Horsemanship Club saddles up for a virtual experience

Due to local safety measures on COVID-19, the Horsemanship Club will not be meeting at the W. K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center this semester, leaving members to saddle up for a virtual experience.

“Unfortunately, because we are a closed system, we really are prevented from having outside people on the property unless it’s for a specific encounter,” Reich said. Some lab courses from the veterinary department will be allowed to access the horse center with a few students entering at a time, Reich explained.

The horse center is currently closed to the public and only allows five student workers, trainers and equine specialists on-site to maintain and feed the horses. Every individual visiting the horse center is following safety health regulations — including social distancing, wearing masks and conducting the required health screeners daily.

Although the horses are experiencing a quieter scene, they are healthy and doing well, according to Cynthia Reich, the lead at breeding and herd management.

Despite the challenges of not being on-site, the Horsemanship Club plans to provide educational online modules teaching how to care for horses, according to Horsemanship Club President Ashley Mobley, a third-year agribusiness and food industry management student. Besides providing opportunities to learn about horses, the club will also focus on virtually connecting its members through platforms like Zoom and Discord.

“It’s really hard for people to connect with others during this time, especially for incoming freshmen,” Mobley said. “So, this is an outlet for people to hang out and meet with people even if it’s in a virtual setting.”

Cheyenne Thayer, a staff member at the W. K. Kellogg Arabian Horse Center, riding on Taylor during a previous Sunday Horse Show. (Courtesy of Sophia Cuevas)

The Horsemanship Club also plays an instrumental role in the live Sunday Horse Shows, a tradition started by Will Keith Kellogg in 1926 to promote and exhibit the beauty of Arabian horses, according to Reich. Despite the Sunday shows’ cancellation this semester, the club is searching for ways to bring the traditional shows back in a virtual setting — although they anticipate it to be challenging due to the limited number of riders on site. The club is planning to pre-record the shows to post on its YouTube channel.

Club members will also receive educational videos on horseback riding, and those who have access to horses will contribute by filming the encounter.

“I work at a therapeutic barn in Oceanside, so I’m going to make some videos from my barn,” said Sunday Show Coordinator Fiona Scmelzer, a third-year animal science student. “With just the first meeting, even though we can’t be hands-on, I feel like we’ve got decent plans this year and we’ll be able to connect with fellow members.”

With the transition to an online setting, the Horsemanship Club decided to waive fees and paperwork. The club is currently hosting Zoom meetings once a month and is looking for additional ways to virtually reunite their members, according to Horsemanship Club Vice President Charles Vincent Brion, a second-year industrial engineering student.

The club is also planning to host Instagram contests with gift card rewards as a way to encourage student involvement.

“For this semester, we’re just trying to increase our virtual presence so that more students will find out about the opportunities at the Arabian horse center,” Brion said. “Hopefully, more students can drop by and say hello to the horses or even just watch a show at least once before they graduate.”

For more information, contact the Horsemanship Club at

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