UK and UofL Equine Programs Collaborate

Equine industry and equine higher education programs have much in common: Just as the industry is at its best when different disciplines and niches work together, higher education is also strongest when complementary programs unite. The University of Louisville's (UofL) Equine Industry program and the University of Kentucky's (UK) Equine Science and Management undergraduate degree program have collaborated this year through teaching, industry activities, and undergraduate research to enhance students' educational opportunities. This partnership has benefited students, challenged and enhanced faculty, and opened doors for future joint efforts.

Teaching is at the heart of both programs and each has different strengths. UofL focuses on the business side of the industry while UK emphasizes the science behind equine management. Offering core classes to equine program students at each institution provides access to the best of both worlds.

For instance, over the last two semesters Bob Coleman, PhD, PAS, UK's associate director for undergraduate education in equine science and management and extension horse specialist, has taught an introduction to equine science class at UofL. UofL's Tim Capps, PhD, participated as a mock interviewer in UK's equine career prep class and offered his business background and insight into career opportunities. Plans for him to teach an equine business class at UK next year are under way.

While this is a great start, more is possible as the programs move forward, including an increase in joint classes. Ideally, faculty will guest lecture with each other more in module-type settings, and students could even be invited to visit both schools at different times throughout the year.

But the classroom is not the only place that collaboration occurs. Because UK and UofL are located only about 75 miles apart, there are also many opportunities for shared activities outside the classroom. Both programs send students to intern at the same sites, and graduate job placements often overlap. Both schools organized and supported the Kentucky International Equine Summit in 2008 and again in 2010. Furthermore, students and faculty from both programs traveled abroad together in 2009 when they toured England's equine industry.

In the future, the schools could enhance shared industry activities by offering opportunities for their students to socialize and build personal relationships. The ultimate goal of the collaboration between UK and UofL is for students to learn together and from each other, as well as establish relationships that will help unite the next generation of horse professionals.

Working together to solve industry issues is another avenue of collaboration between the two schools. Currently, for example, UofL students can participate in undergraduate research studying optimal broodmare band sizes, evaluating macroeconomic influences on the equine breeding industry, and comparing the positive and negative aspects of artificial insemination. Students at UK, on the other hand, have opportunities to work on genetics and disease diagnostics in Gluck Equine Research Center laboratories or help care for horses and collect data for research projects related to equine nutrition, pasture management, reproduction, and parasitology at Maine Chance Farm.

Both programs' current undergraduate research opportunities are strong, and collaboration in this area would only strengthen them. In the future, students from both programs could work together in partnerships or teams to investigate the business and science sides of important industry issues such as the unwanted horse or race track surface comparisons. Students would learn both the business and science sides of these issues. They would also learn the benefits of an integrated approach to solving problems that face the industry, and most importantly, they would learn the value of collaboration early in their careers.

Building the bridge between UK and UofL has only just begun, and many opportunities to improve both programs lie ahead. While cooperation between two schools that are rivals on various fields of play can sometimes seem daunting, the efforts to accomplish this have led to more faculty interaction. This increased interaction has helped ease the administrative barriers that often exist between universities, and it is also facilitating more student interaction, which furthers the schools' respective goals to help students gain a broader knowledge and more sophisticated understanding of the horse industry worldwide. As the faculties become better acquainted and work together in the classroom and on research projects, students will follow.

Elizabeth LaBonty, MS, is a lecturer and internship coordinator at UK. Tim Capps, PhD, is an executive-in-residence at the University of Louisville.

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