LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A walk to the opposite side where the Twin Spires are at Churchill Downs lands you at what’s called the Backside of the iconic racing venue.
There are approximately 1,400 horses in about 50 stables with 1,000 backside workers who feed, bathe, train and exercise the horses, according to Churchill Downs spokesperson Darren Rogers.
There you will also find the nonprofit Backside Learning Center (BLC), which has a mission to support and provide resources for the many equine workers and their families through a variety of programs such as a weekly fresh food market, health chats and trainings, parent support groups and outings to various events here from local soccer games to the ballet.
Francisco Javier Herrera Cano is one of the many backside workers who have used BLC’s services.
“I’ve worked at Churchill Downs for 20 years. I came from my country, Guatemala, and started to work in this because my dad worked many years here and taught me this, and this is the kind of work I enjoy,” the 36-year-old told Spectrum News 1.
Cano, an exercise rider for Bernie Flint Stables, has benefitted from the support received by BLC. His daughter, Jasmyn Herrera Cano, also takes part in BLC programming by attending its after-school program for backside workers’ kids in K-12th grade. Jasmyn first started the program when she was 5-years-old. Now, she is 11.
“She started to make more friends and became more social. It’s also helped her service-like mindset with schooling. You can put her anywhere, and she won’t shy away. She’ll do whatever she needs to do and will actively participate in everything,” Cano said about his daughter.
Jasmyn told Spectrum News 1 her favorite subject is English, so she enjoys learning and reading through the after-school BLC literacy program. Jasmyn has also taken part and enjoyed the free summer camps offered by BLC.
Cano has also gained a lot by attending the Backside Learning Center, such as free English classes. However, he’s most thankful for the help he received by BLC to find a teacher to practice and learn the U.S. citizenship test questions.
“And, thank to God, I am a citizen of the United States, already,” Cano said.
Something Cano said he couldn’t have done without the Backside Learning Center.
However, those resources barely scratch the surface of all that the Backside Learning Center does for the workers and their families.
If you wish to learn more about BLC, volunteer, or donate to the nonprofit, visit BLC’s website for more info.