A Heart for Horses

Turning a passion into a career path

Horses are fascinating animals—intelligent, perceptive, and affectionate. While many young adults partake in horseback riding, a select few decide to turn their passion for horses into a lifelong career. Enter the University of Findlay.

Findlay is home to a nationally-recognized program UF offers one of only a few Equestrian Studies programs in the United States. Students come to Findlay from all parts of the country for its nationally renowned program. They receive a liberal arts education combined with daily, hands-on experience with horses beginning their first day on campus.

The program accepts riders of all experience levels, and starts each student in their freshman year with a strong focus on the fundamentals of riding. An equestrian studies major will spend 3-4 hours a day, 5 days a week, in riding classes.

While competing is not mandatory, students who try out and are selected for the University’s Equestrian teams are competing with the best. Most recently, the UF Western Equestrian Team won both the 2018 and 2019 IHSA (Intercollegiate Horse Show Association) National Championships, and UF Hunt Seat IHSA team won their region, sending riders on to Nationals in the 2018/2019 school year. Overall, UF IHSA teams have won a total of eight National Championship titles. The Equestrian department also supports a very competitive Ranch Horse Team and Eventing Team, and more than half of all equestrian students are involved in team activity.

Two types of horseback riding

There are two types of riding styles—English and Western—and UF offers studies in both. English riding is seen throughout the world. Riders use a different tack (horse gear) and technique than Western style. UF students in the English riding program spent time at the James L. Child, Jr. English Equestrian Center hidden in the south end of Findlay at 11178 Township Road 201. The English program owns about 100 horses and the barn itself has 150 horse stalls.

In the English Equestrian program, students have the option of specializing in dressage, hunter/jumper, or eventing. The facility is built for this type of training, with three indoor arenas and an outdoor arena. It also features a lovely outdoor riding field, which the students use to practice jumping.

The Western Equestrian discipline evolved from the cowboy, ranching style of riding that originated in the American West. UF’s Western Equestrian program is located at 14700 U.S. Route 68 in Findlay on a beautiful 150 acres (shared with other University of Findlay programs). The facilities include the Western Equestrian Riding Barn and the Dale Wilkinson Arena.

The Western program owns about 100 horses and the facility has a total of 330 horse stalls that are filled during the school year with the students’ horses and horses that are in training. UF’s program is unique in that students are able to practice the discipline of cutting (separating cattle from a herd) with a cattle herd that resides at the facility.

Horses go to college, too

About 200 of the 500 horses at UF’s facilities every year are from horse owners across the country who send their horses to be trained by UF students in the University’s Send Your Horse to College program.

The students benefit from the practical experience of working with a wide-range of horse personalities. They practice a quiet approach to training and forge a close connection with the horses they train. Working with the horses on a daily basis, they teach them manners, such as how to stand quietly for grooming, clipping, saddling, mounting and dismounting. Each horse also receives excellent physical conditioning.

Many award-winning horse barns have been customers of UF’s Send your Horse to College program for years, appreciating the quality training that students (under the supervision of their instructors) provide to their horses.

Teaching local kids

Local kids and their horses also benefit from UF’s Equestrian program. The University offers summer riding lessons for the community, welcoming riders of all ages and experience levels. In addition, both the Western and English programs host week-long summer riding camps. Community groups and schools are able to tour the facilities and watch riding classes. At the end of each semester, part of the students’ final exam is a horse show, which is open to spectators from the public.

To learn more about the University of Findlay’s Equestrian programs, visit their website at

Natalie Savannah


Hometown: Butler, Pennsylvania
Horse: Beamer

A junior in the Western Equestrian program, Natalie has been riding since she was 6-years-old. She started riding in the English discipline and was encouraged by an instructor to try Western. She has discovered a passion for reining at UF. Currently Natalie is working with a horse named Beamer. “I love how much she has been able to teach me this summer,” Natalie says of Beamer. “She’s not the easiest horse to ride, but she takes care of me.”

CeCe Klein


Hometown: Columbus, Ohio
Horse: Cupcake

A senior in the Western Equestrian program, CeCe started taking riding lessons, leasing horses and getting involved with her local 4-H groups at an early age. When she got her own horse and started competing in open shows, she attended a show at UF. From that point on, she knew she wanted to come to Findlay for school. CeCe’s horse, Cupcake, has come to college with her. CeCe has really enjoyed colt breaking in her classes, and hopes to continue colt breaking as a career after graduation.

Charity Thacker


Hometown: McArthur, Ohio
Horse: Dreaming Emily

Charity has always loved horses. In fact, her first word as a baby was “horse.” She got her own horse when she was 12 years old. She went to quarter horse shows just to watch and learn, and that’s how she discovered UF’s program. A senior in the Western Equestrian program, Charity is riding a horse named Dreaming Emily, “Emmy” for short. “She has taught me a lot about how to finish a show horse in Western riding,” Charity says of Emmy.

Rowan Love


Hometown: Traverse City, Michigan
Horses: Capital and Fivel

Rowan has been riding since she was 6 years old and learned of UF’s program through a friend. Currently, Rowan is working with two horses, Capital and Fivel. She notes their different personalities: “Capital is kind of an in-your-pocket horse, and Fivel is more go-with-the-flow.” Her goal right now is to do a hunter derby with Capital. A junior in the English Equestrian program, Rowan says she loves the one-on-one instruction available to students and the fact that she is able to ride every day. She looks forward to a career in the equine industry.

Nicole Stewart


Hometown: Benicia, California
Horses: Bright and Dale

Nicole, a junior in the English Equestrian program, has been riding since she was 6 years old. She started with Western riding but in recent years switched to English. “I really fell in love with jumping,” she says. Nicole is working with one of the University’s horses, Bright, as well as her own horse, Dale, who came to college with her. “Having it be a class to ride every day is a dream,” Nicole says. “I have really enjoyed my eventing instructor, Sue King. She has pushed me and the horses I’m working with to do our best.”
Nicole participates in 2-3 shows each semester. Her ultimate goal is to own a boarding and training facility.

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