The Right Program for U: Where Equine Passion and Education Meet for Unbridled Opportunities

Learn about the numerous options for careers in the equine industry and how to find the right undergraduate program to suit your interests.
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Learn about the numerous options for careers in the equine industry and how to find the right undergraduate program to suit your interests.

Rarely do I attend an equine event where the skeptical parent does not ask the ever present question– “What can my child really do with horses as a career?”If the “child” is present they will look at me eagerly with the hope that I will help convince the parent that it is really possible to pursue their passion. More often than not, I succeed.Here’s why:

Most people look at horses as a hobby without looking deeper into the business-based infrastructure on which this “hobby” relies. But when you start to look into the multitude of layers of horse care and enjoyment, what you find is a never ending trajectory of career realities and possibilities. In large part this is because the U.S. equine industry is a $102 billion (yes, billion) industry with involvement of over 7 million people. To put that number into context, it is estimated that the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics cost over $55 billion and the motion picture industry comes in at $131 billion. Most folks are likely to recognize the widespread national impact of motion pictures and the Olympics, and would likely notice if either disappeared from the U.S. economy! Yet, time and again the general public does not readily recognize the national impact of the equine industry along with the host of career opportunities that come with it. So, tuck away these equine industry facts and figures for conversation with family and friends—and know that we will delve deeply into careers opportunities in later columns. For now, with the economic background in place, let’s move to an overview of college offerings with a connection to the equine industry.

Undergraduate equine programs all have a connection to the equine industry, offering students a pathway to careers. © Amy K. Dragoo/AIMMEDIA

Undergraduate equine programs all have a connection to the equine industry, offering students a pathway to careers. © Amy K. Dragoo/AIMMEDIA

There are 200 colleges and universities with undergraduate academic programs linked to some aspect of the equine industry. But, until now it has been challenging to find all of those programs because there hasn’t been a place where they were all organized in a user-friendly package. Well, ta da! They are now!The authors of this nifty new column have partnered with the EQUUS Foundation to create a free online searchable database of college offerings with a connection to the equine industry. It’s called the Equine Education Network (EEN) and it is waiting for you to explore, but first, some context.

You might have noticed that the phrase “college offerings with a connection to the equine industry” is used rather than the much shorter “equine programs.” Equine programs can be a generic and limiting term only partially recognizing the wide variety of offerings across the US.Ask a guidance counselor to search equine program and see what comes up (typically not a lot).

If you want to study accounting, history or math, a search of the available programs would generate a fairly consistent list. College options in those disciplines are similar with few differences. Equine programs have more differences than similarities with different names and academic homes. While there are stand-alone equine programs, most are part of another program such as Animal Science, Animal Care, Management, Business, Health and Wellness, Psychology, and so on. That can make it difficult to find them. But regardless of where they are organized and placed, these programs all have a connection to the equine industry and offer students a learning pathway leading to careers in the industry.

Given such wide diversity of offerings and placements in colleges, it may sound overwhelming to find programs that are the right fit. But that is a primary reason why this column was created. We have worked to make sure that the EEN is available as a free resource to share many more college options than you have likely imagined.

In future columns we will help you understand the different types of programs you might find when searching through the EEN (hands-on technical, business, science, therapeutic, rehabilitative, etc.) and the steps to determine the focus that is best for you (a broad focus, an equine general focus, or an equine specific focus).Along this journey we will be exploring different colleges that offer these programs and the types of careers that their alumni have and what options you might expect.

Until next time, explore the EEN which is even easier to find now that we have just launched a free Equine Academics app that includes the EEN website making it always available with a touch on your mobile device.Just search “Equine Academics” in your app store or use the following address: http://bit.ly/EquineAcademicsAppDownload (The EEN is under “Equine Academics Programs” and the “Equine Education Network” channel. Click on the broadcast, hit the “EEN” link and you are ready to search).

Until next time we are wishing you bright skies and happy trails.

Tim Williams and Dr. Karin Bump founded the National Association of Equine Affiliated Academics in 2009 as a cooperative not-for-profit organization linking together colleges and universities with undergraduate equine programs. Karin has over 25 years of experience in equine undergraduate education and is a Full Professor at Cazenovia College. Tim’s professional background includes over 35 years of college admission/marketing experience helping thousands of students find their path to college and career. Tim is also co-founder of The Right Program For U which provides services to help match equestrian interests with college choices and career options. Have a question you would like answered or an area you would like to see addressed in a future column?Please send it to Tim Williams at Twilliams@naeaa.com

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