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And They’re Off! Studying and Training Horses at SUNY

Horse race at Belmost Race Track in NY.

There is a lot of buzz about Triple Crown winner American Pharaoh coming to the Travers Stakes in Saratoga. A fact his trainer Bob Baffert seemed to imply was true. And experts suggest there is no better next stop for this champion racer. But whether or not we see this champion thoroughbred in upstate New York on August 29th, New York still has quite a history with the races. And SUNY is increasingly a part of that history. With programs such as Morrisville State’s Equine Racing Management program, Cobleskill’s Equine Studies, or Alfred States’s Agriculture & Veterinary Technology program, SUNY schools are educating some important figures in thoroughbred racing and equine management, from the doctors and trainers to the horses themselves.

Horses in the running

Morrisville State’s equine programs have had a good deal of success at the standardbred and thoroughbred level. So far this year, Morrisville has had two winning horses at the Finger Lakes Racetrack in Farmington, NY. The first win on June 9, went to Don’t Back Down, a Bay Gelding. The second, on June 12, went to Hot Idea, a Brown Mare. Both horses were trained by Dr. Clyde Cranwell, associate professor and director of the college’s Thoroughbred program.

But at Morrisville, students don’t just learn to train horses. Morrisville State offers a bachelor of technology degree in Equine Science and two associate degrees in Equine Racing Management and Equine Science and Management. The diverse equine science curriculum includes specializations in breeding, western, hunt seat, draft/driving, and thoroughbred and standardbred racing.

A female rides a horse galloping indoors at Morrisville State College.

Yes, you read that right, racing. A unique feature of the college’s thoroughbred program is a summer option where students can gain actual experience racing horses at the Finger Lakes Racetrack with Dr. Cranwell. The college has been racing at Finger Lakes Racetrack since 2007.

But what about the horses who aren’t as successful? What happens to thoroughbred horses who, whether by age or injury just can’t keep up with the race?

It turns out there are solutions for that too. The Morrisville State College Equine Rehabilitation Center (MSCERC), which welcomed it’s first horses in 2011, offers equipment and rehabilitation techniques to keep healthy horses conditioned and to help injured equine athletes recover post injury or post-surgery. The center, which has room to stable up to 40 horses, has state of the art equipment including:

  • Aquatrainer underwater treadmill (a treadmill that is slowly filled with water, allowing horses to exercise without putting their full body weight on injured limbs, joints or tendons)
  • Cold salt-water spa
  • Indoor swimming pool
  • Therapeutic ultrasound
  • Laser therapy (Class IIIB)
  • Game Ready™ equine treatment unit (cold compression therapy)
  • 8-horse, 80-ft diameter exerciser

But even with these rehabilitation options at Morrisville, there is another option for Equine Studies.

Providing an Education on Horses

Cobleskill student stands with horse inside barn. Staff and students at SUNY Cobleskill have their own Equine Studies program where they get to learn how to work up close with horses. The program has been available to students for more than 35 years, making it the oldest of its kind in New York. In this program, students gain valuable skills in recognizing and demonstrating safe horse handling techniques, being able to analyze an equine ration, understanding basic training and behavior of equine, and understanding basic reproduction principles.

These students learn to handle horses whether they are thoroughbred or not. With courses such as Equine Farm Management and Intro to Equine Training, the equine studies program teaches skills to students and horses alike.

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Written by Kay Broughton

Kay is a student assistant with the SUNY Office of New Media. She is a University at Albany undergraduate working towards a double major in English and East Asian studies with a double minor in communications and film.

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