Judy Dawley, a children's therapist, began riding at age 50 and later realized her childhood dream of owning a horse.
She felt she owed it to her mare to learn more about horse care, and so she signed up for classes at Rochester Community and Technical College in Minnesota.
Chris Robertson signed up for equine management courses at Pierce College in Southern California upon the urging of his son, Brandon, who was taking the classes as part of his regular college curriculum. Bob Parsons is taking the same courses so that in a few years, when he retires, he can buy some land and raise horses.
Judy, Chris and Bob, like many others across the country, finished their formal schooling a while ago. They work full time and try to fit that around raising families and being active in their communities. Yet for them, school isn't a thing of the past. They are taking advantage of the many opportunities available at colleges and universities to learn about horses, from their care and management to their conformation, anatomy and training.
"When I found out that the college had an equine education program, I couldn't get registered fast enough," Judy says. "I've certainly gained an incredible amount of knowledge, but I've also gained an incredible amount of self-confidence."
What's Out There
It used to be that school was just for kids, and anyone who wanted to learn about horses had to get either a two- or four-year degree in animal science, or put even more time in and go to vet or graduate school. But now just about anyone can take a wide variety of equine classes, short courses, and seminars at any college that offers a horse program. You can choose from among classes that meet for one afternoon, one evening or regularly for months; from traditional classroom settings to hands-on handling of horses at a farm; from listening to an instructor in the flesh to distance-learning courses where the professor is broadcasting via television from a remote location.
Flexibility is in. For example, at Texas A&M University in College Station, Dr. Brett Scott, an extension horse specialist, works with county agents to provide programs throughout Texas. One day-long workshop covers basic horse management, while another discusses mare and foal care, and a third, about conditioning programs and training regimens, is geared to performance horse owners.