Uniquely geared to connect students to specific careers in agriculture, the Nebraska College of Technical Agriculture’s equine program is propelling students into all sorts of jobs working with horses.
During NCTA’s two-year program in Curtis, Nebraska, students participate in everything from colt starting to advanced riding. They work with ranch horses for use with cows and the working sector, refining skills in reining, trail and other practical aspects of being in ranch and livestock setting.
The classes cover barn chores, facility management and training. A segment on reproduction introduces artificial insemination. In equine management, students learn to manage a working horse ranch, stable, equine breeding or show facility.
“I feel one of our biggest elements that sets us apart is not just a training program or focusing on one sector – they learn how to A.I. mares, stallion management techniques, nutrition, the practicum classes in the barn working with the horses, and through the industry management classes so they’re better prepared to get a job in the industry,” said Joanna Hergenreder, associate professor in the Animal Science/Ag Education Department.
She’s in her ninth year leading the equine program at NCTA. The college is the only two-year campus of the University of Nebraska system.
A current NCTA student, Annie Bassett from Ogallala, Nebraska, especially appreciates the hands-on experiences as part of the classwork.
“This program is an amazing opportunity for anyone looking into the equine industry in any aspect,” she said. “The teacher-to-student ratio is something that sets our program apart from others and gives you a very one-on-one feel to help you build and grow in all aspects.”
For students who don’t want to be in school for the full two-year program, NCTA also offers the equine training management certification. Some students come to NCTA for the equine practicum series and decide to take a few other courses to help develop their management skills, so that they’ll have a foundation for training horses.
“Because of this program, they have a little more behind them than just the training,” Hergenreder said. “They learn how to talk to clients, manage their financial record books and about animal health.”
Exciting jobs have opened up for students in the NCTA program, she said, noting four key areas:
- Recreation – leading trail rides, giving lessons, managing a stall barn, working at a reproduction facility
- Competition – students have gotten jobs working for a trainer and help start colts with advanced training, also managing and judging horse shows.
- Racing – a job as a groom responsible for management of horses and stables, as well as jobs helping manage track horses, exercise-riding on the race management side, helping take bids, marketing internships.
- The working horse sector – such as assisting in therapeutic riding programs and managing barns on ranches.
“Career-building skills are hallmark for the college, and drive our statewide mission of NCTA,” NCTA Dean Larry Gossen said. “The University of Nebraska relies on us to prepare Aggie graduates through tried-and-true experiential learning in all aspects. Students are always learning through evaluating livestock and crops, working cattle with stock dogs or on horseback, and becoming certified in welding skills.”
Gossen taught FFA in Kansas high schools and has experience with the National FFA organization.
Employers and ag industries are confident in career preparation. Job offers and internships consistently exceed their graduate availability, Gossen said.
At the end of their sophomore year, students are taught advocating and public speaking skills, how to diversify their portfolio and talk to their clients. The program is connected to an advisory council, which helps measure the curriculum to be sure that what’s being taught connects with the needs.
After getting her bachelor’s degree at the University of Wyoming in animal and veterinary sciences, Hergenreder took a year off, then got her master’s degree at Colorado State University in animal science. She completed a clinical and research appointment in equine reproduction.
“I wanted to teach at the two-year level. I was attracted to the variability and flexibility that it offered,” she said.
Hergenreder is quick to share how her upbringing led her to animal sciences.
“I had a great upbringing and good mentors, but didn’t know the opportunities out there,” she said.
Initially, Hergenreder went to the two-year program at Laramie County Community College in Cheyenne, Wyoming in equine training management. She found that two-year college experience was a great place to expose a kid to what’s out there, she said.
Another part of NCTA’s equine program that sets them apart is the ranch horse team, Hergenreder noted.
“Students don’t have to come in knowing how to work horses, they can learn that on the team,” she said.
Students learn about working cattle, reining, ranch trail and ranch pleasure riding. There’s also a rodeo team at the college.
It’s the many aspects of real-life, on-farm and ranch opportunities combined with education that can rope in students’ enthusiasm to learn, grow and acquire jobs that make a difference in agriculture.
Reporter Amy Hadachek is a two-time Emmy Award winning meteorologist and a storm chaser who earned her NWA and AMS Broadcast Meteorology Seals of Approval. She and her husband live on a diversified farm in Kansas. Reach her at email@example.com.