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!


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.


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! 😉


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.


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.


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.


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.

Take a Walk In My Shoes at Missouri State

As part of a class project this week, my instructor in Public Relations in Ag gave us the assignment to make a promotional video regarding Missouri State or Agriculture. After brainstorming for a few minutes trying to come up with a topic or video that wouldn’t be too cheesy, we agreed to talk about some of our experiences at Missouri State, because after all that’s why we all knew each other anyways. Below is our link to the YouTube video that we published. Now, keep in mind that this is a very rough draft, we only had an hour to complete the assignment, our props are home made and our budget is far below slim to none. 🙂

After creating this video, it made me think about why exactly I did choose Missouri State. What have I learned? What unique experiences have I had? How else would I have met some of the awesome friends I have made? Although, choosing the next path in your education is never easy, so often we forget about what we choose with it as well.

The courses I have taken at Missouri State have been beyond helpful. My favorites continue to be the Equine Science classes as I am a horse person inside and out, but I can’t say I have really not liked a course….other than Chemistry or Missouri Government but I feel as if that is self explanatory. I have been fortunate enough to pick a field of study in which I am passionate about and MSU has the facilities to satisfy educational endeavors. The Journagen Ranch keeps the largest purebred cattle herd of any in the United States, and this semester I have been lucky enough to work hands on in prepping the facility and the cattle for the upcoming production sale.

Journagen Bull

In addition, the school also maintains an indoor arena, several head of horses for school riding team practices, stallions for collection and semen labs, and broodmares for spring foals. Although a real job gets in the way of being active on a school team, they offer a Western Horsemanship IHSA team, a Huntseat IHSA team, a Ranch Horse team, and a NRHA Judging team.

Blog at MSU

But at the end of the day, school is still a headache. One of the most important things that keeps me going are the friends and the connections I have made. Together, we teach each other study aids outside of the classroom, keep one another up to date in case someone can’t always make it to class, use each other’s accounts for printing, and borrow books so you don’t have to buy them. These are everyday occurrences for us in the ag department, but in the long run it comes down to not what you know, but you who you know. One day after we graduate, we will keep in touch and cross each others paths in the industry, helping one another out like we have already done.