Colt Starting, a 300-level animal science course also called Horse Training and Sale Preparation, gives equine science majors the opportunity to gain practical experience by breaking in a one or two-year-old horse, making it gentle and preparing it to ride.
Each student is assigned a horse at the beginning of the year-long course, and must learn to train the horse before ultimately selling it at an auction.
Colt Starting gives students an idea of what working with their degree may be like and also allows them to make connections by meeting professionals in their field.
“You can learn a lot in the classroom, but until you actually put it to practical use, it’s not very useful,” said Bobbi Walton, Colt Starting professor. “The hands-on experience, you can’t even explain… how much is learned just from having that.”
The course is open to sophomores, juniors and seniors who have demonstrated adequate equine skill.
“Students do have to have a prerequisite knowledge of horses,” Walton said. “They also have to have a certain level of riding experience and riding skill — so they have to do a riding evaluation, which is evaluated by myself and another instructor, to make sure that they’ll at least be safe and able to advance a horse in training.”
Several TAs help run the class, which is held in the BW Pickett Arena with around 30 students and 30 horses.
“It’s a good class—there are a lot of good networking opportunities,” said Ian Kersch, Colt Starting TA. “It’s also a nice opportunity to give back, and to learn more — I think you even learn more the second time around, than when you first take the class.”
Alex Govoni, sophomore equine science major, appreciates the class for its hands-on instruction which she has also utilized when working with her own horse outside of class. In class, Govoni works with a horse named Penny.
“I just wanted to get more experience breaking colts,” Govoni said. “It’s very helpful to (learn) different one-on-one techniques. There are a lot of methods that can be used, so it’s helpful to have guidance… you learn a lot of basic things that people often overlook.”
Colt Starting is also a helpful class for equine science majors because of the unique skills that it helps students to develop.
“It’s just a really cool opportunity. A lot of programs can’t offer (experiences) like this,” said Madelaine Martinez, senior equine science major. “I’ve never done this discipline before. It really helps to round me out as a horse person. It’s a lot of work, but it’s a lot of fun and very rewarding.”
Walton said that when the auction occurs in the spring, students inevitably become emotional about selling the horse that they trained.
“(Students) always get attached, no matter how much you tell them not to,” Walton said. “But it’s a business, and hopefully that’s what they’re understanding — the business part of it. In order to make money in the business, they have to sell (the horses). It’s all part of that learning experience.”
Collegian Reporter Ellie Mulder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org