Teaching some horse sense
November 3, 2015
The University of Wyoming has a pony mascot (Cowboy Joe), a bucking horse logo and a new charge to expand its equine studies program.
Enter Jennifer Ingwerson. Ingwerson joined the UW College of Agriculture and Natural Sciences in August 2014 to take the reins of the equine program within the Department of Animal Science.
The program encompasses academic teaching, UW Extension and coaching the Collegiate Horse Judging and Ranch Horse Versatility teams, activities that roughly define the seasons.
"Fall is competitive season," said Ingwerson.
“Horses are different from other livestock. They walk the line of livestock or pet, depending on the person. Horses stir people’s emotions and are often seen as a symbol of the American West.” Jennifer Ingwerson, director of UW’s department of animal science equine program
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The Versatility Ranch Horse competition raises awareness and appreciation of the working stock horse with ranch trail, reining, ranch pleasure and working cow horse events.
This year, UW Ranch Horse team members compete against other collegiate teams in two shows in Colorado.
Unlike the Ranch Horse Team, which is a club, Collegiate Horse Judging Team members enroll in the advanced equine evaluation and selection course. Ingwerson coaches students to evaluate horses on breed standards for conformation and performance.
The ideal is not, however, a collection of standards. Students learn how conformation relates to overall function and longevity of the animal. For example, team members must know arm from elbow, pastern from poll and be able to recognize a trappy (choppy) or rope-walking stride (both undesirable). Competitive horse judging develops skills in observation, organization and verbal communication.
The team represents UW at the American Quarter Horse Congress in Columbus, Ohio, and the American Quarter Horse World Show in Oklahoma City.
Ingwerson admits her favorite fall course is advanced equine welfare and behavior. By the time students enroll, they've been immersed in science-based equine studies and are familiar with the equine industry.
Students choose topics and engage in debate. They are assigned a position and evaluated on their preparation – not who's right or wrong.
"Horses are different from other livestock," said Ingwerson. "They walk the line of livestock or pet, depending on the person. Horses stir people's emotions and are often seen as a symbol of the American West."
As students examine the morals, values, ethics and thorny realities of human-equine relations, not even the university's signature bucking horse escapes the scrutiny of Ingwerson's students; they debate the welfare of rodeo stock at events such as Cheyenne Frontier Days.
For Ingwerson, though, there is one certainty.
"I worked in industry for a while, and I missed teaching. I love the intellectual challenge, learning and growing, and giving back to the state and nation."
Ingwerson grew up in eastern Nebraska, where her family raised quarter horses. She earned a bachelor's degree in animal science from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and a master's degree in equine reproductive physiology at Iowa State University.
Ingwerson noted that, in Wyoming, horses enjoy broad support. "You really see that at UW's spring rodeo," she said. "It is a community event with standing room only."
Ingwerson travels the state as a UW Extension specialist. She hosted four clinics last summer and taught at the annual horse camp in Douglas, where 4-H equine members learned showmanship and horsemanship. One of her goals is to assemble a state advisory committee with Wyoming 4-H to help expand the program.
Ingwerson said she has seen strong support for all equine activities from youths, parents, community members and UW students and administrators. Still, Ingwerson sees the need to build horse education in Wyoming and make it more widely available.
"We want to keep up the momentum," she said.
For more information on the animal science department at the University of Wyoming, visit http://bit.ly/UWAnimalscience. –University of Wyoming
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