Nearly every horse-crazy high school student in the U.S. has heard of the University of Findlay, as they’re widely known for their equine program and they advertise prolifically in all of the major horse publications to continually recruit new students each year. They also sponsor the College Preparatory Invitational Horse Show that I attended earlier in the year, as well as making their presence known at countless equine trade fairs and horse shows across the country. But the problem with a program being so widely “known” by horse people and by students is that so many myths can often build up around a school that it becomes more legend than reality.
Thus, last Friday, I set off for Findlay’s campus to separate the myth from the truth – and had a great time in the process!
Though it’s known as a horse school now, the university was just another educational institution when it was founded back in 1882 as Findlay College. These days, it’s a bonafied university that offers a handful of graduate programs in addition to their undergraduate offerings with a student body total of around 4,400, thirty percent of which come from surrounding Hancock County (e.g. Findlay’s local area), fifty percent of which are from greater Ohio, with just twenty percent coming from out of state and internationally. With a make up like this, I view Findlay a little bit like a hidden gem in rural Ohio – rural because of it’s surroundings outside of the small city of Findlay, not because of its actual location. (The city of Findlay itself is a small, quaint metropolis that serves as headquarters or major manufacturing site for big companies like Marathon and Whirlpool.)
The sciences are strong at Findlay – including an environmental safety and occupational health management program which has its own hazard laboratory set up inside the old gymnasium on campus. The education and social work programs are also widely recognized for the strength of their graduates – and I would be remiss if I failed to mention how highly regarded the university’s animal science and pre-veterinary programs are. (Bear in mind, students, that animal science is very different from the equine major programs that focus more intently on both horses and horse training; rather, animal science examines all facets of animal care for all animals – including the members of the university’s cattle and sheep herds, their swine, and a couple of donkeys as well as a llama. Graduates of animal science programs often pursue careers in agriculture, animal nutrition, animal welfare, or a variety of research fields.)
As I visited during Findlay’s pre-veterinary and equine visit program – which was widely attended, I might add – the bulk of the day’s information sessions focused specifically on those two specific programs and were highly informative. Most notably, I learned that many of the 28 veterinary schools in the United States actually look to Findlay’s undergraduate curriculum (which has a very hands-on approach to instruction and gets students out of the classroom and around animals as much as possible) when they examine changes or enhancements to their own curriculum. Because this program is so strong and because so many vet schools actually come to Findlay each year to try to recruit the very best and brightest of their graduates, all of the faculty involved with the program were mindful to stress the importance of hard work – both in the barn and at the library! – for students who hope to succeed and make the cut into vet school – a cut that gets more and more competitive each year. (In fact, Findlay works for three weeks with their junior pre-veterinary students on just the vet school application process alone to make sure that they’re fully prepared!)
Hard work was also the main thread that ran through all of the discussions surrounding the equine programs, both English and western (which are housed at their own separate facilities a few miles outside of campus). Students who hope to become equine professionals get real-world experience there too, with freshman and sophomore majors taking over all feeding duties for the university’s nearly 300 horses (split between the two facilities) and each student assigned to their own horse or horses for all duties, including mucking stalls, riding, and minor veterinary care. Sophomores in the western training program also get their own two-year-olds to start each semester (that’s one in the fall and another in the spring) and they spend the bulk of the spring preparing those same two-year-olds for the annual spring horse sale, which serves as a major fundraiser for the program.
The sheer number of horses – and number of students caring for them! – is overwhelming at first glance, but there’s also a real air of organization at both facilities – organization that clearly pays off because not a single horse in the herd had a hair out of place or was in poor weight. Each one was slick, shiny, and looked awfully happy with their lives as our tour groups passed by.
Because equine programs aren’t standardized across the United States the way they are in Europe and even in Canada (which is a topic for another blog), each individual equine program’s success in educating its students comes from the background, experiences, and character of the people in charge of running it. At the University of Findlay, the key to their success is clearly in the staff members who make everything run so smoothly and I came away from my visit there with a new appreciation for the realities of the university as opposed to the legend and myths that surround it.
Interested in learning more about Findlay or about another college or university? Contact me.