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Virginia Tech Vet School

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Question:
I'm in college right now, but don't really like what I'm doing. I've been thinking of transfering to a college that offers a major in equine studies, and then possibly training somewhere else for a year or two.


Answer:
The usefulness of an undergraduate degree in any field is related to several factors. These include: actual classes taken, difficulty of curriculum, work experience while in college, quality of the institution, hands-on experience, and *diversity* of studies. Some of those factors are often missing in the typical "equine studies" major, which is generally only offered at smaller, independent colleges. Larger universities will offer a degree in animal science with the option to emphasize in equine studies. I have a bachelor's degree in Animal Science with an equine science emphasis from Virginia Tech. While I was an undergrad, I took physiology, pharmacology, advanced equine reproduction (a class for vet students), SMALL BUSINESS MANAGEMENT AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP, economics, survey of science fiction and fantasy, independent research, and nutrition, just to name a few. I also was a barn manager for the university, a pony club instructor, an apprentice for an upper level dressage rider/judge, etc. The strength of my degree is not the piece of paper hanging on my wall, but the experience behind it. I received a *superior* education at Virginia Tech. I would expect most graduates of Texas A&M, or insert-name-of-prestigious-agricultural-school here, to have received an equally outstanding education. I truly feel that I received a better education than most of my peers in other disciplines not only because I worked my ass off, but also because I was able to learn about a lot of different subjects. I got the opportunity to have a lot of hands-on experience, and I was exposed to cutting edge research in the fields of equine nutrition, exercise physiology, reproduction, and hoof and leg lameness. With this degree, I could have gone in a lot of different directions. Some examples are: vet school, med school, industry (e.g. Farnam, etc.), extension office, publications (e.g. Practical Horseman, etc.), racing industry, research assistant/tech, etc. I chose to continue on to graduate school, after some serious consideration of being a horse trainer and instructor full time. That was before I took the SMALL BUSINESS MANAGEMENT course. A huge part of the grade in that course was to produce a complete business plan and present the plan. My group (5 students) chose to work with the owner of a local boarding/training/teaching/sale facility to develop a plan for her business. Surprise for us and mostly for her, she was in the red big time and she thought she'd been doing well with a full barn and a waiting list for students. The most important topics for a future horse business owner to study in school are BUSINESS and MANAGEMENT, in case you didn't notice the caps earlier in my post. The equine experience that anyone worth their beans in the industry will respect is hands-on hard work at barns as a trainer, a barn manager, a working student, etc., for an extended time. Any degree in pony science is just icing on that very very important cake. It sounds like you understand the importance of industry experience already. Just keep in mind how much business, management, accounting, etc. is involved in actually owning or running any business. This is particularly crucial in the horse industry, since equine operations are often barely profitable. Proper bookkeeping and management can make the difference between eating Ramen noodles for dinner and not eating at all. Also, if you do get a degree in equine studies and later realize that you can't support yourself working in the equine industry, or that you prefer to keep horses as a hobby, you may find yourself backed into a corner since that degree is so specific. Just some things to keep in mind while you make your decision!



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