Earlier this summer, Art O’Brien, western riding program instructor, and four equestrian students traveled to Europe to share their knowledge at several American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) International Horsemanship Camps. The AQHA offers the camps to “help foster an environment in which people around the world can learn more about horsemanship and horse training, while gaining a greater understanding of the American Quarter Horse breed,” according to its website.
UF was one of four schools that applied for a grant and was accepted to participate in the international summer program. There are more than 30 universities and colleges with animal science or equine science programs that compete for the grant funding.
The UF students who participated were selected through an on-campus application process; they were selected as much for their abilities as for their diversity in areas of expertise, allowing them to better teach at the camps where they were assigned. The Findlay group was able to tailor each camp to the participants’ interests.
“As an educator, the most significant and exciting part of this clinic program for me is watching the students from our university share the wealth of knowledge that they have gained here from our equine program, hearing them express the theories with such confidence that the faculty have attempted to teach them over the years, and especially seeing the excitement in their eyes when they see it all coming together with people and horses from very different cultures and languages,” said O’Brien.
Recent graduate Sarah Glantz and seniors Heather Turner (Randolph, N.J.), Natalie Cooley (Bryan, Ohio) and Makena Lawrence (Santa Fe, N.M.), along with O’Brien, taught camps in Austria, Czech Republic, Netherlands and Denmark.
“I think the most rewarding part of the clinics was teaching and seeing someone, who didn’t speak English very well, really catch on to a technique that you were trying to teach them. You finally figured out how to cross the language barrier, and it was exciting!” said Lawrence. “It was fun to see how excited they were and how quickly their horse would response when they changed their training methods.”
Though the majority of the participants spoke English, translators were available and helpful especially when more intricate training concepts were discussed. The camps hosted riders of all ages – from children to adults.
The experience was a confidence builder for Lawrence, as well, “to see what I learned at UF, that I understood it well enough to teach other people.”
“People were so amazed at what our program had to offer, and they don’t have anything like that over there,” said Lawrence. “I was so grateful for the opportunity, and I learned so much. You go to teach, but you learn just as much.”