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NMSU students explore career opportunities in New Mexico's equine industry

For the second year in a row, a group of New Mexico State University students have researched and then gotten a first-hand look at New Mexico's $503 million equine industry while touring various facilities and ranches around the state.

Group of students listening to man with horse looking over his shoulder.
NMSU students learn about operating a racing horse breeding farm from Double L Farms owner W.L. Mooring during their tour of various equine industry operations in New Mexico. (NMSU photo by Jane Moorman)

People think of Kentucky, Texas, California or Oklahoma as horse country. But New Mexico also is an outstanding equine industry.

"If you look at what goes on in New Mexico, it's a very diverse state in terms of the equine industry," said Jason Turner, associate professor and Extension equine specialist, who designed the New Mexico Equine Industry Study Tour course in NMSU's College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences.

With an estimated 147,000 horses in the state, approximately 91,100 New Mexicans are involved in the industry as horse owners, service providers, employees and volunteers, according to the American Horse Council. The equine industry directly provides 35,700 full-time jobs in more than 200 job categories, ranging from racing to veterinary medicine, and from breeding to training.

"This class gave us an opportunity to see the equine industry throughout the state, instead of just our hometown or the areas where we have been going to school or riding," said Hannah Thompson, undergraduate student from Albuquerque.

Joining Thompson on the tour were undergraduate students Erin Arko, Bethany Bonner, Kyle Fakhoury, Jackie Garcia, Andrea Hamlin, Emily Hibbard, Nicole Jaynes, Cameron Leopold, Jennifer Lindsey and Leslie Mikkelson, and graduate students Katie Babcock, Wayne Franklin, Debbi Oldham and Colleen Richardson.

The week-long tour from Las Cruces to Raton explored different equine operations, from breeding to training of racing, ranching and performance horses.

"New Mexicans have been raising high-quality horses a long time," Turner said. "They've been recognized nationally for their breeding programs. During the tour 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."

During last year's tour the students visited facilities on the east side of the state. This year, the tour followed the Interstate 25 corridor with the students visiting operations in Bosque, Santa Fe, Espanola, Lamy and Raton before heading east to Rayado, Albert and Tucumcari.

Prior to heading out on the tour, the students had to research specific operations that would be visited on the tour. Their research papers included a summary of each operation and the questions they would ask regarding management of that specific operation. Following the tour the students prepared a review paper with their analysis of the operations that were visited.

In Bosque, the students visited the Double L Farm in Bosque, where owner W.L. Mooring showed them one of the larger race horse breeding operations in the state. Also in Bosque at the Southwest Reproductive Services, veterinarian Shawn Edwards demonstrated transferring an embryo to a surrogate mare.

Leopold, an undergraduate student from Bosque Farms, was impressed with the professionalism of the people he met on the tour.

"Something that really fascinated me was the honesty and respect that the people have for one another within the equine industry," he said. "They had a lot of respect for each other."

While passing through Albuquerque the students toured the State Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory with the veterinarian and facility director Tim Hanosh, and visited the World Series of Team Roping headquarters where Denny Gentry told them about career opportunities in the equine industry.

"At the veterinary diagnostic clinic I learned that there are a lot of Coggins' tests performed in New Mexico," Thompson said. "I've worked at a vet clinic, where we may do two tests a week. The diagnostic clinic does between 20 and 50 a day from around the state and at the most 132 in one day. It blows my mind that there are that many horses in New Mexico that are traveling so they have to have the Coggins' test performed."

While in Albuquerque, they also learned about the role of the New Mexico Livestock Board in the equine industry from executive director Myles Culbertson, and the New Mexico Horse Breeders Association racing incentive programs from executive director Anna Fay Davis.

In the Santa Fe area, the tour visited Roy-El Morgan Farm in Espanola, where Erlene Seybold-Smythe gave them tips and tools for growing an equine business; Singleton's San Cristobal Ranch in Lamy, where Grant Mitchell talked about their ranch horse breeding program; and the Santa Fe Equestrian Center, where Terry Berg gave them tips and tools for running an equine event center.

Further north on I-25, the tour visited the Mesa Vista Stud facility in Raton, where veterinarian Truman Smith talked about managing an equine stallion station.

After an overnight at the historic St. James Hotel in Cimarron the tour headed east to the Express UU Bar Ranch in Rayado, where Bart Nichols talked about cutting horse training programs; then on to Tequesquite Ranch in Albert, where Lyn Ray spoke on the history of the ranch and how she has continued breeding quality ranch horses.

The tour concluded at the Bell Ranch north of Tucumcari where Kris Wilson talked about their ranch horse-breeding program.

During the tour, Cooperative Extension Service agriculture agents Tom Dean of Socorro County, Kyle Tator of Valencia County, Patrick Torres of Santa Fe County and Sean Moore of Colfax County visited with the students about equine operations in their counties, as well as career opportunities with the Extension service in general.

Graduate student Richardson said the tour has broadened her horizons as she met the different people and made connections in the equine industry.

Prior to the tour she said she was only focused on ranch horses. "So it was good to learn about the racing side of the industry, and a little bit more about the breeding and training side. This tour really helps open the doors for future career opportunities."

The tour gave the students an opportunity to see a lot of different operations and see the diversity of the equine industry within the state.

"There's something for everyone in the New Mexico horse industry," Turner said. "I think the students now have a different outlook on the horse industry in New Mexico because they got to see so much of what they didn't know was there. This tour has given them a different perspective into career opportunities within our state."