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NMSU students get an up-close look at the state's equine industry

A handful of New Mexico State University students had the rare opportunity to get a first-hand look at career possibilities in New Mexico's equine industry while touring equine facilities around the state. More than 200 jobs, ranging from racing to veterinary medicine and many others, have a connection to horses - even some in the film industry.

NMSU students listen to ranch horse breeder Lynn Ray, second from right, during a tour of her family's Tequesquite Ranch in northeastern New Mexico. The students were participating in the Equine Industry Operations class, which toured equine operations in New Mexico. (NMSU Photo by Jane Moorman)

Historically, the equine industry was a man's world, but changing times have made it an equal opportunity employer. Nine of the eleven students taking this spring's Equine Industry Operations course in NMSU's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environment Sciences were women.

The week-long tour from Sunland Park to Santa Fe explored different equine operations, from breeding to training of racing, ranching and performance horses in southern, eastern and northeastern New Mexico.

"I'm really looking forward to making a lot more connections in the equine industry, meet different people, broaden my horizons," said Colleen Richardson, an animal science graduate students focusing on equine reproduction. "I've really only been focused on ranch horse style of things, so learning about the racing side of the industry, and a little bit more into the breeding and training side should help me later on if I want to train or have my own breeding facility."

Joining Richardson on the tour were Rebecca Cox, Leah Schmitz, Heidi Pretzel, Emily Hibbard, Hannah Farbo, Rebecca McReynolds, Kali Benson, Brette Perry, Chase Elkins and Allyn Fuchs. Associate Professor and Extension horse specialist Jason Turner created the course and led the tour.

During the tour, the students gained an appreciation of the historical and current significance of the equine industry to the New Mexico economy and agricultural heritage. They got to see and hear about the diversity and the complexity of the many equine operations in the state and learn how marketing the final product impacts the day-to-day management of the operation.

"New Mexicans have been raising high-quality horses a long time. They've been recognized nationally for their breeding programs," Turner said. "The students had a chance to interact with many of these leading breeders and gain an appreciation of how great the horse industry in New Mexico has always been and how strong it is today."

Careers in the equine industry range from those requiring daily contact with horses to support positions without daily contact with horses, from careers with horse shows, rodeos and the racing industry to those related to recreation, hunting and pleasure.

"I'm an accounting major with a minor in horse management," Cox said. "Since I love being around horses, I'm hoping to find a career in the industry."

"There is something for everybody in the New Mexico horse industry," Turner said. "The students saw a lot of different operations and saw the diversity we have, from large-budget commercial businesses to family-owned ranches."

Starting at the Sunland Park Racetrack, the students learned about the business side of racing.

"My main career focus is the racetrack management aspect of the horse industry," said Farbo, an animal science major. "So I'm taking the opportunity presented through this class to make some connections to the racing industry, as well as the equine industry as a whole."

The tour included race horse breeding operations at Crystal Springs Farms in Tularosa, and Buena Suerte Equine, Hunter Creek Farms and Double Eagle Training Center, all in Roswell.

"I thought it is interesting how Buena Suerte, Hunter Creek Farms and Double Eagle shared the horses by dividing the breeding, foaling and training, respectively, among their facilities," said Benson, animal science graduate student. "Each facility was able to focus on their expertise on a specific stage of the horse's life."

The tour moved on to another branch of the equine industry working ranch horses. Stops were made at Bogle Ranches in Dexter, T4 Ranch in Montoya, and Bell Ranch and Tequesquite Ranch in northeastern New Mexico.

"Since my background is with show horses, I found it interesting the nutritional needs of the ranch horse, and how each ranch differed in their approach to feeding horses," said McReynolds, a dental hygiene major who dreams of training horses in the future.

Along the way they stopped at the Clovis Livestock Auction and the Curry County Events Center to learn about the business side of selling horses and the management of an event arena. Benson said it was interesting seeing another facet of the industry where the people may not be involved with horses daily, but are directly impacted by the industry.

After five days on the road, the van pulled into San Cristobal Ranch in Lamy for the students to learn about the breeding and training of performance horses.

"What was interesting, to me, was the different goals each place had for their horses and how they are breeding them for that certain purpose," said Schmitz, an animal science major.

Besides learning about the way the breeders care for the animals, the students realized the ranchers also manage the use of the land to protect the natural resource.

"I learned a lot about the different management practices in New Mexico, especially well-managed ranches," said Pretzel, an animal science major who wants to work for New Mexico Game and Fish.

Along the way, Cooperative Extension Service county agents Sandra Barraza of Chaves County, Stan Jones of Curry County, Tom Dominguez of Quay County, Blair Clavel of Harding County and Pat Torres of Santa Fe County joined the tour to inform the students about the equine industry in their area.

"I think the students learned a lot about the day-to-day reality of being successful in the industry," Turner said. "They were impressed with the information they learned from the Extension agents and our hosts. We truly appreciated the support of our industry partners in hosting the student tour."
Those individuals included Dustin Dix at Sunland Park Race Track; Tom Goncharoff at Crystal Springs; Leonard Blach, veterinarian at Buena Suerte; Susan Hunter at Hunter Creek; Donald, Terry and Stuart Bogle at the Bogle Ranches; Phil, Laurie and Scott Bidegain at T4; Lynn Ray at Tequesquite; Bozo Rogers at Bell Ranch; Grant Mitchell at San Cristobal; and Wesley and Lane Grau at Grau Charolais Ranch.
"This class and tour allowed us to see that there are a lot of potential career opportunities in the New Mexico horse industry," said Hibbard, an animal science major with an equine emphasis. "You just have to go out and find them."

Learn more

New Mexico's horse industry produces goods and services valued at $503 million, with 91,000 New Mexicans involved in the industry as horse owners, service providers, employees and volunteers. There are 147,000 horses in the state, with more than 60 percent involved in showing and recreation, according to a survey by the American Horse Council.

There are 12,000 horses associated with the breeding and racing industry in New Mexico. This branch of the equine world annually contributes $400 million to the state's economy and provides 10,000 jobs, according to the New Mexico Horse Breeders Association.