given access to quality riding instruction, equine education and equine care. The Mustang Troop seeks to give campers the opportunity to build lifelong coping skills, develop self-confidence, set boundaries and balance teamwork and independence through the channels of horsemanship and riding. Mustang Troop participants are invited to attend holiday events throughout the year with their families, including Hats Off Day, Southern Lights Holiday Festival and the Halloween Campout. 

“The Mustang Troop continues to provide students with an opportunity to learn, engage, and benefit from our equine companions,” said Lee Carter, executive director of the Kentucky Horse Park.As a legacy program spanning almost 30 years, we have seen the life-altering impact of this program. We are grateful for the Kentucky Horse Park Foundation and the CHI Saint Joseph Health Creating Safer Neighborhoods Initiative for partnering with us and investing in the lives of Central Kentucky youth.”

“The Kentucky Horse Park’s Mustang Troop program aligns perfectly with our mission at CHI Saint Joseph Health to serve the community, especially those who are underserved,” said Anthony Houston, CEO of CHI Saint Joseph Health. “We believe good health requires nourishment for the mind, body and spirit, so we are thrilled to be a part of this opportunity for underserved youth to experience something so quintessentially Kentucky.” 

This summer, members of the Police Activities League will assist the Creating Safer Neighborhoods Initiative to serve as mentors for the youth. In addition, the Mustang Troop will engage the services of a mental health professional who is trained in therapeutic riding.

The Mustang Troop also seeks to expose individuals to opportunities in the horse industry of which they would not otherwise be aware. For many participants, their involvement in Mustang Troop represents not only their first visit to the Kentucky Horse Park, but their first time being near a horse.

“The Kentucky Horse Park Foundation is proud to support the Kentucky Horse Park Mustang Troop,” said Clay Green, chair of the Kentucky Horse Park Foundation. “Exposing young people to the power of horses is one of the most important things we can do in the equestrian community, and I am continually amazed when I hear about this program’s impact. For nearly thirty years, the Mustang Troop has taught underserved youth invaluable life lessons, provided exposure to horses that would have otherwise not been possible and created a tangible pipeline to careers in the horse industry. New partnerships, energetic community support and state-of-the-art educational opportunities are just around the corner. I believe the best is yet to come for this amazing program.”

The Mustang Troop is funded through the support of the Kentucky Horse Park Foundation and relies solely on private donations.