From horses to the House
By Carolyn Brown

State Rep. Matt Koch looks at the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument outside the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort. Matt, a Marine veteran, always starts school tours of the Capitol at the monument.

Matt Koch doesn't like to think of himself as a politician. He's a veteran and third-generation horseman, but the title by which most people know him – state representative for Bourbon, Nicholas, and Fleming counties – is only one facet of his life. He prefers to call himself a public servant.

A former Marine captain who did tours of duty in Kosovo and Afghanistan, Matt is proud to have served his country. The idea of getting into politics was late to cross his mind.
More than a decade before he first took office in 2019, he sat with a few fellow Marines on a mountain in Afghanistan, talking about what they'd do when they returned home. Matt was certain of his plan: he'd come back to his family's farm and get married. “I wanted to live a calm, stress-free life," he says.

A few years after returning from service, Matt felt called to get involved in his community for the sake of his children. He joined some local boards but realized he wanted to effect change on a larger level. Running for a position in the state legislature could make that happen. "I couldn't just watch from the sidelines," he says.

In his Frankfort office, he keeps reminders of his time in the Marines – military coins, a photo of other members of his unit, a deck of playing cards for soldiers to use to identify terrorists. When he takes school groups on tours of the Capitol, he always tells them to get dropped off at the Gold Star Families Memorial Monument.

"You wouldn't have that," he tells them, pointing at the Capitol, "without any of them."

When he's not in Frankfort, Matt works on Shawhan Place, where he raises about 100 horses. It's not easy work – he wakes up early every day and spends long hours getting his hands dirty – but he finds it rewarding.

Still, he says, many people assume that raising Thoroughbreds, which regularly sell for four- and five-figure amounts, guarantees a luxury lifestyle of sports cars and Derby outfits. The reality is much different.

"So many people don't understand that on a horse farm, the animals come first.," he says. "It's a labor of love, and it doesn't matter if it's Christmas or a birthday. You go out and take care of the animals first."

Still, working on the farm is his escape from the stresses of his job in Frankfort, he says. He jokes that farming and politics have one particular thing in common: "dealing with manure."

Pelt, a horse born and raised at Shawhan Place, Matt's farm, is shown to potential buyers at Fasig-Tipton as part of the 2023 Kentucky October Yearlings Sale. The horse sold for $2,000.

Matt laughs as Maj. Gen. Haldane B. Lamberton makes a joke about Marines during a meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection at the Kentucky State Capitol Annex.

Cory Meadows (left) and Dr. Michael Kuduk (right) speak to Matt during a "Lunch and Learn" sponsored by the Kentucky Medical Association. The session encouraged lawmakers to support reform for prior authorization, which requires doctors to wait for approval from insurance companies to perform certain medical procedures.

On his farm, Matt clears water out of a hole he dug to fix an underground water line that had sprung a leak.

Matt (second from right) takes part in a groundbreaking ceremony at the future site of the Bourbon County Community and Recreation Complex.

Matt clears an abscess from the hoof of a horse named Day is Done.

As part of his daily routine, Matt walks a young horse to a pasture.

After bringing young horses back into their barn at dawn, Matt closes the pasture gate.