UK Students Spend Spring Break on Equine Study Away Trip in Puerto Rico 

By Jordan Strickler 

This year, a few equine-loving University of Kentucky students from the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment enjoyed a unique spring break adventure, traveling to Puerto Rico for a study-away trip.

“The six-day trip, the first of two equine study-away trips planned for 2023, explored the landscape and we learned more about equine and agricultural industries in Puerto Rico while having some fun along the way,” said Erin DesNoyers, operations coordinator with UK Equine Programs.

Students visited Carabali Rainforest Park in Luquillo and met with veterinarian Jose Garcia Blanco and his wife Sharon, who board several horses at the park. The group rode horses through the rainforest to Luquillo Beach, renowned for its beauty. After the ride, they tried local favorites like fried cheese with guava, tostones and mofongo.

Students also visited Vieques, a small island off the coast of Puerto Rico, home to a population of feral and semi-feral horses, before visiting Seven Seas Beach.

“Horses and people coexist on this small piece of paradise in the Caribbean,” DesNoyers said. “While the island has been battered by hurricanes, its people and horses have endured. It was a very neat experience seeing horses blending into everyday life. It makes you stop and think about the various issues relating to equine welfare and natural resources needed for survival.”

Students also visited one of the area’s most renowned Thoroughbred farms.

Potrero Los Llanos, a breeding operation in Coamo uses innovative methods to manage horses in the hot climate. The facility has approximately 10 stallions and 20 broodmares. During the farm tour, students saw several stallions and mares with foals.

“The operation is famous for creating a welcoming environment where horses can enjoy a natural way of life,” DesNoyers said. “Their approach to breeding and management is a refreshing reminder of the importance of treating animals with kindness and respect.”

The students also toured two Puerto Rican Paso Fino farms, Hacienda San Francisco de Asis and Hacienda RBC. They learned more about the Paso Fino and what the breed means to Puerto Rican culture.

“In a matter of days, we were able to explore different cultural roles of equines in Puerto Rico,” said Chloe Young, equine science and management sophomore. “Through the trip, we were lucky enough to ride and observe horses, as well as tour some of the major Thoroughbred and Paso Fino farms on the island. Further, this course did not lack in exposing us to different agricultural industries and ecotourism practices vital to Puerto Rico’s economy.”

To wrap up the trip, the group visited the Vocational Equestrian School of Puerto Rico at Hipódromo Camarero racecourse. Many of the school’s students learn equine anatomy, racetrack logistics, how to ride and how to work and communicate with horse owners and trainers.

“This was the second time I traveled abroad with the University of Kentucky and the first time with UK’s Ag Equine Programs. It was an incredible experience,” said Rebecca Chastain, a UK Animal and Food Sciences junior. “I would wholeheartedly recommend this experience to other students, as I established numerous connections and was exposed to incredible cultures. It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime trip.”

Contact: Camie Heleski,

Images available on request

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Writer: Jordan Strickler

UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, through its land-grant mission, reaches across the commonwealth with teaching, research and extension to enhance the lives of Kentuckians.

Contact: Camie Heleski,

Images available on request