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Education With Horsepower

The ability to combine your equine enthusiasm with your profession isn’t an elusive goal: Let one of the Kentucky colleges, universities, or trade schools show you how!

By Sarah E. Coleman, Kentucky Equestrian Directory 2021 Issue pgs. 84-88


If you’ve ever thought the only professions that allow you to work with horses include horse trainer, veterinarian, or farrier, think again! Opportunities abound to work within the equine industry—and not all of them are hands-on.

There are hundreds of universities and colleges across the United States that offer equine major and minor options, as well as other levels of equine involvement, including riding teams and horse-related clubs. In addition, niche-industry programs also exist, including those that teach students the ins-and-outs of being a jockey or a farrier. Students in any of these programs need not be fresh out of high school—non-traditional student enrollment is up across the board.

While every institution offers something specific, those located in Kentucky have an added incentive for students: they’re located in the heart of horse country. The state isn’t dubbed the “horse capital of the world” for nothing; the 2012 Kentucky Equine Survey ( reported that there are 242,400 horses in the state and over 35,000 equine operations. There truly is no better place to learn about all things equine than the Bluegrass State.

Photo by Midway University

Schools Offering Four-year Degrees

Asbury University

Located in Wilmore, Ky., the Asbury University Equine Program offers students degrees in Equine Science, Equine-Related Business, Equine Assisted Activities, and Pre-Veterinary Medicine. The school focuses on academic excellence and spiritual vitality; it has an Equine Center that spans 343 acres that include trails, round pens, three barns, one indoor arena, and two outdoor arenas. Asbury is the only university in America that offers a Police Horse Training Program (Service Mounts Program) conducted by students.

Midway University

Midway University is a private, Christian liberal arts university just minutes from Lexington. In addition to both hunt seat and western intercollegiate competition teams, the school offers both undergraduate and graduate equine degrees. The undergrad program offers Bachelor of Science degrees in Equine Studies, with concentrations in Equine Management, Equine Rehabilitation, or Science; also offered is a Minor in Equine Studies. The equine-oriented advanced degree is a Master of Business Administration with an Equine Management Concentration. The University itself sits on a picturesque, 200-acre horse farm, allowing students to truly walk out the door and straight to the barn.

Morehead State University

A Bachelor of Science in Equine Science from Morehead State University in Morehead is an area of concentration in agricultural sciences. Ag core courses comprise the basis for the degree, with additional classes offered in horsemanship, equitation teaching, equine management, breeding and reproduction, among others. A Horsemanship minor is also an option for students wishing to learn about horsemanship in greater depth. Hands-on opportunities take place at the Derrickson Agricultural Complex, the school’s 325-acre working farm. Many equine students also ride on Morehead’s Hunt Seat and Western IHSA teams.

Murray State University

Murray State University offers students a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, with the option to focus on Equine Management or Equine Science. The program offers a hands-on, real-world based education designed to accommodate student interests in everything from research, management and nutrition, to teaching. With facilities that include indoor and outdoor arenas, a rodeo practice area, dressage facility, and expo center, there’s somewhere for each of the school’s equestrian teams to feel at home. A Pre-Vet Club, Dressage Club, Rodeo Club, and Intercollegiate Rodeo Team, along with other equine-oriented clubs are offered to give students even more outlets for their equestrian passions.

University of Kentucky

The University of Kentucky’s Ag Equine Program offers students a four-year, customizable Bachelor’s degree specializing in science, business, communications, or leadership. UK’s equine degree is one of only three stand-alone, four-year equine undergraduate programs connected to a land-grant university in the United States. Students can also choose to participate in nearly a dozen equine-oriented clubs and teams, including dressage, eventing, rodeo, saddle seat, hunt seat and western competition teams, and a horse racing and professional horseman’s club.

University of Louisville

The University of Louisville College of Business offers multiple equine education options, including a Post Baccalaureate (one-year) Certificate in Equine Business, a Minor in Equine Business and a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration in Equine Business (the only equine program in the world located in an Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International-accredited college of business.) Classroom experience is supplemented with internships, field experience, and prominent industry contacts. In addition, U of L has both Hunt Seat and Western IHSA teams.

Western Kentucky University

Western Kentucky University offers a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, with concentrations in Animal Science, Horse Science, and Pre-Veterinary medicine, among others. The Horse Science concentration includes classes in horse production, basic equitation, horse training, and multiple electives. Western Kentucky has a Western IHSA team.

Photo by Rebecca Vaughn, Asbury University, Service Mount

Trade Schools

Kentucky Horseshoeing School

The Kentucky Horseshoeing School combines the art and science of horse shoeing to provide comprehensive farrier education. The school sits on 40 acres in Richmond, and has 23,000 square feet of classrooms, shops, instructional areas, and dormitories. Founded in 1978, the school focuses on balanced shoeing by combining traditional practices with the newest research. Per the 2018-2019 catalog, the school offers a 12- week Farrier Survey Course, a 24-week Intermediate Farrier Program, and a 36-week Career Track Program option, as well as a National Farrier Training Program, and apprenticeship placement. The school also focuses heavily on Business Education.

Equine Studies/North American Racing Academy Part of the Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC), the Equine Studies/North American Racing Academy (NARA) program prepares students for entrance into the equine workforce with a focus on the Thoroughbred racing, breeding, and sales industry. The program provides a foundation of education and training geared toward the expectation of employers in the equine/Thoroughbred industries.

The Equine Studies/North American Racing Academy (NARA) program at BCTC offers students the opportunity for numerous certificates that can be completed in as little as four months as well as an Associate in Applied Science in Equine Studies that offers an extensive internship program after only one semester of lab classes.

NARA Student, Sarah Thompson and Cigar at KHP

Schools Offering Other Equine Options

Eastern Kentucky University

Eastern Kentucky University offers a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, as well as a minor in Horses, Humans and Health in the Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy. This minor allows students the ability to explore the horse-human-health connection. Also offered is a Livestock Management Certificate and a Companion Animal Management Certificate, which offers courses in everything from nutrition, genetics, reproduction and behavior, to welfare and anatomy.

KEMI Fall 2020 Interns. Photo courtesy of Leslie Janeka

Georgetown College

Just one exit up from the Kentucky Horse Park, Georgetown College is a private Christian college with a unique equine experience: the Equine Scholars Program. A professional development program, the extracurricular organization allows students to pursue any major at Georgetown they choose, and shows them how to combine that degree within the equine industry. Lectures, internships, and volunteering are key components of the program. Georgetown College also has a Hunt Seat IHSA team.

The Kentucky Equine Management Internship (KEMI) program

Kentucky Equine Management Internship is designed specifically for those students wishing to work in the Thoroughbred industry. Throughout the 22-24-week program, students are employed full-time by Thoroughbred farms where they become familiar with the day-to-day management of horses on commercial farms. Students also attend lectures and labs designed to deepen their understanding of the industry. The Spring KEMI session focuses on the care and management of pregnant and foaling mares; the Fall session focuses on prepping Thoroughbreds for the state’s commercial auctions.

Northern Kentucky University

Northern Kentucky University has both Hunt Seat and Western IHSA teams; both teams are formed, developed, governed, and administered by the student membership, who work with University staff.

Asbury University, photo by Rebecca Vaughn

Based in Lexington, Kentucky, Sarah Coleman has a soft spot for chestnuts with chrome, including her off-the-track Thoroughbred, Chisholm, whom she adopted from New Vocations Racehorse Adoption Program.

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