Stephen F. Austin State University

News

SFA Equine Center offers opportunities for students and community members

April 22, 2013 - SFA Public Affairs
Representatives of the Stephen F. Austin State University Horseman's Association utilize the covered arena at the SFA Equine Center for university and public use including curriculum, horsemanship clinics and day-to-day operations. Pictured, from left, are Mary Helen Herman, Andrea Routzon, Brandi Baker, equine center manager, Faith Skinner and Jordan Blank.
The Stephen F. Austin State University Equine Center encompasses all facets of the equine industry, providing numerous opportunities for students, faculty and staff members, community members, and volunteers to participate in everything from horsemanship courses and clinics to specialized breeding, nutrition and management programs.

Occupying more than 80 acres of SFA's Walter C. Todd Agricultural Research Center, the equine facilities include a covered arena that is 120 feet by 300 feet and 23 12-by-12 covered stalls.

With the support of industry sponsors including Priefert Ranch Equipment, the facility is an ideal learning environment for students and promotes education in all aspects of horsemanship, according to Dr. Stacie Appleton, assistant professor of animal science in the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture.

"We want to promote a healthy social environment that is family oriented, one that allows students to be supportive of each other in order to reach a common goal," Appleton said.

The SFA Equine Center also provides students with opportunities to develop important personal attributes such as maturity, professionalism, etiquette and integrity, she said. "I want our students to have diverse skills, and, if I've done my job correctly, they will be better prepared to begin work in the industry of their choice."

Appleton said the program is designed to meet students where they are in terms of abilities.

"Our students come to us with different skill and riding levels. Our goal is to tailor the curriculum so everyone benefits from the courses, regardless of their existing skills," Appleton said.

Another of Appleton's main goals is to continuously develop and incorporate new courses into the curriculum to give students broader choice in their studies. With information gathered from prospective students throughout the year, faculty and staff members research and modify classes to fit students' needs. Since there is not yet an equine science degree at SFA, students declare an animal science major with an equine emphasis.

Appleton has been part of the faculty for less than a year, but she already has plans for various improvements in the equine program.

"I want to exceed expectations. I believe our equine program needs to be a flagship for the university, the Arthur Temple College of Forestry and Agriculture, and the agricultural industry, as well," she said.

She said she hopes to see this area of the university become a self-sustained entity that is always improving and upgrading.

"Our goals are big, but the generous help and input from the community will allow us to upgrade our facilities for university and public use, host the "who's who" of the industry for public events, and so much more."

The SFA Horseman's Association includes the Ranch Horse Versatility and Rodeo teams, which travel to competitive collegiate events. These teams are searching for ways to revitalize student participation in the organizations to better represent SFA across the state.

"Most students do not realize there are scholarships and funding opportunities available for them to participate on these competitive teams. They just have to ask," Appleton said.

The college also plans to expand and upgrade the university's equine facilities. Future improvements include utilizing 85 acres to expand the reproductive program and completing upgrades needed for certification as a therapeutic riding center. Once certified and approved, SFA will be one of only five higher education training centers across the nation.

The therapeutic riding center is near and dear to Appleton's heart. With assistance from other departments on campus, she hopes to provide services to clients with cognitive and physical disabilities, as well as individuals in the Wounded Warrior Project, a program that assists wounded service members on their path to recovery.

The center plans to host numerous riding clinics for students, as well as the public. According to Brandy Baker, equine center manager, SFA will host some of the industry's best horsemen, including Craig Johnson, Dave Golden and Jody Cunningham for upcoming clinics.

Appleton hopes the community will become more active in the equine programs, clinics and learning opportunities that are made available. There are opportunities for individuals to board horses, become active in the breeding and nutrition programs available, and expand their knowledge by attending short courses in the summer.

"The possibilities are endless, and the community is encouraged to become as active as they want," Appleton said.

Appleton said she enjoys seeing the public participate in worthwhile projects. To take part in these opportunities, an individual just needs one thing - a love for horses.

For additional information, call the SFA Equine Center at (936) 559-7819 or contact Appleton at (936) 468-4425 or srappleton@sfasu.edu.