SDSU Equine Issues, Leadership class discusses the unwanted horse
Rebecca Bott, Ph.D., has taken the South Dakota State University (SDSU) range and animal science department by storm with her exciting course, Equine Issues and Leadership. Ten students took part in this semester’s class, which explores a variety of topics regarding the horse industry. In the past, the class has examined the horse slaughter issue, presenting a pros and cons debate at the end of the semester. This year, the students united to study unwanted horses in the U.S.
Andrew Jensen was one of the students in the class. Jensen is a senior general agriculture major, animal science minor at SDSU who will graduate in December. He is involved in Collegiate 4-H, the Prexy Council and Little International.
Jensen joined his peers to present a speech based on their findings throughout the semester in the Equine Issues and Leadership course. Bott took her students to speak at the 2011 Black Hills Stock Show in Rapid City, SD, and most recently, at the South Dakota Horse Fair in Sioux Falls, SD on March 18.
The title of their presentation was, “The global perspective of the equine industry and the unwanted horse.” Jensen shared his thoughts on the class, the speech and his views on the livestock industry.
“When developing our presentation, we looked at several different options, and settled on the unwanted horse issue here in the U.S.” said Jensen. “From there, we wanted to take a more global look and see how other countries have taken care of this issue, the history of horses developed there, how the equine sector influences the economy and then ethical issues. We also looked at man and nature’s influence, the closure of horse slaughter in the (U.S.) and then the implications of the unwanted horse. We also covered different government grants and funding for this problem.”
One of the key points presented by the class was simply defining the unwanted horse and getting a better idea of the problem. To help with that, the students turned to the Unwanted Horse Coalition, http://www.unwantedhorsecoalition.org.
According to the coalition, “No accurate figures document how many unwanted horses actually exist, their age and sex, the breeds represented, their most recent use, their value or what happens to them in the long run. Tens of thousands of horses that could be classified as unwanted are being sent to processing facilities in the U.S., Canada and Mexico each year. Unfortunately, the number of unwanted horses exceeds the resources currently available to accommodate them. The estimated cost of providing basic care for a horse ranges from $1,800-$2,400 annually. Currently, there are not enough volunteers, funding or placement opportunities for all of the unwanted horses.
In addition to studying the issue, the class also spent time polishing up their own skills for careers in the equine industry.
“Throughout this class, we worked on our professionalism by developing our resumes and cover letters and doing a service learning project, as well,” explained Jensen. “Looking at equine issues, I can see we have a problem with a growing number of unwanted horses, but the real problem is coming up with a solution.”
Speaking at BHSS and the South Dakota Horse Fair were great opportunities for the class, newly developed in just the past two years.
“The Sutton family invited us to speak at the BHSS, and we were also invited to speak at the Horse Fair,” noted Jensen. “Last year’s class also spoke at both of these places. We thank those who invited us to speak. The reaction from our presentations was well received. Many of the people in attendance agreed that there is a problem and shared their experiences with us. Our audience was of all ages and from all backgrounds and aspects of the agriculture and equine industry.”
Although the issue is a tough one and there isn’t an easy solution to the problem, Jensen said the class was a great learning experience for him and his peers.
“When I came into this class I had heard there was a problem with the amount of horses; since the closing of horse slaughter we have had this influx of horses that need a place to go,” said Jensen. “I’ve come to learn that every year about 170,000 horses end up falling into this category of ‘unwanted.’ Since taking this class I have come to better understand that within each livestock sector we each have issues that need to be resolved.”
Creating awareness, forming an educated opinion on the issues facing the industry and developing strong agriculture leaders are main goals of the SDSU Equine Issues and Leadership class – goals that Bott is undoubtedly achieving with her students.
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