Improving Equine Education
Good morning everyone!
I hope you are enjoying your Saturday. I would like to take same though to cover an issue I have seen a lot on the threads people post to this board. This is the problem found in equine education, and more specifically Equine Studies and Equine Science majors at universities.
I am actually majoring in Equine Studies at a small private liberal arts university in central Kentucky. I have conentrations in both Equine Management and Equine Training, but there is a massive problem. For me, it has led me to consider transferring to a university less than an hour with a program more built to deal with this problem. The problem is experience.
My equine department, as it seems other departments as well, tend to assume two basic facts that lead to the false assumption that experience is unnecessary. In our basic equine classes, I recall several times where a professor would ask if we have done a certain task before with horses, and most of the class would raise their hand, but I never did. I never had horses when I was younger nor a barn to ride at on a consistant basis. This is the assumption. Most of the students have the basic equine experience, and for the people who do not, the textbook material will be enough. This is wrong though.
In the horse industry, as I have gathered, textbook knowledge means nothing. They do not care if you know how to pack a hoof or when to deworm if all you know is from a book. They want to know that you can do it. This lecture focused equine education system does not work. It requires practical experience. At my current university, that is very difficult for me to gain since they only let the more experienced students or students they see as more capable to gain the experience. The same paradox echoes throughout the horse industry as well. It is a struggle to find internships, working student positions, and volunteer positions because they also want experience. How then are we supposed to gain it?
I think the answer is simple. We need more equine departments to focus on more experience for everyone. I have never clipped a horse, developed a feeding plan, or braided a tail. While simple, they are basic skills that everyone should know. It is a flaw in the system that needs to be addressed. I believe that the horse industry is not just for people who have been around horses their entire life. It is for anyone who is willing to put in the effort and work hard to be in it. It is like any other industry. Competition and over-saturation is a reality, but that does not make it impossible. We do need experience though, and that should be the job of the equine departments at colleges and universities. Lectures are meaningless in the horse industry without pracfical experience.
Another problem I see is the lack of the necessary business skills taught in the management classes. I have noticed here at least that other users tend to recommend business as an alternate degree option for students, which while business is great, it once again does not hold much weight in the equine industry without experience. This is another task for the equine classes. We should be teaching equine majors how to properly manage a business. It is important to manage a herd, arrange veterinary visits, and to properly ration feed, but it is also important to run a farm like a business. This involves accounting, finance, and management. A farm is not just a farm but a business.
We need both business and practical experience for the future of the industry. Many farms today have themselves in debt and struggle from poor business management. With a heavier emphasis on management, our students will not only know more about the horses, but how to properly run the farms so that they do not have to worry about staying in business. They also need to know how to handle a horse, and to be properly taught how to do what will be asked from any owner or farm manager in the future, even if they are a new student, Not everyone has the same background, and it is time to stop assuming that only the more experienced students can handle it, and that thr book knowledge will get everyone else there.
I am a believer in the Equine Studies major contrary to most of the other people here from what I have seen on the thread. For me, it is because I never had the experience nor the knowledge when I was younger because my parents could not afford a horse or lessons. It is asupplement for me. It is not however meeting my needs where I am currently, and there are a few improvements that I think could be made in order to make it more appropriate for the modern horse industry. It not as academic as most universities and colleges may be comfortable with, but the horse industry is not an academic field. It is a practical field, and with it needs to be a practical education program to train its future workers. Academics do have their place, but farms depend more on practical knowledge and sound business practices,
I feel like I need to end this post with a discoaimer that I am in no way an expert on this topic. This is simply my analysis from my own experiences with some influence from other people from the forum. I do not entirely agree with the fact that business should be more integrated into it, mainly because business does not interest me, but I do know it is necessary and a valuable skill to have. Please do not take this as a factual argument, but more so opinions that can lead to a much broader discussion. As always, I have left some discussion questions at the bottom if you would be interested in continuing this very interesting discussion that many people deal with in their own equine programs.
What do you think about this? Do you see other ways in which equine education can be improved? Why do you think the Equine Studies and Equine Science majors are less useful than business or other majors? How would you recommend a beginner with no experience to get started in the horse industry?
Thank you for reading this very long post!
"Around here, however, we donít look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things, because we're curious Ö and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."