Dear Jessica, your HORSE-SENSE is a godsend. You've saved us time and money and helped us avoid making all kinds of dire mistakes over the last few years. Now I hope you can help with a school question. My daughter is fifteen and has just informed us that although she does want to go to college, she intends to "major in horses". She is an extremely hard-headed young lady who is unlikely to change her mind, and since she has been completely obsessed with horses since she was a toddler, has taken lessons for four years and has been leasing a horse for the last two years, I think that she does have some idea of what she'll be getting into.
In the past, you've suggested that "majoring in horses" may not be the best way to prepare for a financially secure life, and that many "Equine Studies" program graduates are not very employable. We're not going to be leaving Jody a lot of money, so she needs to make a living at whatever she does. Jody respects your opinions a great deal, we all do, and I'm hoping that you will be able to shed some light on this subject. Jody has heard from a friend of a friend (you know how these things go) that there is a good program at a place called Otterbein. Do you know anything about this, where it is, what the name of the college is, whether it's the kind of place where we could put our daughter and our money? The only good "horse college" schools I know about are William Woods and Findlay, and for some reason Jody is fixated on this mysterious Otterbein place. Can you help, please? We live in Kentucky and I would prefer to keep Jody reasonably close to home - within driving distance, anyway!
Thank you for all that you do. Bob
In this case, I can't tell you a great deal about Otterbein College (it's a four-year liberal arts college located in Westerville, Ohio), but I can tell you where to find more information, and as I have actually visited Otterbein, I'll be glad to give you my own personal impressions of the college's Equine Science program.
The college has a website with all sorts of information: www.otterbein.edu. Look it up, get addresses and phone numbers, get in touch with people there, and start collecting information. While you're at it, if you do a general online search under "Equine Science" or "Equine Studies", you should be able to find a good many programs at colleges and universities in many different states. Since you're beginning to collect information about programs, collect as much as possible. Perhaps by the time Jody is ready to leave for college, you won't mind as much if she wants to go somewhere that isn't within a day's drive. ;-)
If you DO want her within driving distance, do, by all means, look closely at Otterbein College. I know that it's not accurate or fair to judge an entire Equine Science program on the basis of working with a group of riders who are members of that program, but as it happens, I have had the opportunity to meet and work with a group of riders at Otterbein, and I did form some strong impressions - all of them positive.
In the spring of 2001, I taught a three-day riding clinic at Otterbein College. I worked with both students and faculty members in the riding program, and was very impressed with the type and caliber of the students and teachers that Otterbein obviously attracts. All, without exception, were intelligent, interested, and talented. All of the students had obviously been well-taught, and after working with the instructors, I could easily understand why the students were so good. These were THINKING students - they asked good questions, thought about the answers, and asked followup questions if they needed more information. All of them - students and teachers - had a wonderful attitude toward the horses AND toward each other. While one group of riders was riding in a lesson, another group would watch and help - moving jumps, replacing poles, carrying water bottles for their friends, and generally offering encouragement and support to the riders. Members of riding teams are not always as mutually supportive as these were - I say again, I was impressed with the members of the Otterbein Equestrian Team. And I'm not the only one to be impressed - their Intercollegiate teams have done very well even against teams from schools with much larger and fancier facilities, and a much wider pool of students from which to draw.
As for general and specific knowledge - obviously I wasn't there to give everyone an examination in overall suitability to become productive members of the equine industry! But based on a good deal of discussion with the riders during the clinic and during meals, I found them to be well-educated and thoughtful, well-prepared for their futures. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend those students to even the most difficult or demanding employers - or graduate schools.
As a clinician, I can tell you that I enjoyed teaching there - and that I would be delighted to return to Otterbein and teach more clinics. Some people are just SO bright and interested that they are exceptionally interesting to work with, and every single rider at Otterbein was in that category.
So yes, by all means consider this college seriously when you're investigating schools for your daughter. The only other piece of advice I can give you, from my own experience as a student, is this: Colleges and programs aren't static. Faculty, facilities, focus, and funding can all change over time, and your daughter is only fifteen. Even if, in a month or so, you feel that you KNOW exactly what Jody's #1, #2, and #3 choices of Equine Science programs will be, don't assume that this information will still be perfectly accurate in three years' time.
When it's time for your daughter to start filling out those college applications, check those schools and programs AGAIN. You may find that one school has moved to the top of your list because of new professors or vastly improved facilities, or that today's #1 choice has taken a different direction, adding a new track that doesn't interest your daughter and eliminating the classes that she had most wanted to take.
It's always important to have current information. This applies to Jody's interests, too - in three years, even if she is still determined to pursue a degree in Equine Science, her specific interests may have shifted from (say) pre-vet studies to (say) running a training stable, and so you'll need to know not only which colleges have the best programs overall, but which ones are offering the best teachers and courses in the specific subjects that Jody wants to learn.
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