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OCHS introduces new equine studies course

OCHS introduces new equine studies course

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By Ike Parrish


At the start of this school year, Orange County High School introduced an equine studies course as part of its expanding agriculture program. The new class is available for grades ninth through 12th and taught by OCHS teacher Anna Burkett.

“The whole goal of the class would be, if you were interested in horse ownership, you could take this class and you could feel comfortable taking care of and maintaining your horse,” says Burkett.

Burkett is a horse aficionado who graduated with an animal science degree from Virginia Tech. In addition to the new equine studies program, Burkett teaches high school biology and ecology.

With an abundance of horse owners and horse enthusiasts in the county, the administration thought a new animal science class that specifies in equine science would be the perfect addition to the school’s agriculture programs.

Burkett, with her background in animal science and experience working on horse farms, expressed an interest in teaching the course.

Students showed an immediate interest in taking the class as it quickly reached its capacity of 20 students.

“We have a big variety of students in the class. Some have zero experience with horses … and then you have students that work on horse farms and are actively showing on the horse circuit here locally,” Burkett says.

The all-inclusive lessons teach everything from basic maintenance and nutrition to anatomy and reproduction. Students learn how to apply a bridle and saddle, horseshoeing, cleaning stalls, first aid, taking a horse’s temperature and everything else involved with horse ownership.

The students enrolled in the class have the opportunity to work hands-on with horses. They have worked directly with two horses that were brought to the school for the class. The horses were unloaded in the parking lot where the students practiced how to brush, halter, lead and tack up the willing steeds.

They are also taking field trips to area farms to see the different disciplines.

Disciplines refer to the different variations of horse riding which include dressage, showjumping, cross country riding and eventing.

The class, so far, has visited McDonough Cutting Horses Farm for a lesson in horse training and showing, and Valkyrie Ranch where students learned how to take vitals on a horse and observed a dressage demonstration. Burkett looks forward to taking her students on many more field trips to local equine establishments.

Rachel Miller, an equine specialist with Southern States, was invited to the class to present a lecture in equine nutrition. Burkett plans to invite many more guest speakers to future classes including a veterinarian and a farrier (an expert in horseshoeing).

The new course will serve as a steppingstone for students pursuing a career in animal science or those looking to get involved with the local horse industry.

As part of the expanding agriculture program at the high school, a new vet science class will be introduced next semester to be taught by Burkett.

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