Horses and Hope in Kentucky

Kentucky's First Lady Jane Beshear on "Horses and Hope"–– helping Kentucky's horse industry and their families.

by Darley Newman

In 2008 Kentucky’s First Lady Jane Beshear launched "Horses and Hope" with the Kentucky Cancer Program (KCP) to provide breast cancer education, screening and treatment referral for employees of Kentucky's horse industry and their families. As breast cancer is the second leading cause of death for women in Kentucky, First Lady Beshear had important outreach work to do. She decided to focus her efforts on Kentucky’s horse industry, and, in a few short years, "Horses and Hope" has made a difference that reaches far beyond the numbers.

"Horses and Hope" has reached out to over 500,000 horse show and race track fans and has screened more than 350 equine workers to date, as well as influencing the lives of many more citizens of Kentucky and beyond.

While filming at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day, I was able to meet and interview First Lady Beshear. I was excited to be in touch with her again for this interview to learn more about "Horses and Hope," because like many people, I have friends and family who have been affected by breast cancer.

Jane Beshear

Mrs. Beshear at the first annual Horses and Hope trail ride at the Kentucky Horse Park last September. Photo credit: Ruth Mattingly – Kentucky Cancer Program.


Darley Newman: Why did you decide to launch "Horses and Hope"?

First Lady Jane Beshear: I launched “Horses and Hope” to educate, improve awareness and offer screenings for the often overlooked members of Kentucky’s horse industry. There are more than 80,000 equine industry employees across the Bluegrass, many of whom are uninsured or underinsured. Every year in Kentucky between 2800 and 3200 women are diagnosed with breast cancer, making it the second leading cause of death for women in our state. The “Horses and Hope” program serves as a unique tool to help in the battle against breast cancer and to support the individuals who work in our state’s signature industry.

Darley Newman: How does "Horses and Hope" honor breast cancer survivors?

First Lady Jane Beshear: "Horses and Hope" honors breast cancer survivors at all our events. Our featured event for survivors is the annual Celebration of Hope. Former First Lady Judi Patton started the Celebration of Hope 15 years ago to honor breast cancer survivors and we are so pleased to carry on the tradition. For the first time in history, we held this year’s celebration at the Kentucky Horse Park. More survivors than ever before participated and we hope even more will be involved next year.

Darley Newman: What have been some of "Horses and Hope’s" biggest successes and what has that meant to you?

First Lady Jane Beshear: I believe our greatest success is simply the vast outreach and awareness "Horses and Hope" has achieved throughout the state. Through our events, we have reached more than 500,000 race track and horse show fans and nearly 6,000 equine employees. The program has screened more than 350 workers and detected breast cancer in two individuals, both of whom have received treatment. I am so grateful to all the volunteers, donors, survivors and families who have helped make "Horses and Hope" a successful program and spread breast cancer awareness throughout the state.

Horses & Hope benefit trail ride

Horses and Hope benefit trail ride in Western Kentucky.

Darley Newman: We have a number of Equitrekking fans that have survived cancer. Many of these survivors have written to tell us that they feel horses helped them during their treatment and healing process. How do you think that horses can help heal?

First Lady Jane Beshear: Horses are remarkably intuitive animals that have a special connections with their people making them especially beneficial to the treatment and healing process. I have been a long-time supporter of programs such as Central Kentucky Riding for Hope, that help treat a range of physical, cognitive and emotional health issues through therapeutic activities with horses.

Darley Newman: What are your future goals for "Horses and Hope"?

First Lady Jane Beshear: I hope that "Horses and Hope" will continue to grow, educate and screen equine industry employees throughout the state. I hope that it also inspires people outside of the horse industry to get screened and inform their friends, families and coworkers about the risks of breast cancer. The only way to combat this deadly disease is to inform people about its dangers and encourage prevention through regular screenings and exams.

Darley Newman: How can our readers get involved with "Horses and Hope"?

First Lady Jane Beshear: Please visit to contact us about getting involved or to contribute to "Horses and Hope." We also welcome people to join us at "Horses and Hope" events throughout the state. Upcoming events are also listed on the website.