There’s no doubt that the Coronavirus Pandemic (COVID-19) has made a vast impact on the University’s Equestrian Studies Programs. Students have had to adjust from being in the barns experiencing hands-on learning and riding five days a week to now completing all assignments virtually. Haley Hammond, senior Western Equestrian Studies and Marketing double major, is doing her part to make sure the horses at the University’s western farm are well cared for during COVID-19.
Hammond, a Texas native with a background in English riding, chose to stay on campus so she could pay it forward to the instructors and horses who have taught her so much over her four years at Findlay. “It almost feels like saying thank you to be able to help out during this tough time because the instructors and horses have gotten us to where we are and have prepared us for our careers after graduation,” she said.
Linda Werst, Co-Barn Manager at the University’s western farm, stated “we were blessed to have a very dedicated handful of students stay to help work split shifts for us, Haley being one of them.” Werst expressed that working at the barns has certainly been different since the outbreak. For example, chore shifts are being split into two groups to maintain social distancing guidelines, employees are taking their temperatures before going to the barn and any items people may touch at the barn get disinfected between shifts. “We are trying to do the best we can to stay safe,” Werst said.
Shifting to remote learning, Findlay’s equestrian instructors have made instructional videos from the riding arenas for their students to reference, and are utilizing Canvas for coursework. Hammond thinks some of these teaching methods could be beneficial for students even after COVID-19, saying the online discussion boards are helping everyone participate in the lesson. “Even though the instructors aren’t teaching in-person at this time you can still learn from them from afar, for example if they’re riding in the arena at the same time you are,” she said.
Since transitioning to remote learning, Hammond said she misses daily instruction, group work and in-person class time. Hammond made a point to say that “instructors have done a great job of making the best of the situation.”
Hammond wishes her class could have participated in spring barn finals at the western farm, when the senior western equestrian class competes in a pleasure futurity and reining finals. The seniors work towards the event all year and receive support from fellow students in the program, instructors and parents. “I can’t speak for everyone, but I think most of us were looking forward to it more than we were actual graduation,” she said. Post-graduation she will start as an Assistant Trainer at a hunter jumper facility known as Foxglen Farm in Argyle, Texas. She said the time she is spending at the barns right now is special because she may not get the chance to ride the same caliber of western horses that the University has to offer after graduation. Werst added, “after spending lots of time with students and preparing them for their careers it feels as though we are family and when they grow their wings and fly it’s kind of a bittersweet moment.”
Despite these tough times, this has been an eye-opening experience for both Werst and Hammond as they see everyone who is still working at the farms come together to care for the animals and continue equine education in the best way they can.
To learn more about Findlay’s Equestrian Programs, visit: www.findlay.edu/sciences/equestrian-studies/