It All Began As An Intern

For those of you who know me well, I seem to disappear for a couple weeks….a couple times a year. Too busy to visit Facebook often, defer phonecalls, late night text replies….often makes my friends wonder what it is I am up too. The truth is, I have been having an affair with my home life, and work on the road from time to time. To answer your questions, you will find me in Oklahoma City.

image

Two summers ago, I applied for an internship position with the National Reining Horse Association for their annual Derby show. Long hours of putting together show packets, sore feet from running scorecards, the classical papercuts, and exhaustion from working show start to end, all day everyday remained my status. In fact, I even share my Thanksgiving holiday with my reining family during the Futurity.

image

But enough with the negatives, as an intern we all know that is a part of what we sign up for. Luckily, the benefits outweigh the headaches. Truth is, I am lucky enough to now be able to work two of the largest reining shows in the world. I am surrounded by high dollar horse flesh, the trainers and stallions that have proven themselves as the backbone of reining, and the opportunity to get to know them.

image

Now, I am in charge of making sure that all scorecards that are marked in the coliseum are correct, and posted correctly. A half point difference making an incorrect score is sometimes all it takes to keep someone out of the running for finals.

image

On my rounds, I often times find myself interacting with the competitors. The superstars of the reining world are normal people just like you and I. They don’t always win, they are not always perfect, and are quite humble. Not only are they a face of the sport, but they also remain as an example in which most handle quite well.

image

I know that I promised a different blog subject…but, I am in fact away at the Futurity and have not had the time to give to the subject as I’d like. Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving! See you all back in Missouri!

For The Love Of Horses

Being a part of a rural community, I am often questioned about my stand on horses. If you haven’t already figured it out…I am definitely pro equine. However, the beef producers and crop farmers do not quite see to eye with me or my fellow equestrians.

It is true that we are definitely a league of our own. I mean, how many other groups of people throw money into an animal that we so often see no returns from? To help you gain an insight on how we work…I have compiled a list of thoughts that we have and how we perceive them that others may not see. As always, enjoy!

1. They have been our confidence boosters.

Not every day do we get to handle a thousand pound animal, and ask of it things that we want it to do knowing it has a mind of its own. Doing so is truly a unique feeling that many do not understand. The feeling of have a successful ride often times makes you feel as if you can accomplish anything.

“These thousand pound animals are letting us ride them, and as a kid, letting us do a number of shenanigans with them. They could seriously injure us in a matter of seconds, but they don’t.”

                                                                                                                                                                -Brittany Rucker

“It’s crazy how I can trust a three year old stud to take care of me, but I can’t even trust the cashier at a store to give me back the right change.”

                                                                                                                                                                -Jessa Haley

But the confidence boost goes even deeper as you progress. After all the hard work that you have put in builds, you often find yourself showing beginners a few ropes. Teaching others your passion solidifies your experiences, and it turn makes you glow as you realize you have reached a pivotal moment that you know enough to share with someone else.

Blog 1

2. They are our escape from reality.

Take a moment and stop and think about all of the annoying moments that fellow humans have put you through….just today. There are rude people, people that just get on your last nerve, and those that are just set out to destroy you. Now I’ll be honest, there are horses out there that are the exact same way, but the beauty of horse ownership is that you choose to put them in your life as opposed to having to get along with them on a day to day basis.

“For me its like horses are in my life to remind me that we can’t be in control of everything, and that is ok.”

                                                                                                                                                                -Jessa Haley

“Horses mean life to me. They were my rock and escape when the world was too rough for me to handle.”

                                                                                                                                                -Whitney Amelong

“When I’m riding I’m not worried about anything else, all my concentration is on my horse. I’m free from everyday stress.”

                                                                                                                                                -Crystal LaRae

With this in mind, you seek out your equine partner to escape the world and its stresses. For a few moments, you take time out of your busy and sometimes chaotic life to care for and think about something else. Our horses seek our attention while we are with them, making this easy for us. This is truly a gift, not often do many have a hobby that genuinely allows them to reach peace at this level.

3. They are a responsibility.

For myself, having a horse to learn about, to learn from, to care for, to provide for, etc. has taught me the most about life in general. Not only do you learn the general knowledge involved and how to ride, you also learn about daily chores that an animal requires, time management, and have a financial obligation that will teach you the importance of money. The beauty of a horse in this aspect is that you seek out a horse to own and care for, as opposed to having to learn these lessons paying bills that no one looks forward to.

“My horse does cost me alot, but she has also taught me alot and I think that pays for most of it.”

                                                                                                                                                -Crystal LaRae

“In rain or shine, snow or sleet, high winds or a gentle breeze, in 98 degrees or 6, We train, ride, prep and care for our horses.”

                                                                                                                                                -Izzey Nanninga

“It is not about the money; however it is about what makes you happy. Horses make you happy.”

                                                                                                                                                -Alison Bos

Blog 3

4. They have kept us out of trouble countless times.

Horse people are truly unique; we plan our life around daily chores, riding, and shows or events. We often find ourselves forgoing a social gathering on the weekend because we would rather miss the party of the year as opposed to the horse show we have been training so hard for. We also go to bed early not because we have a curfew or no social life, but because we know we have to get up those two hours earlier for feeding, stall cleaning, and turnout before we face the real world. Consequently, we also seem to band together as we all understand the same priorities. So next time you get that DWI or get grounded for missing curfew, just remember that the crazy horse girls would have kept you out of trouble!

“A wise artist aged 78 shared his fountain of youth secret with me. Your friends should always be at least 10 years younger than you are. He said it was his secret to keeping his ideas fresh, his enthusiasm robust, and his outlook positive. My equine partners have enabled me to connect with younger competitors, and force me to ride beyond even my own expectations.”

                                                                                                                                                -Lynn Carbol

“A social life consisting of all sorts of horses, ponies, barn cats and farm dogs who all (sadly) hold better conversations than most humans in your life.”

                                                                                                                                                -Izzey Nanninga

5. They allow us to participate in a sport….and riding truly is a sport.

Many non-horse lovers refuse to accept the art of riding as a sport. We compete, there are professionals in the face of every discipline, associations are established to monitor many aspects of the industry, and there are even horse racing and equestrian sports on the television. This may be the one and only argument we can make for financial defenses outside of a stud or selling a horse, because after all just like many other sports, there are many opportunities to win checks at upper level horse shows.

Blog 2

6. They have taught us that failure is simply a part of the process.

We all have good days and bad days, and so do our horses. Just because we have won several shows in the past doesn’t mean they will always win in the future. But in our defense, failure happens in every aspect of our lives. If you do not fail, then ironically you are not doing something right. After all, our most valuable lessons have often been taught through embarrassment of being wrong. But the unique thing when dealing with a horse, they are often very honest. A large majority of accidents or mistakes are often the result of rider error, forcing us to take the brunt of the liability of failure and forcing us to work that much harder.

“When you fall, you always get back up. You never quit when you fail.”
-Crystal LaRae

7. They keep you humble, in more ways than one.

It is often said that you are not truly a rider until you have fallen off 7 times. As fellow riders we have all been there! We know how it feels to go over the top of your horse at a jump refusal, to be taken by surprise when your horse spooks out on the trail, and being unseated during a quick cut after your horse makes a great effort to beat a calf. Whatever your situations that you relate through, you learn to simply remount and try again and often in good spirits since no one likes a sore loser.

Blog 4

8. They take the necessity of patience to a whole new level.

There is a very apparent language barrier between our horses and us. With this in mind, we are forced to find alternative ways of communication to train and handle our horses. And even better yet, each and every individual horse learns differently just as we do. A responsive horse may learn after a couple repetitive cues, others take a couple days. But as equestrians, we are able to achieve communication skills that many others do not ever have the chance to understand because they only ever surround themselves with fellow humans.

“You can’t rush them, it just takes repetition.”

                                                                                                                                                -Crystal LaRae

9. They teach you to multi-task.

This is the ultimate reaction I look for when teaching my new beginner riders. I often start with individual aspects of the importance of body position in riding, and 9 times out of 10 when all aspects are grouped together they are amazed with how many things they must remember while riding. From keeping your heels down, to sitting up straight, to looking where you are going, and not falling into your corners, it is certainly not as easy as it looks. As equestrians, we learn to make the not so seemingly easy task of riding look graceful. Very few things in life can accomplish both of those individual aspects in one overall task.

“It is a constant learning experience when dealing with horses. Even if it is a horse you ride every day, they always seem to do things that you learn from. You know what they like, what they don’t like. What they understand and what they don’t understand. You know just how far you can push them. How do we know these things? Horses teach us.”

                                                                                                                                                -Alison Bos

Blog 5

10. They teach you to be responsible for your actions.

Your horse not only acts how you let it, but they also look like how you manage and maintain it. This creates a reflection back upon yourself, if your horse is not up to your standard then there is not anyone left to blame but yourself. This is important as our horses mean so much to us, forcing us to constantly work towards our mounts. As soon as we quit trying, then our lack of effort soon catches up with us.

“My horse reflects me, and my training. And my actions reflect who I am to the world.”

                                                                                                                                                -Crystal LaRae

Blog 6

In a crazy way, we are crazy in our way…but yet so much better off than many others in the world. I owe so much to my horses, with the variety of lessons I have been taught throughout the years. Even though my viewpoints with my involvement in the agriculture world may not be the same as many others in different aspects, I have still managed to learn many of the big picture lessons that others have…..just did so through different experiences. We are definitely a league of our own, but we don’t think the way that we do or do the things that we do for no reason. I hope that my non-equestrian readers now see a few viewpoints from our perspective, and thanks again to my wonderful friends and followers for sharing yet again!

 

Misconceptions of Animal Science Degrees

 “Are you in school?”

“Yes, I study Animal Science at Missouri State University.”

“Aw, a vet. Good choice!”

If you are a fellow Animal Science student, I’m sure you understand this classic conversation with new acquaintances. We barely get one question answered about our college career, and the common misconception occurs about us all wanting to be veterinarians. If we have time, we share with them that this is not the case and enlighten them on what we plan to do with the rest of our lives. But there are always those moments where a conversation is cut off early, and we have no way to correct them on their assumptions. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be a vet, we just simply have different aspirations and visions with our degree. As a way to educate the public, I have surveyed several college students to see just what they are up to and more specifically, how they plan to use their Animal Science degree in the real world.

 

Brittany Rucker, working with a young horses in one of her classes.
Brittany Rucker, working with a young horses in one of her classes.

” Horses are my passion. I knew I always wanted to be around them since I was 12. I may never be money rich, but if I get to be around horses everyday I won’t work a day in my life. I’d rather muck stalls in 20 degree weather than be a paper pusher in a warm office. An animal science degree will allow me to do that. “

Brittany Rucker, a student at Missouri State University in Springfield, MO sought after an Animal Science degree because she simply wants to work with horses for the rest of her life. After graduation, she would like to obtain a job in Equine Management. Prior to MSU, she attended Redlands Community College in Oklahoma. Her favorite moments so far in her college career have been the memories made while she has been a part of various Equestrian and Ranch Horse teams.

 

 

Kerstine and one of her horses, Blaze.
Kerstine and one of her horses, Blaze.

 

” Looking back I wouldn’t have spent my money or time learning about anything else. Animals and agriculture are what make the world go round. With out it we would be naked and hungry. “

 

 

Photo from a field trip for Meat Evaluation.
Photo from a field trip for Meat Evaluation.

Kerstine Whittaker’s journey begins at SBU in Bolivar, MO. Her advisor asked her what she would like to do with her life, and she instantly thought of teaching agriculture. After realizing that teaching teenagers takes a very special person, she then decided to see what the animal world had in store for her and her interest then turned to Animal Science. After graduation, she would like to find a job that would allow her to inform the public about agriculture as she feels that the agriculture industry is under fire the most when people are ignorant about where their food comes from. Kerstine now also attends Missouri State University where some of her favorite experiences have been the hands on activities such as artificial inseminating mares and preg checking cattle.

” This is why the animals science degree means so much to me, being around animals and learning in a way that actually teaches you instead of out of a book. “

 

 

Dakota meeting Rex Peterson RJ Masterbug, a horse trained for Hidalgo.
Dakota meeting Rex Peterson RJ Masterbug, a horse trained for Hidalgo.

” My favorite things that I have learned or experienced were back at NEO. I absolutely loved the equine training and management course. I learned so much, and there is no greater feeling in the world then showing a horse that you started and doing decent at it! To tell you the truth, I learned so much from the equine program there as a whole…..just loved it all! “

Dakota Keith started her Animal Science journey at Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College where she obtained a degree in Equine and Ranch Management. Today, she attends Oklahoma State University where she continues her Animal Science major with an added Agricultural Communications major, Agricultural Economics minor. After graduation, she is hoping to obtain a in the equine industry working in horse show management or for an equine publication.

As part of her journeys, she works for the Pinto Horse Association of America where she works during the World Championship Show in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This last year, she assisted Samantha Hearn in managing Rex Peterson’s appearances during the event. Dakota chose an Animal Science degree because she simply loves all aspects of the livestock industry. She hopes that she can use her knowledge of animal agriculture to inform the public through her news stories!

Cassie with a new baby at MSU!
Cassie with a new baby at MSU!

” I wanted a career to work with animals in some way, shape, or form. “

Cassie O’Hara first began her journey at Northern Illinois University, then University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana, but she now calls Springfield, MO home where she is pursuing her Master’s degree at MSU in Animal Science. When she graduates, she would like to see herself working at a university or a community college working with an equine program, but is also now considering a research related career. She is on the fast track to pursuing her dreams as she has been busy conducting fecal sample studies through her graduate project, while also assisting in coaching the MSU Western Equestrian team. Her favorite experience during her time at Missouri State, has been learning how to care for and treat livestock of different species.

 


Michelle with a baby bottle calf from her farm!
Michelle with a baby bottle calf from her farm!

Michelle DeLong chose an Animal Science degree because she has always loved animals and has always had jobs in that related area, whether it be working on a horse ranch, to working on a dairy farm, and now owns her own ranch. She is proud to be an alumni of Missouri State University, where her favorite experience occurred during an Animal Companionship class where she was graded on training an animal all semester. Another one of the classes that she enjoyed was the Equine Exercise Physiology course where she was granted the opportunity to take a field trip to another college to see they work that they did with ex-racehorses. Michelle now runs her own ranch where she raises many different species including beef cattle, dairy cattle, dairy goats, pigs, and horses. On top of all of this she even makes time to do horse training and give lessons!

”  I feel I couldn’t be doing anything better with my degree. “


My student and I posing for the camera!
My student and I posing for the camera!

During my own adventure to achieve an Animal Science degree, I have been so blessed to experience many great things. From my days at NEO with the livestock and equestrian team, to being a certified riding instructor, to being a part of the behind the scenes show management for the NRHA, and to learning the ropes and methods of management at various horse barns…I wouldn’t trade any moment for the world. With graduation sneaking up on me in a few short weeks, I have realized that I am right where I want to be. No, I have no intentions of attending vet school, but I respect those that do as I will have many dealings with them in the future as does any animal owner. So to my fellow Animal Science majors that are reading this, continue to rock what you do and create your own success story! Thanks again to those that contributed to this blog post and took time out of your busy lives to share your experiences with me!

Be smart about the equine business….

Just like many of you reading this blog post, we have all been on Facebook lately and have seen the warning posts going out to others of misfortune dealings with shady parties. It seems like this happens more and more around the holidays as people are scrambling to find deals on ponies for their children, or sell horses before winter sets in. After seeing several this week, it made me wonder exact what kind of Missouri legislation is out there that we all need to be aware about.

1. Avoid “backyard” trainers.

Parents, we know that horses routinely steal the hearts of children and beg for ponies of their own, but in reality there is usually a middle ground that is met with riding lessons. No purchase of an animal larger than your dog, someone else cleans up after it and feeds it, your child still gets the experience, and you get pictures of them riding to attach to the Christmas newsletter. Best of both worlds, right? It certainly can be, but can also be a nightmare waiting to happen. Just as in any area, Southwest Missouri is notorious for having rednecks, and some of our horse professionals certainly are no exception.

lesson 1

 

The Missouri equine legislation recognizes liability of equine accidents…but there are always exceptions. Please see the following taken directly from the Missouri Equine Council website:

 Similar to many state statutes, the Missouri statute contained certain exceptions which provided that the equine professional would NOT be immune from liability in certain instances involving conduct which should be foreseeable and thus preventable by the professional. These exceptions provided that there would be NO IMMUNITY of the equine professional if it was proven they (paraphrased):
1. Provided faulty tack
2. Mismatched horse and rider
3. Failed to warn of known latent (not easily discoverable) conditions on the land
4. Evidenced willful or wanton disregard for safety
5. Committed an intentional injury
6. Failed to use that degree of care that an ordinarily careful and prudent person would use under the same or similar circumstances.
RSMo §537.325.4(1 – 6) (1994)

I want to take a second to reflect on the importance of #2. Matching a horse and rider is a knowledge, as well as a skill. The instructor must not only gain a background from the rider as a sense of orientation, but they must also know their horses well enough to make a competent match. Don’t be afraid to ask the trainer questions about their qualifications, experiences, etc, as you are not only entrusting them enough to pay them, but to also trust your child’s safety with them.

lesson 3

 

2. Cover yourself in horse dealings.

Too many times people stay careless in horse sales in this area. A firm handshake and a head nod may have been true enough to uphold a person’s word 50 years ago, but we certainly live in a different era now. I hate to see anyone get taken advantage of in a shady dealing, or scammed by a desperate soul so in hopes to help my readers out, I have a “cheat sheet” of necessary sale precautions to keep you from getting a headache!

A. Always have a bill of sale.

B. Horses should  always be sold “as is”.

C. Encourage a vet check on the sale horse.

D. Always draft up contracts for sale trials, leases, payments, etc.

E. Buyer should always release themselves of liability.

lesson 2

 

The golden rule can be brought to mind in terms of how to handle shady situations, unfortunately far too few actually know what it truly means anymore. I hope this blog helps my equine readers, and that you all share with people in which you hope to help as well. Just always remember, to first look out for yourself, and as always…look out for the horse as well. 🙂

Shoutout to the Horse Moms

For each and every one of us that have been involved in the horse world long term, we not only have our paternal mother…but also several ‘adopted’mothers that push us to be our best, but yet brush off our scraped knee once we have fallen. I am so lucky to have several adopted moms that I truly care about and am thankful that they have taken me under their trustworthy wings. This week, I have compiled a list of moms that we can all relate to in different eras of our horse careers.

 

1. The Cheerleader

Most of us started our horse experience at a young age, learning to ride in a lesson program environment with several kids our own age. My favorites always happened to be the summer camps, where our parents pawned us off as a win-win situation for not only having a good show and tell to come back to school with in the fall, but also glorified babysitting. But there were always a few horse crazy kids that caught the bug at camp and continued their horse loving journey through weekly riding lessons during the school year. Generally, we started out in private lessons until we could be trusted out in public per say, before we earned a coveted spot on our favorite lesson horse with new found friends that shared the same interest. In this environment, our moms sat outside gossiping during lessons and learning more about you than you ever knew. But, when you took your first fall off a horse, each and every one of them rushed to your aid and monitored your progress afterwards on your journey to regain your confidence. These are the moms that encouraged you, bobbed their heads in unison with the horse waiting for your first lope, and dusted you off and sat you back in the saddle.

Mom

2. The Coaches

Some moms may have rode as part of their childhood and encouraged you to do the same, or some simply went along with their child’s new interest and supported their learning endeavors. Whichever the case, by the time you had enough lessons and experience under your belt to be ready enough for your first horse show, so had the moms that patiently watched along the rail during every lesson. They’d whistle from the rail letting you know you were on the correct diagonal or on the right lead, polish your boots and let down the horses tail just before entering the ring, and whoop at the top of their lungs even if you were just a reserve placing. The beauty of these extra coaches were that you were always prepared, and never just had one mom cheering you on.

 mom 4

3. The Role Model

After you’ve had your fun taking lesson upon lesson, you finally find your niche in the equine world. More times than none, you find it through someone in which you look up to. Along my path, there have been many niches but one of my favorites has been sorting. If you are really lucky as I have been, your adopted mother not only provides you with the tools needed to achieve goals, but helps them become your own tools as well. These are the moms that you meet at a time that you can have fun with both inside and outside of the horse world and that you will be close with from here on out.

Mom 2

4. The Matriarch

When it is all said and done, you finally find someone that combines all of the mom roles into one, and beyond. This is the mom that you not only want to be like, but also want to be close with. This is the mom that you tell more to than your own, often spend more time with, and becomes the one that completes you as you’re growing up.

Mom 3

 

Just as in this blog post, your moms start related in the horse world and often ends up preparing you for the real one. With this in mind, I continue to thank my ‘blood’ mom that she allowed me to live this horse crazy life, as I feel like it plays the biggest role in shaping who I have become today. So now, take a second and thank your second moms for all they have done for you, and all that they will continue to do for you as often times they go unnoticed. This is the beauty of not only the horse world, but also the ag world. We understand what it takes to get through, whether it be a roof over our head, livestock in our pastures, or money in our pockets, but most importantly who you surround yourself with to achieve great things.

 

Importance of Collegiate Equestrian

With the recent, saddening news of the Kansas State NCAA Equestrian team being terminated, a lot of discussion has been stirred up in the equine world regarding the future of the entire collegiate equestrian program itself. This hits at home for me, as some of my fondest memories and greatest successes must give credit to a collegiate equestrian program. I am sure that this can be said for any competitive college rider, but I found my place was Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College. Please enjoy 10 lessons the team not only instilled in me through a passion, but that life has consistently reminded me of.

1. You are only as strong as your weakest rider.

As being part of a competitive Intercollegiate Horse Show Association region, we competed against several schools in our area and at each show our team would choose point riders for each division. In a sense, we were playing a hand of poker. Our coach did not inform us who exactly these individuals were so we were constantly continuing to work hard in hopes to help carry the team. But, importance also came from those in the same class that were not held responsible for the point rider. If the top ranks in each class were taken by others not given the label, this would hurt that rider’s status as the lower that they placed, the less points they received. With this in mind, the point riders were not held in a limelight to work harder or gain more attention, everyone was pushed to do their best to highlight the team as a whole.

NEO 3

2. Save it for the van.

Competition can sometimes bring out frustrations, especially if it didn’t go quite like you had planned. Often times you may not agree with how a judge placed a class or how a horse rode. Human instinct, is to vent frustrations….but at a busy horse show this is almost impossible as you never know who might be within earshot or in a bathroom stall as you are subconsciously expelling your frustrations. To save our team the embarrassment of ever saying something that we shouldn’t, we incorporated an honor system in which we only vented to each other, in the privacy of our vans on the way home. But more importantly beyond that, this is a great lesson that we should all be so thankful for learning from our coach as we can instill this in a day to day basis. In Chelsie Huseman’s words, “It’s so tempting to publicly slander someone that has burdened you but it does nothing good for you, or others.” This is said to be true in any walk of life, not just in a horse show scenario.

3. Ride or die.

Because our team had goals of winning and competing head to head with the top teams in the region, we had an attendance policy in place to ensure that all members of the team worked as hard as everyone else between competitions. After all, if you were not committed to put in the hard work then you were not going to ride in place in someone that had. With this being said, if you were not sick, dying, or knew someone that was dying then you were expected to be in attendance of all practices, meeting, workouts, and team events. But on the flip side, there is another viewpoint on this common phrase that was contributed to the back of team t-shirts by an outgoing teammate. This viewpoint is basically the idea that as a rider, you must put your ‘all’ into each practice to get the most of every second spent in the saddle in order to keep improving yourself.

4. Let the horse take care of you.

One of the IHSA’s claims to fame is that during each show, the rider is to draw a horse and showcase their skills without the ability to warm the horse up and learn their quirks or ‘buttons’. A brief warm-up may be witnessed prior to each show to see each and every individual horse go through their paces and a small description is given, but other than that you are on your own. This tests the skill of a rider to be able to skillfully maneuver unfamiliar horses in rail work and in a pattern. But at the end of the day when all the nerves have built before your class, the best thing to do is to take a deep breath and simply let the horse do what it does best. You can’t control the unknown, but you can certainly do what you have always done and not what you will shall never do.

 NEO 5

5. Stay fit.

At first the thought of 6 am weekly team workouts and monitored individual workouts sounded like a horrible idea, but we were soon reminded that being actively fit and strengthening regional and core muscles would not only improve our health, but also strengthen our riding. Kudos to our coach for putting up with our moaning and groaning as our sore, achy muscles were constantly screaming at us between all the riding, working out, and even up the steps to the dorms. But in the grand scheme of things, making a habit of being physically fit sure payed off as we rode our way to the top and were able to squeeze into our fitted shirts and show chaps! 😉

NEO 7

6. It’s ok to be a guinea pig.

I am proud to say that I was a member of the NEO Equestrian team during the very first season of competition. This meant that we were in a sense, tested on to determine how efficient the team rules and schedules were and tried out team practice horses. In no way, shape, or form was this a bad thing. We certainly feel that we created a legacy that we hope will live on and leave a mark on the small school we all have moved on from and no that it will only continue to grow.

NEO 2

7. Use it or lose it.

The long hours of practice, hours at the gym, and many hours spent in the saddle outside of practice on my own, resulted in a muscle memory of a correct leg position. To gain this position without serious concentration and physical readjustment after transitions, was quite the accomplishment for me. Luckily, I am now in a industry that allows me to continue to use and refresh this skill on a weekly basis so I can continue to ride and find my correct position. But, many of my students now find that revisiting horseback riding activities is indeed harder than riding a bike and the constant nag of their instructor regarding their leg continues to find the commentary on a week to week basis. This can be said about many things, we must continue to sharpen the skills that we have worked so hard to finesse in order to not lose them to the wayside.

8. Make friends for a lifetime.

Not only did the team atmosphere require attendance for team goals, but also for us to get to know one another and work as a team. With so many hours together, it was no surprise that we soon became a family in a sense. Leaving practice was not the end of our associations, we would often head over to the cafeteria to eat dinner together, and then even back to the dorms for study sessions. It may have not been all about what we learned during our time there, but also who we met. Some of my very best friends were the teammates I made while on the team.

NEO 1

9. Be aware of your surroundings.

With busy team practices, full show classes, and crowded show facilities, we were constantly taught to plan ahead whether it was to avoid horses colliding into one another or to not miss our draw for our class. By also competing in the large mid-west region, we found ourselves traveling across 2 states at times to get to shows. This meant we traveled as a group and looked out for another in this crazy world, where danger seems to be lurking around every corner.

10. Hard work pays off.

In the end, the hours of commitment and hard work continued to pay off. Sure a team ribbon was always the goal at the shows, but even more importantly were the individual strengths gained throughout the season. Our main intentions were not only to do well, but to also obtain a degree during our time there, and hopefully see each other again while working in the industry.

NEO 4

All in all, I am so thankful to have been a part of such a great program and would not trade any of my experiences for the world. I certainly owe my individual success at this point in time to the dedicated coach that we had, Chelsie Huseman, I know that I am certainly not the only collegiate rider that owes many great successes to this sport and I hope that we will all come together as a team, as a family, and as fellow equestrians to see that the great programs throughout the United States will continue to prosper.

Cassie O’Hara Interview

20141010_132506As I eluded to in my previous post, I am now hear to reveal yet another project I have been working on! For the past couple of weeks, I have been helping a good friend of mine and newly acquired grad student, Ms. Cassie O’Hara. To start off with, I recently had an informal interview with Cassie herself, asking a few questions about her project and allowing her to shed some insight on what she has been cooking up in the lab.

“You always have to worry about and deal with parasite and deworming to keep your horse healthy and safe.”

Although this is not my project, somehow I have been bribed into helping her out….being a good friend that I am. I guess you could graciously call me the “pooper scooper”! On one of my endeavors accompanying her to Poplar Bluff, MO to go to the Three Rivers Community College rodeo, I helper her coordinate the filling out of the surveys, the numbering of the samples, and the picking up of the samples of themselves. In addition, I also helped her actually process and analyze the fecal samples in the lab. I helped her prepare the samples, so that Cassie could analyze each and every sample under the microscope to count parasites, eggs, etc. Good thing horse poop isn’t that unappealing to me!20141010_132516

Believe it or not, it is quite entertaining coming up with ways to approach people asking for fecal samples from their horses. After all, it’s usually not something gets asked everyday, right? A few of our surveyors were even caught off guard asking what a fecal sample is, but to each it’s own. But after a few awkward, shy approaches we found that just being relevant, straightforward, and maybe using a few smaller vocabulary words and allowing the asking for poop itself to be heard, we found that it tends to be a pretty humorous ice breaker. Even though it was a long van ride there and back and several long hours on our feet in between, we were able to meet college aged rodeo competitors from all over the mid south and see several nice, competitive level horses.

Keep an eye out for Cassie and her research findings as she finds ways to encourage deworming in the equine world and how a simple practice can affect performance horses in many ways. Thanks Cassie!