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Owning a horse business in Kentucky completes ‘the dream’

By Kathie Stamps

Alex Gravett and Zendaya, a 2-year-old Saddlebred filly, at the 2019 Kentucky State Fair World’s Championship Horse Show.

Running a horse farm is not for the faint of heart. The hours are grueling, weather can’t be controlled, and the “product” weighs 1,200 pounds and has its own personality and temperament. But when horses are in your blood, being a business owner in the horse industry is as good as it gets.

Alex Gravett
Alex Gravett

Alex Gravett is the owner of Kismet Farm in Simpsonville, where she trains Saddlebred and Morgan show horses.

“I have a very vivid memory of being about 5 or so years old, the day I wanted to be a horse trainer,” she said. “I spent my whole life chasing that dream.”

As a trainer, she is responsible for working show horses and training them on a daily basis. Gravett and two other instructors also teach riding lessons at Kismet Farm to kids as young as 5, teens and adults.

There are close to 30 horses on the property, many privately owned by Kismet students or by owners who live elsewhere. Gravett trains 15 of the horses; the others are retired show horses for the lesson program. She keeps a couple of sale horses at the farm at any given time, and she owns a yearling Morgan with her mother as an investment horse.

“Kentucky is a unique place because people will send horses to Kentucky to be sold,” Gravett said. “There are so many Saddlebred barns here. People can come here to shop when they are looking for a horse to buy, travel less than 100 miles and see 50 barns in a weekend if they want.”

The Kentucky legislature proclaimed Shelby County the American Saddlebred Capital of the World in 2005. Similar to the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred racing, the American Saddlebred has three major events each year: the Junior League Horse Show in Lexington, the Kentucky State Fair in Louisville and the American Royal in Kansas City.

Gravett grew up showing Morgan horses in her native Minnesota. She earned a degree in equestrian studies with a concentration in the saddle seat discipline at William Woods University in Fulton, Missouri, and minored in business. During college, she interned one summer in Nicholasville with noted Saddlebred trainer Nelson Green.

After graduation, she moved to Versailles and commuted to Nicholasville. Then in 2009 she became an assistant trainer with Bill and Kris Knight at their Pleasantview Farm in Simpsonville. They encouraged Gravett to start a riding lesson program as her own business.

“It allowed me to establish my own client base with their facilities and horses,” she said.

As the Knights moved toward retirement, Gravett transitioned into learning about the business side of a horse farm and taking over operations from her mentors. She started accepting horses for training and continued teaching riding lessons. As a full-fledged business, Kismet became a reality in 2014. Gravett leases the 14-acre property from the Knights.

No matter how busy she is with the horses, Gravett finds it important to be involved with the local community and equine industry organizations. She has served on the board of directors for Leadership Shelby and has been the national co-chair of the young professionals committee for the United Professional Horsemen’s Association (UPHA). In January, Gravett was awarded the Tony C. Ray Young Professional of the Year award at UPHA’s national conference.

“There couldn’t be a better place to do it than Kentucky,” she said of being a business owner in the horse industry. “There are so many resources at our fingertips. We have access to the absolute best team of blacksmiths and veterinarians, and anything horse-related right here. I can’t imagine doing business anywhere else.”