College students are always looking for internships to gain
real-world experience that will impress potential employers. Take
20-year-old Chelsea Heery, who is about to graduate from the North American Racing Academy
(NARA), part of the Bluegrass Community & Technical College in
Lexington. She has spent April working in trainer Mike Maker’s barn at
Founded by Racing Hall of Famer Chris McCarron, NARA is based at The
Thoroughbred Center on Paris Pike and prepares students for careers as
jockeys, horsemen or racing officials. NARA has a new initiative called
Keeneland Boot Camp, in which second-year graduating students are placed
with Keeneland trainers. Heery is the first student to participate in
“This saves the student the cost of travel and housing out of state
and saves the trainer the cost of temporary housing and travel to bring
an employee to Lexington for four to five weeks for the meet,” said Remi
Bellocq, executive director of equine programming for BCTC.
Heery, who was born in New Jersey and grew up in West Virginia, said
she always loved horses. While in high school, she began riding a few
horses at a local equine rescue and later started galloping horses on a
farm. She went to Keeneland to attend the races and worked several sales
for consignors Nardelli Sales and Timber Town Stable.
Heery learned about NARA when she was searching for YouTube videos
about galloping racehorses and other aspects of Thoroughbred racing.
While with the Maker operation, she has done everything, including
galloping horses in the morning and taking horses to the Paddock for
afternoon races. She said the experience has been “amazing. It’s been so
awesome. It just makes me realize how much I love this sport and how
much I want to be in this. I wake up every day happy and excited to come
Maker’s Keeneland assistant, Joe Sharp, has high praise for the NARA internship opportunity.
“You can teach it as much as you want in the classroom – and they’ve
done a great job – but until you get out there and actually do it and
live it and work with the people and work with the horses … that’s
irreplaceable,” Sharp said. “I think it’s great to give kids an
opportunity who wouldn’t have an ‘in’ or weren’t raised in (racing) to
get out there and feel a part of it just as much and hopefully go on and
“Chelsea is one of our hardest-working students, always in the barn
first and last to leave, and it’s nice to see her getting a chance with a
big barn,” Bellocq said.