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CSU students and their equine charges pick up the right lead while training together

April 12, 2013
by Coleman Cornelius

When Logan Bennett started riding the 3-year-old Quarter Horse gelding under his tutelage, the student had a pet name for his mount: "Whoa Dammit."

Logan Bennett, atop Peppy, advises fellow equine student Carly Little as she teaches a gelding officially named Red Hot Slush to back.Fast-forward several months, and the horse lopes calmly with his rider, halting responsively when asked to “whoa.” Now the horse is called by his registered name: “Peppy.”

'Learning never ends'

“His progress has taught me that the learning never ends for the horse or the rider, and that makes me a better horse person,” said Bennett, a junior in the Colorado State University Equine Sciences Program.

Bennett is among more than three dozen undergraduate students in the university’s trademark Equine Sciences Program who have started 40 young horses in training laboratories that meet several times a week during the academic year. The students in these “colt training” classes have shepherded the 2- and 3-year-old horses from barely halter-broken to working under saddle.

Mandy Brandt lopes a mare named Backwoods Princess during a horse-training lab.The young horses will be auctioned during the eighth annual CSU Legends of Ranching Performance Horse Sale on April 27 at the B.W. Pickett Equine Center on the university’s Foothills Campus in Fort Collins.

Unique program

Legends of Ranching is unique: All the young horses in the sale have received their early training from students in the CSU Equine Sciences Program with faculty guidance. The sale caps an educational program that gives students the singular opportunity to start well-bred young horses.

The process always teaches CSU students more than they expect, giving even the best riders a newfound respect for horses and proper training, equine instructor Roberta Walton said.

Roberta Walton instructs CSU student riders who are training young horses in preparation for the Legends of Ranching Performance Horse Sale.“It’s the best class I’ve ever taken,” concurred Bennett, who grew up riding in his hometown near Atlanta. “You get to ride, learn – it’s awesome.”

Largest sale yet

Along with the young horses, 41 older, experienced horses will be sold. The total offering of 81 American Quarter Horses makes the 2013 Legends of Ranching Performance Horse Sale the largest yet. The horses come from 24 consignors, including some of the nation’s best-known Western horse ranches.

Last spring, the Legends of Ranching Performance Horse Sale generated more than $330,000 in proceeds, according to records. The average sale price in 2012 was $5,376. Proceeds are split among consignors, the CSU Equine Sciences Program and sale costs.

A 2-year-old mare named DM Lil Peppys Autumn works well with student trainer Taylor Dolak.Equine students not only have trained about half the horses to be auctioned, but also have planned and will manage most aspects of the sale.

Uncommon learning experience

The arrangement gives CSU equine students an uncommon learning experience, while also benefitting consignors and the university’s Equine Sciences Program.

“We’re proud of the marketplace position that the Legends of Ranching Performance Horse Sale occupies. Through eight years of hard work, planning and careful execution, this sale continues to build on a reputation of respect, where good horses bring solid prices,” said Dr. Jerry Black, D.V.M., director of both the CSU Equine Sciences Program and the CSU Equine Reproduction Laboratory.

“However,” Black noted, “what really matters with this sale is not what the horses bring, but what the students learn. The real value is in the hands-on education.”

Student Taylor Randall says she'll be sad to say goodbye to young mare AR Especials Barmaid.Carly Little, an equine science senior from Denver, is among many students in the Legends program to admit she’ll be sad to see her horse go. Little, a teaching assistant in a training lab, has worked with a 3-year-old roan gelding named Red Hot Slush.

'Definitely rewarding'

“Working with horses, you learn something new every time,” she said. “It’s definitely rewarding because you see the progress step-by-step.”

It’s also challenging, said Taylor Randall, a sophomore from Yorkville, Ill., who has trained a 2-year-old mare named AR Especials Barmaid.

“It’s a lot of work,” Randall said, patting the sorrel filly’s neck. “She thinks so quickly that she figures things out, sometimes faster than I realize I’m teaching her. But it’s been very rewarding. I mean, I did this – I trained a horse!”

CSU Legends of Ranching Performance Horse Sale

Pardee Smart, nicknamed Tipsy, is the second horse that equine science student Stormy Havens has trained for a Legends sale.B.W. Pickett Equine Center, 735 S. Overland Trail, Fort Collins, Colo.

  • Friday, April 26: Consigned horses available for viewing
  • Friday, April 26, 2-3:30 p.m.: Roping horse practice
  • Friday, April 26, 4 p.m.: Grand re-opening of the CSU Equine Reproduction Center, just north of the B.W. Pickett Equine Center. The facility was destroyed by fire in 2011. CSU will celebrate the re-opening of the research, teaching and clinical-service facility with brief remarks, guided tours and refreshments.
  • Saturday, April 27, 9 a.m. to noon: Sale horse preview
  • Noon Saturday, April 27: Special showing of “Horse Sense,” a documentary film featuring CSU equine programs
  • Saturday, April 27, 1:30 p.m.: Legends of Ranching sale begins

Sale information

For sale information, including an online sale catalog, visit the CSU Equine Sciences website.