A group of animal science students are trading in their desks, notebooks and cramped classrooms for saddles, bridles and reins a few hours a week for the College of Agriculture’s basic horsemanship class at BREC’s Farr Park Equestrian Center.
The course was created in 2011 as a means to give animal science students an in-depth understanding of horses through a classroom and, most importantly, a lab setting.
Animal science instructor Laura Smith lectures students twice a week in a classroom where they learn equine science. But for two hours a week, lab instructor KC Annison oversees a more hands-on experience where students get practical knowledge.
“A lot of the problems we see in the equine industry is that people coming out of college don’t have a whole lot of experience,” said Neely Walker, LSU Ag Center equine extension specialist. “They have book smarts, but not practical understanding of being with the horses. That was our overall goal; to build this class to help people who want to be in this industry be more effective. When they go to get a job they can know what they are doing.”
Students are assigned a specific horse to learn with during the semester, though instances can arise that may make a switch necessary. Skill levels may warrant another horse that would work better with a specific student, Walker said.
All of the horses are different, and they each have their own personalities, according to Amy Lang, BREC representative at Farr Park.
Lang works closely with the horses and said the lab is just as good for them as it is for the students.
“It’s good for them to get out and meet new people,” she said. “The horses have been very good so far.”
The students learn to lead their horses properly and correct riding practices as the semester progresses, said teacher assistant and animal sciences junior Michael Martin.
“They learn grooming and safe ways to do everything,” he said.
Instead of pouring out what is learned in labs onto paper, tests and quizzes involve proper demonstration of grooming, safety and riding techniques.
Walker said the nature of the lab section helps prepare animal science students for a future within the equine industry, but may also be the beginning of a bigger role within the college.
“We have big hopes and dreams that we will be able to create an equine science concentration within the College of Agriculture,” Walker said. “This was the hallmark class we thought would build up a lot of interest.”
Though plans are still developing regarding the concentration, Walker said an equine specialization would increase the chances of University graduates getting jobs in his or her field.
“You have to have a lot of experience,” she said. “You have to have someone to vouch for you. People put a lot of time in their farm or business; they aren’t going to hire just anyone. You have to prove to [them] that you know what you are talking about.”