Every fall, the University of Findlay’s campus is abuzz with the excitement of new students, new classes and, for equine-minded students, new horses at the barn. Findlay’s equestrian studies students ride five days a week for classes, learn how to train horses, have the opportunity to break colts and that is just a small part of the program. A lot of horses are needed for the students to have the best learning experience possible, and for that, the program looks towards the equine community. While the university owns their own horses and students may bring their horses, about 225 of the 500 horses on campus belong to community members who participate in Findlay’s Send Your Horse to College (SYHC) program.
“My family has sent colts to Findlay to be started for many years,” said SYHC customer Annie O’Connor-Warner. “I’m impressed with the consistent program that lays a solid foundation for any discipline. Young trainers have the opportunity to get guidance from experienced trainers and the barn staff keeps a close eye on the horses’ health and care.”
O’Connor-Warner and her brother, Gerald A. O’Connor Jr., co-manage Wenloch Farms, a quarter horse breeding farm in Ann Arbor, Michigan that has been a recipient of the 50-year breeders award from the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA). With her position in the industry and as the daughter of AQHA past president and Hall of Fame member Gerald A. O’Connor, she knows a thing or two about training horses correctly. She has used the program for a variety of purposes and has sent colts to be started, older horses for additional training and colts for sales prep. “I have met some of the future leaders of the industry through Findlay. The staff and students have done a great job developing my horses; I have referred friends to Findlay and will continue to do so.”
SYHC is a great opportunity for owners of horses with any range of experience. Findlay’s training philosophy is based on a quiet approach. Students perform daily handling where each horse is taught manners. Horses learn how to stand quietly for grooming, clipping, saddling, mounting and dismounting. Throughout the training period, our students emphasize body position, forward motion and lightness. The horses experience training in a round pen, with lunge lines and with other training devices.
In addition to technical skills, a large part of training horses is building a bond with the trainer or rider. The students who work with community horses become very in tune with their assigned horse and look after them like they are their own. Findlay senior Anneleise Ritzi remembers her first horse fondly. “The first colt I had ever broken out was during my sophomore year and he was named Levi,” she said. “Every day I had to motivate him to make progress but, as I was working with this young horse that knew nothing, I left the barn each day feeling like I had achieved something.”
Ritzi worked with the same owner multiple times over the course of her Findlay career and learned something new with each horse that she trained. “The owner I worked with operates his own training business but utilizes our program to give a solid foundation for his personal horses since he devotes his time to his client’s horses instead,” she said. “This program benefits local community members who may just want their horse to be ready for the county fair but also equine professionals who don’t necessarily want to break out young horses or put a primary foundation on them. I was so blessed to have the opportunity to work with these talented colts and that would not have been possible without the Send Your Horse to College Program.”
While all horses receive manners training, Findlay also offers specialized training in the English and Western disciplines. The English training program takes your horse through phases including Dressage, Eventing and Hunter-Jumper. Horses being trained in the Western discipline will learn reining, cutting and trail riding. The program also offers more specific training upon request. The request, along with the horse’s attitude and athletic ability, will determine the area of concentration that is pursued. Any special training problems the horse may have, such as trailer loading or ring sour, can be worked on.
SYHC program benefits not only horse owners, but also the Findlay students who work with the horses. The students learn skills in equine training, professional communication and goal setting. “Working together with the owners is one of my favorite parts of Send Your Horse to College,” said Findlay junior Julia Bastain. “It’s extremely gratifying to help the owners achieve the goals they have for their horses, whether it is by starting the horse under saddle for the first time or working on fine-tuning them. Not only did this program let me improve as a rider, but it also pushed me to work on my communication and customer service skills. I am extremely thankful for all the horses and owners I’ve gotten to work with because of this program. The Equestrian Studies Program wouldn’t be the same without it.”
To apply for the Send Your Horse to College program, please visit the Western SYHC page or the English SYHC page. Which program you enter depends upon the type of training you’d like your horse to receive. To learn more about the Equestrian Studies program at the University of Findlay, visit our website at www.findlay.edu/sciences/equestrian-studies/.