Horses help bring in big money for scholarships at local university

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FINDLAY (WTVG) - When you think of college, horses probably don't come to mind. But one of the premier college equestrian programs is right here in northwest Ohio at The University of Findlay. The university's Western Riding Program has been hosting a spring horse sale for more than a decade The sale provides scholarship money for a number of students.

This is not your typical college classroom, but there's plenty of learning going on in this riding ring for both the horses and the students.

Nathan Ottaway is a senior from New York, "I learn a lot from the horses. Some of the biggest things they teach me is patience and critical thinking because each horse is different. You have to learn how to bring out the best in each of them."

In addition to their time in a traditional classroom, the students put in a lot of hours each week here at the barn Kayla Harris is a senior from Pennsylvania. She is here at least five days a week, "I spend at least six hours a day here at a minimum. If there is extra work to do here after I finish on campus, I'll come back and do that."

All that work pays off when the horses the students train head to the sale ring. There are 61 horses in this year's sale. Most of them are owned by the university, the rest are privately owned. Prices will range from about $1,500 all the way up to $20,000 or even more. The record price paid for a horse at the sale was $29,500 in 2017.

The sale will generate tens of thousands in scholarship money. Art O'Brien is a graduate of UF, and is now the Director of the Western Equestrian Program, Last year we put $40.000 directly back to students for scholarships from proceeds of the sale. We try to spread the scholarship dollars among as many students as possible."

O'Brien says the buyers come from all over North America, "I've already taken a call from as far west as Calgary, Alberta and as far north as northern Ontario. I also spoke with a lady in New Jersey and a couple people in Florida in the last few days. We have one of the last live auctions like this in the country. The horses don't ship in the night before, they are here in training for months. People like this sale because we know all of these horses very well, and we share all the information we have about them with potential buyers. We share the good and the bad. People know we are honest about each horse and its personality and abilities."

Students handle all aspects of the sale. In addition to training the horses, they also learn how to market them through advertising and organizing the sale catalog.

Nathan says it's also fun to track the progress of the horses he's trained for the sale, "It's a source of pride after you sell a horse and you meet the new owner. I like to try to keep in touch and see how the horse is doing in its new home. Knowing that what we are doing today is helping others in the future is rewarding."

Kayla has high hopes for the horse she's training for the sale. Her name is Cookie and Kayla expects her to bring in a good sale price. Kayla says it's a great feeling to know that the training they've all put into these horses will help make sure others can follow in their footsteps for years to come, "The more money I can raise in this sale, the more we can help future students achieve their dreams. It's really cool."

In addition to scholarships, money from the sale is also used to buy new horses for the students to train. The sale is Saturday, April 27th at the UF Western Farm on State Route 68 in Findlay.

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