Canfield horse lover serves as Kentucky Horse Council exec
Sarah E. Coleman, a 1998 Canfield High School graduate, is the new Kentucky Horse Council executive director — a fitting position for a woman who at a young age devoted herself to horses.
“We started Sarah on riding lessons at age 6,” said her father, Charles Coleman, of Canfield. “It was my wife Holly’s idea. Holly grew up on a farm in Chagrin Falls that had all sorts of animals.
“I, on the other hand, grew up on the West Side of Youngstown with little if any knowledge of animals beyond mongrels and feral cats. Holly thought from the beginning that lessons would teach Sarah discipline and courage.”
Later, when their daughter demonstrated the horse riding was more than just a passing interest, her parents leased — and later bought — a horse with the understanding that “upkeep, feeding, mucking stalls, etc. would be on Sarah.”
Charles said that concept not only taught her responsibility but provided the added benefit of knowing that her free time was going to be spent at the barn and not out roaming mall corridors.
Sarah really took to horse ownership and competed at the Canfield Fair as a 4-H member of the Canfield Rhythm Riders 4-H club. She also competed in open class hunter / jumper shows all over northeast Ohio and a few in Pennsylvania.
When she entered Ohio University in Athens, she joined the school’s equestrian team. She was a member of the team that won the Intercollegiate Horse Show Association National Championship in 2002.
She graduated from the Scripps School of Journalism at Ohio University in 2002. Two years later she moved to Kentucky.
If there is one thing that her parents instilled in her, it’s a strong work ethic.
“I got a job as an associate editor for Young Rider and Hobby Farms magazines,” she recalled. She still does freelance work for those titles, as well as multiple other equine and agricultural magazines and websites. “From the magazines I shifted to executive director of the Equine Scholars Program at Georgetown College, then director of the Equine Academy at Lexington Catholic High School.”
She then spent six years in retired racehorse aftercare with New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program, where she was the community and public relations director.
She also was involved in starting the largest all-thoroughbred hunter / jumper show in the nation and oversaw construction of New Vocations at Mereworth Farm. New Vocations is the nation’s oldest and largest racehorse adoption program.
Within the first two years of moving to the Bluegrass State, Sarah became a member of the Kentucky Horse Council. The organization offered a Kentucky Equine Networking Association speaker and dinner four times a year, which Sarah said was a great networking opportunity for her.
“It exposed me to many facets of the industry I wasn’t aware of,” she said. “Kentucky is a whole different animal than Ohio with regards to horses. It’s amazing. Horses here drive our economy. For example, the combined Kentucky equine industry economic impact generates $6.5 billion annually in cumulative direct, indirect and induced economic activity and 60,494 Kentucky jobs,” she explained.
The KHC focuses on protection and development of the state’s equine community through leadership and education. KHC offers gelding and euthanasia voucher programs, feed assistance programs, educational outreach, scholarships, and livestock investigative training and large animal emergency training clinics.
“We have 120 counties in Kentucky and a very unique equine profile — dubbed “the horse capital of the world,” Sarah said. “Our more-urban areas, like Lexington and Louisville, are quite affluent and thoroughbred (racehorse) and show horse-centric; outside of these areas, we have thousands of pleasure and trail riding horses.”
As the executive director of KHC, Sarah has charge over fundraising and development, education, public speaking and presentations, marketing, event management, programming and membership growth — and more.
Sarah has a boyfriend of 15 years in Ryan Hays, who works in the horse industry for the U.S. Equestrian Federation, the governing body of horse sports in the country.
“I have been deeply immersed in both the equine industry and in education my entire life,” Sarah said. “I don’t have children, at least of the two legged variety, but my efforts to assist people and horses in the Bluegrass State will be the legacy I leave.”
She currently owns a retired racehorse named Chisholm (“Busy Chizzy” is his barn name). The horse originally sold for $400,000 as a 2-year-old, raced twice under Todd Pletcher (winning just $7,000) and was retired to New Vocations. Sarah adopted him as a birthday present for herself, and he is becoming a fantastic hunter.
As for what her proud parents feel about Sarah’s achievements, Charles said: “I must tell you that as a military man, I had harbored some secret desire that she might consider West Point and a military career. But Holly and I have been extremely proud of everything Sarah has done in the path she has chosen and in which she has succeeded from the time she was a child.”