Equine Studies

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Equine Program Christian Colleges

Article by Rachelle Wiggins

“When we see creation, we see behind the creation and get a picture of what the Creator is like.” ~John Mark Comer

A recent study estimated that there are about 7.2 million horses in the United States, and approximately 1.74 million people employed in some aspect of their care and use. Clearly, that is a great employment opportunity for those with a passion for this magnificent animal! A major in equine studies educates you on everything horse-related--from their scientific study to the practical aspects of daily care--and prepares you for a career in the industry of horses. In this college major, you will not only improve your riding and horsemanship skills but will have opportunities to delve into topics like equine physiology and psychology, the business of equine management, breeding techniques, equipment care, equine rehabilitation, and the ins and outs of horse performance and competition.

If you possess an innate love of horses and some basic knowledge and experience, then you may be a perfect candidate for equine studies. But what are some of the other traits necessary to succeed in this major, and eventually in a horse-related career?

  • Sensory aware and attentive to detail. Being able to sense a horse’s mood through slight changes in their ears, lips, jaw and posture is important for safety reasons, as well as being able to bond and “communicate” with different horses. It is also helpful when it comes to detecting health problems that might otherwise be ignored.
  • Physical strength and stamina. Working with horses is demanding! Lifting, movement and endurance is par for the course.
  • Patient, gentle and careful. Getting to know a horse takes time and great care. Horses with behavioral issues or spirited personalities particularly need time and firm tenderness in order to be of use. 
  • Good communication and people skills. While the relationship to the animal is imperative, human interaction cannot be separated from the whole picture. In almost any avenue of horsemanship, some service is being offered; it is vital that you are able to get along with diverse populations and to be professional, efficient, and friendly.

An equine studies major is extremely hands-on in nature. You can expect to gain instruction in several of the five major equine disciplines: dressage, hunt/jump, eventing, Western and trail riding. Some schools allow you to board your own horse, but many provide horses, which helps to cut back the cost of attendance. You may have opportunities to study abroad for a semester, ride in shows or competitions, write a dissertation on a topic of particular interest and/or complete an equine-based internship. Some of the types of classes you can look forward to include:

  • Equine Behavior and Welfare
  • Natural Horsemanship
  • Equine Anatomy
  • Equine Business Management
  • Breaking and Training

Careers in this field are vast and expanding. Some of the newer, lesser known disciplines include equine-assisted therapy which helps clients with physical or emotional needs, including traumatized vets, those with special needs/disabilities and those in addictions recovery.  Another is hippotherapy, which is concerned with movement as a foundation to improve an individuals’ sensory processing. Most equine-related careers fall into three basic categories: sports/leisure, racing and service. Some examples:

  • Sports/leisure: trainer, barn manager, riding instructor, camp manager
  • Racing: jockey, breeder, exercise rider, groomer
  • Service: equine veterinary technician, farrier, equine dental technician

If horses are your passion, then let God guide you into on-going adventure with an equine studies major!






A future in Equine Studies

By Amber Gragert

“Wherever man has left his footprints in the long ascent from barbarism to civilization, we find the hoof print of a horse beside it.”  -John Trotwood Moore

Horses have been domesticated since 4000BC and have ever since been figures of nobility, beauty, hard work, speed and strength. Studying as an equine major means you will work intimately with one of God's noblest creatures. You will study horse anatomy, how to properly exercise them, train them, house and groom them. You will also learn to care for a variety of health concerns and all about horse equine nutrition and breeding. Horse riding for both sport and show will also be studied. You will gain an understanding of just how intelligent and sensitive they are as you study and work alongside them. Additionally, you could delve into a specific concentration like equine business, management or communications within the industry, equine science or riding instruction.

Coursework will include classes covering topics such as: anatomy and physiology of domestic animals, farm and stable management fundamentals, equine behavior, equine disease management, equine nutrition, training methods and small business management to name a few.

Career examples: Breeder, Barn Manager, Coach, Horse Show, Trainer, Judge or Manager, Horse Therapy Instructor, Equine Scientist, Equine Manager, Equine Veterinarian, Riding Instructor

Equine studies is very specific to the equine industry, so job opportunities are relatively contained within the equestrian field. Equine therapy, for instance, is the occupation where a person with a passion for horses can pair it with the helping and healing of others. There is a whole facet of equine studies dedicated to horses helping people through the psychology involved in activities like riding, brushing and speaking with the animal. You could work hand in hoof with your favorite animal to assist someone with autism, a behavior disorder, or even cerebral palsy to find their balance and tranquility through equine assisted therapy. This is just one example of how to apply your equine studies major in a career setting.

“The horse. Here is nobility without conceit, friendship without envy, beauty without vanity. A willing servant, yet never a slave.” -Ronald Duncan

Two year programs of study are also a great jumping off point into other areas of study focus and careers. Equine studies piques the interest in some student's passion for animals and science and causes them to pursue other areas of study like animal science, biology, conservation biology, forestry, environmental studies, pre-veterinary studies or wildlife management, which all open doors to other employment opportunities.

One of those might be farm and/or ranch management. Farming is likely the oldest human occupation, but what was once a family 'getting by,' has become an industry that depends on a team of people operating and managing farms and ranches consisting of hundreds of animals. This requires a ranch manager, assistant manager, business manager - so the ranch turns a profit, a veterinarian and equine nutritionist and so forth. Depending on how large the operation is, you may be required to have a degree in equine or animal science; whereas, others may only require a two-year degree plus experience. A ranch is not just a property with a few horses on it, it is a business and, just like any other business, it requires insurance, bookkeeping, state regulations and licensure etcetera. These are all careers open to you as you pursue your equine studies degree.