Johnny Morgan | 5/10/2017 7:07:11 PM
(05/10/17) BATON ROUGE, La. – Many wouldn’t think of Louisiana as an equine mecca, but horses play an important role in the agricultural industry of the state, said LSU AgCenter equine specialist Neely Walker.
For many years, horse racing has been an important industry, but now people are getting more involved in pleasure riding, trail riding and other areas of horsemanship, she said.
“In Louisiana, we have a Master Horseman program that operates similar to the Master Gardener and Master Cattlemen program,” Walker said. “The difference is we haven’t done any comprehensive evaluation of our program before now.”
Former AgCenter horse specialist Clint Depew developed the first Master Horseman program in 2004 to improve the horsemanship skills of adults and to prepare them to serve as leaders in the 4-H horse program and the Louisiana horse industry, she said.
Throughout the year, classes are held to help prepare those interested in the equine industry to share their knowledge with young people.
The program includes eight weeks of instruction on many topics related to equine science and horsemanship, she said.
Each session consists of one hour of lecture and two to three hours of riding and training instruction.
“Program graduates are asked to volunteer a minimum of 20 hours in a horse-related activity,” Walker said.
Since its inception, more than 850 men and woman have graduated from the program and served in leadership roles in horse organizations and youth programs.
“The AgCenter employs three agents and specialists to lead the Master Horseman program, and local agents assist in recruiting participants and scheduling events,” Walker said.
Recently, Walker and a team of researchers conducted an evaluation of 98 Louisiana Master Horseman program graduates to identify their confidence related to teaching others the skills and techniques they have learned in the program.
“We also looked at their willingness to teach those skills and techniques to others,” she said.
Walker and her team were able to determine the demographics of the graduates and whether differences existed between pre-program and post-program scores for confidence in the subject matter being taught.
“The results of the study suggest that this unique program has been successful in reaching its goal of creating an educated volunteer workforce,” Walker said. “The study also suggests another master volunteer program that can be replicated in other states to increase volunteer leadership.”
Youth learn knot-tying skills during horsemanship class. This is one of the many skills students learn from volunteers who have completed the LSU AgCenter Master Horseman program. (LSU AgCenter file photo)
Identification of horse parts is part of the training students receive during horsemanship classes conducted around the state. (LSU AgCenter file photo)