It’s hard to find an equestrian academic program that offers it all—comprehensive education, a national championship equestrian team, and preparation for a career that can make a difference—but SCAD delivers all that and more.
BY KRISTIN PITZER
The idea of working in a horse-related career is a dream come true for many young equestrians. To some, that could be working hands-on, either by managing a stable or training horses. For others, it might mean something like equine journalism, high-end equestrian property design or horse show management. No matter what a student’s calling may be, the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) can help make those dreams a reality thanks to the many different educational routes available to undergrads.
An Immersive Educational Experience
Many students interested in learning about all things equestrian plan to pursue a career in the equestrian arts, so for them, SCAD offers a B.A. in Equestrian Studies. While a bachelor’s degree in this field isn’t always required for many of these jobs, those who choose this major, which has been in place since 2010, gain a comprehensive understanding of art, business, and core subjects, in addition to studying the fundamentals of riding, training, horse care, and design as it applies to equine topics.
“There is enormous value in choosing to pursue a path to an equestrian degree at SCAD versus entering the workforce as a working student,” says Ahna Phelps, the associate chair of equestrian studies. “SCAD has carefully tailored their program to ensure students are prepared to step into the horse industry as not only an integral part of that business, but as leaders and innovators. SCAD’s priority is to help transform their Equestrian Studies students’ passion into a successful, creative career.”
SCAD meets this goal through several avenues. Its elite faculty is second to none, with professors who are active in competition and industry leaders in their own right. SCAD’s equine facilities, including the Ronald C. Waranch Equestrian Center, are likewise impressive and rival those found at other schools boasting equestrian academic curricula.
The program’s diverse courses are designed to provide in-depth learning opportunities along with access to art, design, and technology that are unique to the school. Graduates possess the skills needed to help their businesses excel, like marketing and brand management. SCAD also offers career-building assistance through a vast network of connections in the equine industry. Students can begin building their resumes before graduation by gaining real world experience through internships with top professionals, which has resulted in a 99% job placement rate.
“To me, the Bachelor of Arts in Equestrian Studies gives me a competitive edge in the field,” says Macie Taylor, an Equestrian Studies major planning to pursue a career in the equine pharmaceutical industry. “With this degree, I am learning how horse people run their businesses and want to care for their horses. This knowledge gives me a deeper insight into how the pharmaceuticals I will be selling to veterinarians will affect their clients.”
Taylor’s studies are enhanced through her participation on SCAD’s intercollegiate equestrian team, which she believes has taught her leadership and networking skills. Any student can try out for the team, no matter their experience. This has led some students, such as Ian Arnoldy, to find their future career path through the process of becoming a better rider.
Arnoldy had never been on a horse before he joined the equestrian team. He has since discovered his passion for horses and made the decision to pursue a career in stable management.
“To be able to study the real-world subject matter in an academic environment was imperative for someone like me, whose experience and knowledge in this subject was limited, especially in a field in which ability is measured against others who have had exposure throughout much of their lives,” Arnoldy says. “Being a part of the program at SCAD has already opened numerous doors of opportunity. Last summer, I was afforded the opportunity to intern at Tibri, a premier Hunter/Jumper show barn in Rhode Island. Had I not acquired the skillsets and knowledge taught in the degree program at SCAD, I am certain I would not have made it through the internship.”
A Complement to Other Programs
Students don’t need to major in Equestrian Studies to pursue a career in the equine industry. In fact, many of SCAD’s graduates that have successfully worked in the business chose to major in non-equine fields with a minor in the program. Graduates that minored in Equestrian Studies have gone on to become equine facilities and accessories designers, product buyers and journalists, to name a few.
“With more than 100 degree programs at SCAD, whichever you choose to be your career path can support you in the equine industry,” says Ashley Henry, the head coach of SCAD’s Equestrian Team. “Outside of equestrian studies, some of the most ideal majors for equestrians are photography, painting, architecture, interior design, graphic design, advertising and branding, fashion, and industrial design, just to name a few.”
Virtually any major at SCAD can be coupled with an Equestrian Studies minor, adds Phelps, so the possibilities are endless. The university supports these unique couplings with a plethora of resources. For example, students have combined the expertise they learned in arenas and stables with SCADpro, the school’s in-house design studio, to design durable backpack concepts for equestrian apparel brand Equis Boutique. They’ve also devised a safer, more breathable hardhat for construction company Clayco.
Having the opportunity to work toward a degree in industrial design while also minoring in Equestrian Studies was a big draw for student Sophia Valle, who wants to design prosthetic legs for horses after graduation. Combining the two programs together has helped her work toward the big picture of her future career, while also allowing her to gain a deeper understanding of a horse’s anatomy.
“When I was searching for colleges, a university with a strong industrial design program was my priority,” Valle says. “SCAD stood out because of the industrial design curriculum, as well as their equestrian studies program. The opportunity to take equestrian studies as a minor was a unique advantage to where I wanted my career to follow.”
Like Valle, many other students have been able to find their own unique paths that have helped them succeed in the equine career of their choice. No matter what route they take—majoring in Equestrian Studies or combining a minor in the subject with one of the university’s many other programs—alumni leave the school prepared to be leaders in a wide range of careers.
“The value in having a degree in Equestrian Studies from SCAD lies in the fact that after graduation, these students have learned not only the necessary equestrian skills, but also those art, design, and technology skills that will set them on the path to career success,” Phelps says. “The offerings available to students at SCAD are unparalleled amongst other colleges and universities. No other Equestrian degree program combines such high-quality facilities and instruction with the cutting edge curriculum of an art and design university. This is one of the many things that sets SCAD apart from other colleges and universities.”
*This story was originally published in the December 2021 issue of The Plaid Horse. Click here to read it now and subscribe for issues delivered straight to your door!