Neely Heidorn | 2/3/2011 2:29:00 AM
It might seem like that buckaroo who rides off into the sunset was born in the saddle. But the truth is he had to learn equestrian skills, either by chance or instruction.
An LSU AgCenter program, Master Horseman, is under way to pass along that knowledge.
“The ultimate goal is to have a group of extremely well-trained leaders around the state and increase the quality of horsemen and horses,” said the program’s founder and administrator Clint Depew, retired professor and extension specialist in the Department of Animal Sciences. “The idea was to bring them up several notches, and ultimately we would ask them to be volunteer teachers.”
Depew said the need for an educational program became apparent in an AgCenter survey conducted in 2002, which showed that most horse owners rely on other horse owners for horse-handling advice. A total of 48,883 people in Louisiana own 203,159 horses, according to the 2009 LSU AgCenter summary, and the industry impacts the state economy by more than $2.4 billion.
“Over all, the level of horsemanship in Louisiana isn’t up to the standards of other states, and the Master Horseman program is aimed at improving the expertise,” Depew said. “The Master Horseman program was designed and developed to provide training to key industry leaders. These trained volunteers would in turn have responsibilities to teach others in the industry.”
The program, which is now coordinated by the LSU AgCenter’s assistant professor and equine extension specialist Dr. Neely Heidorn, consists of eight 3-hour sessions, starting with an hour lecture by various experts on scientific and technical advances in nutrition, health, management and care of horses. The sessions cover a wide range of topics, including nutrition, safety, conditioning, foot care and dental health. The second hour is devoted to a demonstration of horse training techniques, and the third hour involves practicing the skills they have learned. All of that is followed by a test.
“When horse leaders complete the training, they are required to give 40 hours of volunteer service to the horse industry to train other horsemen and youth,” Depew said. “The trained volunteers have subsequently been active in the 4-H youth program, conducting horse camps, clinics, seminars and workshops.”
Horse enthusiasts who want to enroll in the Master Horseman program being held at the Washington Parish Fairgrounds in Franklinton, La., beginning March 1, 2011, should contact Lacey Keating, associate extension agent in Washington Parish at 985-839-7855 or by E-mail.