It wouldn’t be very polite to envy a person too much, so go ahead and take a deep breath to get yourself ready for this one: Holly Whiteman lives on a horse farm in Midway, in a studio apartment over an actual barn. She wakes up every morning with the most beautiful scenery in the world, and has her own horse in the back yard—a Haflinger named Prince—and a kayak tied to a tree that she takes out on South Elkhorn Creek as her schedule permits.
Even when she goes to work, Whiteman’s views are equally tranquil and fabulous, because she is the development assistant at Equestrian Events, Inc., whose office is at the Kentucky Horse Park in the same building with Equine Land Conservation Resource, Friesian Horse Association of North America, Kentucky Horse Council and Rocky Mountain Horse Association.
“What’s interesting about the culture in our office is we’re horsey and non-horsey,” Whiteman said. EEI has a staff of six full-time people, two part-timers and a handful of seasonal workers. The office is dog-friendly, so Whiteman’s two-year-old shadow, Marla, follows her to work every day. Marla is part border collie and part Chesapeake Bay retriever.
As the development assistant at Equestrian Events, Whiteman is responsible for the sale and service of the International Trade Fair at the Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event, which runs April 23-26 this year at the Horse Park. She works with EEI’s director of development and the director of venue management to bring in new entertainment attractions for spectators. New for 2015 is a 5K twilight run. It’s called the RK-5K, and it will take place Friday evening, April 24, starting and ending at the Bourbon and Bridle Lounge tent at the Horse Park.
Returning for the second year in a row is Kentucky Uncovered, presented by TOPS in Lexington. The Kentucky Uncovered venue is just outside the International Trade Fair and features Kentucky-based companies, including wine and crafts. The International Trade Fair itself has expanded this year. “I have to say, we have new vendors in trade fair I’m excited about,” Whiteman said.
Equestrian Events has named Horses and Hope as the official charity for this year’s Rolex, so the organization’s mission will be incorporated throughout the weekend to promote awareness and education about breast cancer prevention and early detection.
The Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event is a massive undertaking for Equestrian Events, Inc., so volunteers are particularly appreciated. Whiteman works closely with local colleges to coordinate semester-long internships with EEI. “I work with interns to help facilitate career experiences and networking to further them in their professional lives,” she said.
Whiteman was an EEI intern herself as a student at Georgetown College. She had the opportunity to intern for Rolex Kentucky from January to May for three years in a row. She graduated from Georgetown in 2013 with a bachelor’s degree in communication and media studies, and was hired full-time by EEI that summer.
“In college, I was involved in the Equine Scholars Program,” she said, “a scholarship program that educates students on the different careers within the equine industry through speakers, tours and internships.”
Throughout her college career, Whiteman trained fox hunters and exercised horses, worked in barns and taught riding lessons. She also interned with Phelps Media Group, an equestrian marketing company based in Wellington, Florida. “I had an opportunity to write and publish press releases, and see the top level competitors from the media side, which was an incredible opportunity to have as a student,” she said.
Horses have always been in the center of her life. Whiteman grew up in Winchester, Kentucky, where she started riding horses as an 8-year-old. “Growing up around horses taught me a lot about responsibility,” she said. “In order to be competitive, you have to be diligent yet patient in training. You have to be determined and always open to learning new things.”
As a teenager, she began showing horses. “I never had the heart to do it professionally,” she said. “It was more of a hobby.” She did compete with Prince, sometimes at events at the Kentucky Horse Park.
“Showing is very time-consuming,” Whiteman said. “Sometimes you don’t realize what people outside of this area do to compete.” She has friends on the west coast who drive eight hours to an event. Because she competed at the Horse Park, Whiteman would drive 20 minutes and then be able to sleep in her own bed instead of a hotel.
“It’s amazing for me to see a lot of the competitors I idolized as a young athlete,” Whiteman said, now that she is working behind the scenes of Rolex Kentucky. “It’s definitely special.”
In her spare time, she enjoys hiking and kayaking in Woodford County, taking her dog, Marla, to Thursday Night Live and local music events in downtown Lexington, and traveling abroad. She has ridden Icelandic ponies in Iceland, kayaked in Alaska and visited the ancient monuments and ruins of Skara Brae in Scotland. She and her family are thinking about a horseback pack trip in Wyoming this summer.
Whiteman is a member of LYPA, the Lexington Young Professionals Association. “Though I only recently joined, they have a great impact on the community, and I am very excited to get involved,” she said. She also volunteers with a Kentucky Children’s Hospital event each summer, the Pediatric Cancer Survivor Picnic.
“I feel I’ve been given an edge to know what I want and how to go after it,” she said of growing up around horses. “Everybody’s got to learn to get back up when you fall. Keep with it.”
Whiteman considers herself fortunate to be part of the horse industry because the people care so much about horses and other horse people, and they know how to have fun at events. “The most amazing thing about horse people is they are very passionate,” she said. “They love what they do and care very much about what they do.”