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Horses only ‘neigh’ sayers at equine center

Six-year-old Breanna Gool, of Ironton, bonds with one of the horses that are housed at the Ohio University Southern Horse Park during an open house Saturday.

FRANKLIN FURNACE — It was a chance for the average Joe to get some up close and personal time with the equine athletes at the Ohio Horse Park as the center hosted its first open house.

Self-guided tours were Saturday afternoon with students in Ohio University Southern’s equine program as on-the-spot experts.

The main barn houses 20 horses from quarter horses to thoroughbreds to warm bloods, all used in classes for OUS students and in the therapeutic riding program. All the horses were either donated to the center or purchased.

Poking their heads out of their stalls, they nuzzled visitors who couldn’t resist stroking their shiny coats.

“They are all looking spiffy for the scholarship show,” Kelly Schneider, student and tour guide, said. The open house ended with a horse show to choose students and potential students to receive scholarships for the program.

“George is a thoroughbred-mix and Tori had a very extensive show career,” Schneider said, calling each horse by name. “She likes to show off. She’s a diva.”

The equine studies program is a two-year associate degree with four specialties: riding instructor, assistant trainer, pre-vet technician and farm business and farm management.

“I love that it is hands-on,” Schneider said about the program. “You can learn a lot by participating. And I like that it is close-knit.”

Charlene Halkiu came from Cincinnati to study at the OUS’s therapeutic riding program. When she finishes the two-year equine program, she wants to pursue a bachelor’s degree in education with the long-term goal of developing her own therapeutic riding program.

The students in the OUS program range from those with behavioral problems to ADHD and autism.

“It is rewarding to teach someone,” Halkiu said. “We had one rider who came in and couldn’t brush for two minutes straight. He had ADHD. But by the third week, he was grooming his horse slowly. It goes beyond riding to learning how to apply things they learn to their life.”

The horse center also offers private riding lessons, a veterinary teaching clinic as well as horse camps for young riders. For more information call 740-354-9347 or email at equine@ohio.edu.