Find the Right Equine College Program

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College Equestrians

Choosing a college is one of the biggest decisions you will have to make in your life—whether you’re a traditional or non-traditional student.

If, like most horse-crazy students, you’ve decided you need to get your horsey fix while you get an education, you’ll need to decide if you want horses to be a part of your everyday curriculum, or if you want to have horses around, but study something other than the equine industry.

To help you decide, you have two main choices: Hands-on equine careers or horse-industry jobs outside of the barn.

Hands-on Higher Ed

If you know you want a professional career that involves hands-on horse care, a college that offers in-the-barn classes would be best-suited to preparing you for your future. Jobs that would need classes such as these include:

  • Horse trainer
  • Equine therapist
  • Farm manager
  • Riding Instructor
  • Professional groom
  • Equine massage therapist
  • Equine dentist
  • Equine chiropractor
  • Farrier

Note that acceptance to vet school does not require hands-on undergraduate classes, though an array of hands-on hours, whether in-class or through volunteer or internship hours, will help solidify your application to vet school.

Jobs With an Equine Emphasis

There are lots of jobs in the equine industry that don’t require physically working with horses every day. Many of these careers do not require as much hands-on experience working with equines. Jobs in these facets of the industry would require majors in things like biology, finance, psychology or another mainstream course of study. Equine industry jobs you could hold with a traditional major include:

  • Bloodstock agent
  • Equine nutritionist
  • Agriculture education instructor
  • Equine organization staff member
  • Equine artist
  • Equine researcher
  • Sports psychologist
  • Equine marketing or public relations specialist
  • Saddle fitter

Horses as a Hobby

If riding is your passion, but you want to study something other than horses in college, there are many ways to keep horses as part of your college experience. If you’re interested in riding and competing throughout the school year as part of a team, be sure that the college you choose offers one of the following opportunities:

  • ANRC – The American National Riding Commission promotes the American System of Forward Riding, and offers rider certification programs, instructional clinics and competitive opportunities. www.anrc.org
  • IDA – The Intercollegiate Dressage Association allows students to compete as individuals and teams of four at Introductory, Lower Training, Upper Training and First Level competitions. www.teamdressage.com
  • IHSA – The Intercollegiate Horse Show Association promotes affordable competitions for riders of all skill levels, who compete individually and as teams at regional, zone and national competitions. www.ihsainc.com
  • ISSRA – The Intercollegiate Saddle Seat Riding Association allows riders to learn to ride or continue to ride and show at saddle seat competitions. www.intercollegiatesaddleseat.com
  • NCEA – The National Collegiate Equestrian Association seeks to promote equal collegiate opportunities for women, as well as provide a collegiate national championship event. www.varsityequestrian.com

There are hundreds of job opportunities in the equine industry. Deciding if you’re interested in a hands-on profession or one that doesn’t involve daily horse care will help narrow which college is the best fit for you.

No matter what you aspire to be, the perfect college is out there. Be diligent in your search and keep your mind open. The right college may be in your own backyard!

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5 COMMENTS

  1. My daughter is a junior in HS and wants to attend a college with a competitive equestrian (show) program. We would also like her to become eligible for academic/athletic scholarship.
    Do you think we should be contacting coaches of collegiate equestrian programs directly, and forwarding videos clips of my daughter’s shows as well as a list of her academic/athletic achievements?
    Thanks for your advice.

  2. Steve, do an online search for colleges with equestrian programs and then schedule a visit. Take the day and meet with admissions, coaches and finance. Usually a student will be your tour guide. We’ve done two visits and are planning a few more. Our daughter is a junior and competes in dressage so we are looking at IDA schools. Also verify whether the program is NCAA and whether your daughter meets the required academic requirents.

  3. I was disappointed in the article because there is no mention of a degree in therapeutic riding. There are colleges that offer 4 year degrees in therapeutic riding as well as minors and focused courses.

  4. My daughter is currently a junior at Cazenovia College in the Equine Business Management program. Her course load is 1/2 equine related and 1/2 business related. If she chooses not to make her living with equines and keeps that as a side interest, she will still have the business background. And she competes on both the IHSA Hunt Seat team and the IDA Dressage team.

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