Academic journal article NACTA Journal

The Elements of Two-Year Equine Degree Programs in the Mid-Western U.S.: A Delphi Study

Academic journal article NACTA Journal

The Elements of Two-Year Equine Degree Programs in the Mid-Western U.S.: A Delphi Study

Article excerpt


Horses are becoming an increasingly significant sector of the animal industry resulting in an increased need in post-secondary equine degree programs; yet there is little research describing what elements these academic programs should contain. This Delphi study was conducted to determine the objectives, courses, resources, and curriculum necessary for a successful two-year equine degree program. Results of the study show the three most important program objectives were to prepare students to successfully compete for employment in the equine industry, develop skills needed by utilizing hands-on experiences and applied study, and produce students who have a working knowledge of all facets of equine management. Regarding coursework, respondents unanimously supported a course on equine health, while an internship and a course on equine conformation earned high levels of agreement, along with equine nutrition, equine anatomy, equine business management, and horseshoeing and farrier science. Additional components for an equine program were recruiting materials along with external support. The most popular curriculum resources were specific equine textbooks and handouts from breed and horse associations as well as teaching technology and video equipment. Although this research is limited in scope, it can serve as a foundation for future research in this area.


In the U.S., horses' contribution to the human race is quality of life. "Most livestock feed our bodies; the horse feeds our being" (Damron, 2009, p. 518). This characteristic creates an industry unique to all other livestock species in that the horse industry has one foot (or should we say a hoof) in agriculture and another in sports, recreation, and entertainment (Damron, 2009). This distinctive characteristic creates an industry that is positively correlated with equine curriculums being offered in U.S. colleges and universities (Rudolph, 1979). The horse population in the U.S. peaked in the 1910s at around 26.5 million, with the most popular horses being draft horses used for agricultural production and some light breeds used for transportation (Damron, 2009; Parker, 2008). At this point in time equine instruction consisted mainly of classes focusing on judging animals and raising quality work horses as a part of animal science or agriculture programs. Later, with the replacement of the horse by machinery coupled with the Great Depression and World War II, horse numbers were severely reduced; by the late 1950s the population had declined to around three million (Damron, 2009; Kentucky Equine Research, Inc., 2007; Washburn, 1958) and many colleges and universities eliminated horse classes entirely (Rudolph, 1979). With an improving post-war economy and an increase in leisure time, there was a surge in the popularity of the horse (Damron, 2009; Parmenter, 1978); however, instead of the focus being on draft horses used for farm work, it was now on light breeds used in recreational and performance activities (Parker, 2008; Rudolph, 1979).

In a 1966 conference on undergraduate teaching in the animal sciences Cowan (1967) noted the growing popularity of horses and emphasized the need to consider equine when developing animal science curricula. Throughout the 1970s animal science programs were placing an increased emphasis on horses (Taylor and Kauffman, 1983) and as time passed, specific equine curriculums began appearing in college and university course offerings (Rudolph, 1979).

While the number of equine programs throughout the nation was increasing, some institutions were slow to develop and reestablish equine programs (Borton as cited by Rudolph, 1979). As these programs became established and grew, there was much variation in the coursework offered at colleges. Despite this variation in curriculum, a number of programs faced similar challenges which limited their ability to include an equine program (Parmenter, 1978) such as a lack of administrative and faculty interest and support, the high start-up and maintenance costs associated with equine programs, or the perception that horses should not be part of animal science programs because they are not food animals (Cunha, 1978). …

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