Working with different personalities rekindled Kennedy Stanek’s passion for standardbreds

by Chris Lomon

There was a time when Kennedy Stanek didn’t feel like herself.

“Racing has had such a big impact on my life,” said the standardbred groom, who works in trainer Jessica Johnson’s barn. “Before I started working for Jess at the racetrack I was really depressed and had lost all confidence working with the horses. But working with so many different Standardbreds every day, all these different personalities, it made me really brought back and renewed my passion for horses and working with them in general.

It was a happy coincidence that led Stanek to his horse racing life.

Four years ago, she decided to test the working waters in standardbred racing.

“I was in my last year of high school and I was looking for a job. My best friend was looking to get into Running Aces. So I thought, ‘What would be a good way to get a summer job and be with my best friend?’ So I went to the state fair with her, and Running Aces had a stall in the stable with standard-bred horses. I spoke to the lady there, who happened to be [trainer] Jessica Johnson and I said, “I think I’d like to work for you.” She told me she was looking for someone.

Stanek still wanted to take some time to think about his decision.

It was another conversation that gave her the clarity she was looking for.

“I can’t help but credit AJ [Alyssa Joy Fetterly], who worked in a grocery store. I wasn’t quite set on working at Running Aces at the time, but she gave me Jessica’s number and really convinced me to work there. Once I started four years ago, I was hooked.

Stanek does not regret his career choice.

In fact, working with standardbreds has been a game-changer for her.

“It makes you feel really important when you come in every day to give them breakfast and they all look at you like, ‘Hey, give me some attention.’ They are all amazing. They really make you feel happy and satisfied.

Take, for example, Alilthundadownunda and Teachmehowtotory.

Her affinity for the two, Alilthundadownunda, a 4-year-old son of Malak Uswaad N—Wild About Eagle, and Teachmehowtotory, a 5-year-old trotting daughter of Braggart—Rails of Victory, is evident the moment she mentions their names.

“Teachmehowtotory is so much fun to watch and use. She’s awesome. Alilthundadownunda, she’s just a wonderful horse. Watching them and all the horses you connect with when they run…it’s so hard to put into words. It’s really exhilarating. Every time you look at them, every horse, it’s so exciting. When you bring them into the barn and start working with them, they become part of your life and they are very important to you. you.

Horses also have a certain quality that Stanek really appreciates.

And while they can’t talk, the horse can be a great sounding board, she noted.

“I talk to horses all the time, especially Alilthundadownunda. When he was younger he needed a bit of encouragement in the paddock, so we talk to each other all the time. He’s a great listener.

The most rewarding and valuable part of Stanek’s connection to the pacers and trotters is when she gets the opportunity to sit on the race bike.

Whatever the weather, she is in her happy place.

“Occasionally, I jog with horses. It has to be my favorite part of the job, it’s so relaxing. Everything is linked and it’s like a good time, where there is no stress, only this pleasure of being with the horse at this time. It might rain and I still love it. Rain or shine, I’m happy to be here.

Stanek is also happy to have another rewarding animal-focused job outside of racing.

Together with her sister, she takes care of a unique group of four-legged creatures.

“My sister and I also raise dairy goats, which takes a lot of time. About eight years ago we bought a couple of dairy goats. We were just going to try it out and see what we thought. We continued to show them through 4H and the American Dairy Goat Association. We’re not quite good at it yet, but we have a nice herd.

Do goats and standardbreds have anything in common?

According to Stanek, the answer is yes.

“They are both quite cunning and every day is an adventure. They absolutely have their own personalities. They are all individuals and they expected to be treated as such.

As for what lies ahead, career-wise, for Stanek, the answer is not entirely clear at this time.

The only certainty, however, is that she will always have some association with standardbreds.

“I would love to train one day, but I’m a pre-vet student, so who knows, maybe one day I’ll be a vet at the racetrack. It’s hard to say with certainty. I also own two riding horses. I’m trying to get into showcasing versatility ranch horses, but it’s very complicated and there’s so much to learn. I guess there’s a lot to look forward to, but I’m not sure what it will look like at this point. These standardbreds just have a way of attracting you. They’re beautiful, they’re amazing to work with, and they make your life better.

For now, Stanek is happy to stay in the moment, grateful for the chance to work with the horses and thrilled to be a part of their lives.

That’s why she eagerly awaits the moment she takes the final steps before reaching the barn, anticipating the reaction she’s about to receive from the faces gazing at her from the front of their stalls.

“All the horses are happy to see me in the morning. It’s nice to walk around and give everyone their equal share of love and caresses. It really is a beautiful thing to have in my life.