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Life's Work: Catherine Parke

October 22, 2019

Catherine Parke never looks at her watch.

Her job doesn’t have hours. She doesn’t clock in or clock out. As the owner of Valkyre Stud, she might be up in the middle of the night during foaling season or working long hours at a sale. Every day, she personally inspects each one of the dozens of horses at her farm. Her tireless work ethic is something she learned from the generations of horsemen who mentored her. 

Catherine Parke

“A good horseman is two-fold to me,” said Catherine. “It's someone that will work 24/7 and never look at his watch, because you can't. Secondly, a gentleness and a kindness working with animals. You're never rough with the animal.”

Horses are what drew Catherine to Kentucky decades ago. She chose to attend the University of Kentucky because of the equine classes the school offered. Even then, her days were full of horses: galloping racehorses in the mornings, teaching riding lessons on the weekends, and working night watch at a farm a few nights a week. 

In 1978, after years of working for horsemen like Henry White, Richard Broadbent, Lee Eaton and Victor Heerman, Catherine founded Valkyre Stud. Located near Georgetown, Kentucky, the farm is built on Catherine’s deep experience in the industry, her commitment to the horses in her care, and the lessons of her mentors.  

“What I've learned from the people I worked for, particularly Mr. White, is the horse is always first—taking care of the horse. They can't take care of themselves. You have to be totally committed.”

That commitment comes through clearly at Valkyre Stud. From the grooms to the groundskeepers, their dedication to their jobs is evident in the condition of the horses, the land and the barns that make up the farm. “I can’t ask people to work as hard as they do,” Catherine said. “It comes from within.” 

Valkyre Stud

The hard work of everyone at Valkyre has paid off year after year, with half a dozen Grade 1 winners raised at the farm, including millionaires Milwaukee Brew and Riskaverse. They’ve also sold multiple seven-figure yearlings in the farm’s role as a consignor. 

Catherine continues to share the lessons she’s learned with the next generations of horsemen and horsewomen. Every year, the farm takes on interns from across the globe who are given the opportunity to learn about the Thoroughbred industry in a classroom unlike any other. 

Catherine Parke

“I love working with the interns. They come bright and full of passion and energy. I don't have any children so it's a real joy,” said Catherine. “Good mentors are going to teach you solid horsemanship skills that you just can't read in a book.”

With more than 40 years at the helm of her own farm and a lifetime in the industry, Catherine has earned and honed her horsemanship skills. It’s been the result of hard work and long days—and she’s loved every minute. 

“You find what part of the horse industry that you absolutely love, and follow your passion. You can’t do it for financial reasons. Whatever it is, follow your passion.”

Catherine Parke