Improving Equine Education - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 7 Old 05-02-2020, 10:58 AM Thread Starter
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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!
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"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."
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post #2 of 7 Old 05-02-2020, 11:24 AM
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It's not just education. Anything horse related is hard if you didn't do it as a child. For instance, I've had my horses for two years now. Before that, my only horse experience was riding for one summer as a child, at a place where they didn't even have you tack up the horse. Was it a bad idea to buy two horses and then take on a third (project) horse? Yes, but I did it anyways (it was apparently my midlife crisis moment). I spent that first year reading, watching, talking to people, I mean probably 20 hours a week just trying to learn everything I could about horses (this was all the time I could spare from my work and family duties). And listening to a lot of people tell me that I was wrong, that I needed more experience before I tried to work with horses. People who had grown up with horses or riding, who sometimes didn't realize how snobbish they were being by asserting that no one should do anything with horses unless they already had experience. But knowing that, in a way, they were often right. But rather than focus on my mistakes and lack of experience, I just worked super hard making up for them.

The second year, I backed off to more like 10 hours a week. But I still put myself out there all the time, trying to soak up all the knowledge I can. My point being: yes, it's really hard, but if you are motivated and willing to put in the work, you can make things happen.

I agree, it sounds like your school does not have enough hands-on experience, and they don't seem like they are set up to get you more. It's not a good situation, since you are correct that people in a position to hire want to see hands-on experience, not book learning. But rather than complain about it, why not do something about it? Like I said in my response to your other post, find some place that wants volunteers (horse rescues, therapeutic riding centers) and go volunteer. You could even do something like only attending school part time next semester, and volunteering full time. Better yet, talk to your program director and see if they can't set up an internship program, where you get class credit for volunteering at such a place. It's a win for everyone. What is it people say: be the change you want to see?

"Saddle fit -- it's a no brainer!"" - random person
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post #3 of 7 Old 05-02-2020, 12:43 PM Thread Starter
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I really didn't mean for this post to sound like a complaint, so I'm sorry if it did. I wanted it to be more like where I can express how I think it can improve and be better. This was based on my previous experiences though and some of the frustrations I've had with my own program. As far as gaining experience, I have dealt with the same attitude you have before with other people. If you don't have previous experience, you shouldn't be around horses. I think it's far from the truth though. How else are you supposed to gain experience? I have been looking into some options for gaining experience myself, but so far, I don't have much to go on. I emailed a local adoption center, so I hope to hear from them soon to see if they'll be able to help. Once again though, thank you for your advice in the previous thread, and it's always nice to meet someone else who is going from the outside of the industry in!

"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."
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post #4 of 7 Old 05-02-2020, 01:15 PM
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Hi, yes, I'm sorry, maybe "complain" wasn't the right word choice. [edited]

I know how hard it is to start from a place of very little experience. But with perseverance, dedication, and hard work you can overcome that!

"Saddle fit -- it's a no brainer!"" - random person

Last edited by ACinATX; 05-02-2020 at 01:24 PM.
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post #5 of 7 Old 05-02-2020, 02:03 PM
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Well, you have very well summed up why many professional places do not want to employ people who have majored in equestrian degrees!

There is a great deal lacking in the practical experience for the students.

Anyone can read how to (say) lunge a horse but what if one only goes one way? Are they taught how to deal with it on their own? Answers are possibly not because the horse's used at places like this are all pretty safe and steady.

Before I retired there was a large equestrian college fairly near. I was called and asked if I would have students come in for practical experience twice a week. Now, I was fine with this, I love teaching whether it is on or off a horse. So the college sent me a list of rules.

These were totally laughable as they were so impractical. The best was that if a student was taking a horse to the field to turn loose, or catch, that had to wear a hard hat, a body protector and steel capped boots. OK, health and safety. The other proviso to this was that I had to accompany this student to do the task and I was not allowed to be leading another horse nor was another student allowed to lead a horse at the same time. Way to time consuming.

Generally if I had to bring in the horses (and many were youngsters not yet broken) they either came in loose or I would lead them all in together. This might be five or six.

So, I didn't have any student s come.

The other thing was that one of the top instructors at this place was a young woman who had trained at a college, got her degree, went out and found a very good job, was useless at it and asked to leave, got another job and the same happened so she applied to this college and got a top teaching post.

I actually saw this woman totally panic when two horses got into a disagreement in a horsebox. She hadn't a clue what to do.

I do agree with you that there needs to be more chances for students to learn hands on. I never had a college qualified employee that knew how to push a broom!
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post #6 of 7 Old 05-02-2020, 02:46 PM
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Equine Studies draws students. Students = money. Money = profit. Not every school that has a program is equipped to provide experience.

Best place to start is when young. Not always possible but with support it can be had through programs like 4H and FFA. Even if the school doesn't have a program, especially with 4H many counties do. I wish I had known that growing up. I was in 4H but my school was limited. I didn't know there were programs off campus tailored to what I wanted. My parents never bothered to look and the school was more interested in keeping students within the framework they set up.

I was fortunate in that the college I started with had a very comprehensive working student program. Experienced or not if you were going into the vet med tract they asked you to choose large or small animal. If you chose large then it was equine or other. You got experience with it all but they would tailor your work rotation to suit. Sadly when I transferred I ended up in a school where the book was king and women were looked down on. Changed my major really quick. Should have headed home and enrolled where I had originally planned.

Hind sight.
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Some horse people change their horse, they change their tack and discipline, they change their instructor; they never change themselves.
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post #7 of 7 Old 05-02-2020, 08:03 PM
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I'm also a student at a university that has a large percentage of equine management/science/breeding majors. We have over 70 horses on campus, right there next to the academic buildings. I am a biology major - to me, it's just a bonus that they have horses here. Unfortunately, though I am not part of the program, I can see the exact same thing going on at my school.

I had an equine major friend over to go for a trail ride with me one time. I decided we could go for a short canter down one trail and she looked at me, worried, and said "Really? I've never cantered before." She was a couple months away from graduating. The school had obviously failed her, and many others.

You know the program is bad when the people who are are at the top of the equestrian team winning at the shows are of all different majors except equine. There is a massive disconnect going on.
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equine degree , equine science , equine studies , experience , university

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