Hands-On Learning at Emory & Henry College Sustains Equestrian Careers

Madison Bonner (E&H ‘20) B.A. Equine Studies, Richmond, Va.

By Lauren Mauldin

Attending college is one of the most important steps of a young person’s life. For many, it’s the gateway to adulthood. It’s the first time most students have lived away from home, and sets the very foundation for their independence. While the goal is education and growth in the pursuit of higher learning, college is about more than attending classes. It’s experience that sets the imprint for the kind of people we want to be. Equestrians know they want their future to include horses, which makes equestrian studies an attractive choice. When it comes to building character, independence and of course academic learning, the Equestrian Studies programs at Emory & Henry College stand out among other institutions.

Founded in 1836, this private liberal arts college in Emory, Virginia has a rich history upholding a standard of excellence for its students. It is consistently ranked among the nation’s best private liberal arts institutions, was awarded the Presidential Award for Service Learning, and has been recognized in top lists including one of the top 45 “Colleges That Change Lives.” Emory & Henry believes that education can have a transformative effect on an individual, a place and ultimately the wider world.

A small class size allows Emory & Henry faculty to focus on the individual. Academic class size averages at roughly 13, and the overall student to faculty ratio is 10:1. Education is hands-on and project-based, and students maintain close relationships to their professors. Every class, including labs, is taught by faculty, and the Equine Studies department is littered with distinguished professors. Dr. Patty Graham-Thiers is the head of the department. Her research has been published and presented at the National and International level, and she serves as a committee member for the 6th Ed. Of the Nutrient Requirements of the Horse, a National Academy of Sciences publication.

Dr. Jacob Haught, DVM, is the longest standing faculty member in the department and brings decades of experience to his students. There are also exceptional associate clinical faculty including Lisa Moosmueller-Terry, Heather Richardson, and Jessica Denniston.

Best Value Schools named Emory & Henry’s Equestrian Center one of the “20 Most Amazing College Equestrian Centers” in the nation.

This kind of individual attention and excellent mentorship makes the Emory & Henry Equine Studies program unique. Its program is one of the oldest in the space, and the years spent refining mean that students get curriculums tailored to making them the most sought after employees in the equine industry. Equestrian Director, Lisa Moosmueller-Terry, elaborated: “The program is all encompassing; we do not offer specialization in training, riding or management as some programs do. Our reason for this is that we have found that most employers are looking for someone that has all of these skills and that the equine industry is already specialized enough. This makes our graduates more versatile and employable.” Students who study at Emory & Henry also learn from internships, which most complete over summer break. Additionally, there are workshops that give opportunity for students to work for trainers at horse shows and make connections with potential future employers.

Students may choose to pursue a Bachelor of Arts or a Bachelor of Science in Equine Studies. The B.S. track has more of a focus on science and math in the core requirements as well as the addition of an Equine Exercise Physiology class (which B.A. students are allowed to take as well). Both programs give a well-rounded education, with the B.S. option being a good choice for those wishing to move into research or veterinarian school post graduation. A new animal science minor offers an additional area of academic specialization.

With a focus on setting students up for future success, Emory & Henry knows that employment in the industry is about practical knowledge. When asked what kind of hands-on learning students can expect, Dr. Graham-Thiers provided a comprehensive list including first aid, grooming and braiding, breeding, barn and show management, judging, correct shoeing techniques, hay selection, conformation analysis, balancing rations and much more. There are also plans to add a class on foaling and foaling care, which will allow students first-hand experience doing foal watch, foaling and after care.

Utilizing all of these skills learned at Emory & Henry, graduates go on to be successful in the workplace. Possibilities include facility and event management, instruction and training, professional riding, industry leadership and advisory board position, or working for media or peripheral equine industries such as animal pharmaceuticals. “Overall, we often have more job offers for our graduates than we have graduates to fill those positions,” Dr. Graham-Thiers said. “We have many employers who always contact us when they have a position open.” This kind of career coaching and placement is hard to find in any industry, and certainly often lacking in larger institutions.

Many Emory & Henry graduates have gone on to be extremely successful in the equine industry. Jen Moore followed an academic track to get a Ph.D. in Animal Science, and is now an instructor in the Animal Science department at North Carolina State University. Others enjoy grooming for top barns including Nick Martino and Hannah Phillips who work for Havens Schatt’s Milestone Farm, and Kate McManis who spent many years grooming for Chris Kappler as well as at some German farms in Europe. Emily McBee is currently the head trainer at Neighland Farm, previously working as a rider at Rivercross Farm. Countless other students enjoy employment riding and working for top trainers in jumpers, hunters, eventing and dressage.

It isn’t just the academics that set graduates up for success. Intermont Equestrian at Emory & Henry is a nationally acclaimed riding program that boasts 21 national championships in competitive riding since 2001. Intermont Equestrian allows students of all levels to participate in equestrian athletics that further increase learning in a professional environment that is centered around the love of the horse and equestrian sports. Students get experience running collegiate horse shows as well as opportunities to compete on a national level to boost their resume for future employment as professional riders.

Intermont Equestrian has IHSA, IDA and ANRC teams. Riding is open to all students regardless of their major or experience in the saddle. Lisa Moosmueller-Terry, Director of Equestrian, is the IDA coach. She is a USHJA certified trainer, USDF “L” program graduate, founding member of IDA, current Vice President of the IDA, both IDA Hall of Fame and Coach of the Year recipient, and a Level III ARIA certified instructor in hunter seat and dressage. Lisa has coached seven different IDA National Champion teams, and numerous individual champions. Intermont Equestrians were IDA National Champions in 2006, 2007, 2010, 2014-2016, and 2018.

Heather Richardson, USHJA-certified trainer, is the IHSA team coach. She led the 2019 team to victory, which became the 4th year that Intermont Equestrian held the IHSA National Championship title (2004, 2005, 2007, 2019). Other victories include multiple ANRC National Championships, and winning the Tournament of Champions Series Championship a total of nine times. With a record like this, it’s no wonder that Intermont Equestrian alumni enjoy successful careers riding professionally all over the country.

Part of this success is the way riding program is structured. From the facility to the horses, Emory & Henry provides the best for its students. With more than 50 college owned horses on the property, students have a huge variety to learn from. “Most of our horses are not what you would think of as ‘school horses’ director Lisa Moosmueller-Terry said. “They come to us after careers on the ‘A’ circuit as jumpers, junior hunters, equitation horses and FEI dressage horses. We have several of the best horses in the country, and even a few that were past Olympians.” Keeping such quality in the barn allows students to learn in a safe, productive matter on horses comparable to ones they’d find at the top institutions they hope to work for one day. With such diversity available, it isn’t necessary for them to bring their horse to college. However, boarding is available for those who can’t part with their horse during school.

Whether school-owned or private, all horses enjoy the 120-acre equestrian center placed in a beautiful landscape of rolling hills. The facility has two indoor rings, an outdoor, a cross country course and other top amenities for both students and horses to enjoy. Emory & Henry continues to plan for future improvements to maintain a stunning, state of the art facility that allows for a comprehensive, hands-on experience for students.

With individualized attention, strong core academics and such a stellar riding program, Emory & Henry makes a superb choice for the serious collegiate equestrian. Its consistent history of winning championships as well as guiding well-rounded equestrians to careers in the industry makes it an excellent choice for the next generation looking to stay an integral part of our sport. “We are committed to a liberal arts education and fostering each student to meet their own academic goals,” Dr. Graham-Thiers said. “It feels like a ‘home away from home’ here.”  

High school students who are considering Emory & Henry should remember that dedication to the horse is the most important part of succeeding in and beyond college. “Level of riding ability is less important, but the willingness to learn and be open to developing in multiple ways is a great attitude to have,” coach and director Lisa Moosmueller-Terry said. “Having a good work ethic, being able to pay attention to details and showing respect for the horses and other students will go a long way at Emory & Henry.”

Prospective students should visit ehc.edu/equine to learn more about Emory & Henry and to sign up for the upcoming Equine Open House on March 7, 2020 to learn about Equine scholarships. Follow Intermont Equestrian at Emory & Henry on Instagram and Facebook @IntermontEquestrian.

About the Author: Lauren holds an MFA in creative nonfiction from the University of California Riverside, and is a lifelong rider and writer. Beyond equestrian journalism, she explores body positivity, mental health and addiction through personal narrative. She enjoys showing on the local hunter/jumper circuit in Austin, Texas.

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