Equestrian professor to leave her ‘home,’ William Woods University

By Dani Moritz ’13

Through everything she has accomplished and everywhere life
has taken her, William Woods University has always played a major role in Dr.
Linda McClaren’s life.

Now the professor of equestrian studies and hunter/jumper
instructor at WWU is preparing to leave the place she calls “home.”
 
McClaren grew up in Columbia, Mo., taking riding lessons
locally and participating in summer riding programs at Christian College (now
Columbia College) and Stephens College..
 
Throughout high school she aspired to attend William Woods,
so naturally she completed her undergraduate degree, and later her master’s
degree, at The Woods—which to McClaren is home sweet home. 
 
McClaren jokes that she can tell stories of proficiency
exams, a rigorous assessment for equestrian students still in effect, from
1976.
 
“We rode in front of the panel of faculty members and, while
on our horses at the end of the ride, we rode into the middle and had
individual things we had to do,” she said. “I do remember sitting on the horse
facing the panel of faculty members and answering questions.”
 
After graduating from William Woods, McClaren worked for Deb
Booker, a former WWU instructor, for six or seven years, helping manage her
farm, the Horse Fair, in Columbia.
 
During the 80s, she worked with Kenny Burgdorfer—a
professional horse trainer, breeder and dealer who taught at WWU while McClaren
was working for Booker. Together, McClaren and Burgdorfer won several
championships at the American Quarter Horse World and Congress horse shows.
 
 McClaren was also an
adjunct professor at William Woods during that time.
 
When she and Burgdorfer broke off their partnership with in
1992, she spent a few years working and showing on the “A” circuit in Omaha.
 
“Even though I was in and out of the “A” horse show world, I
was also in and out of William Woods during most of those years,” she said. “I
feel like I’ve lived my whole life at William Woods, or most of my life.”
 
McClaren returned to William Woods as a faculty member in
1995—and she has been here ever since.
 
“I love that this is a microcosm of the horse industry,” she
said. “I love that all kinds of horses live here and all kinds of horse people
and you can find your niche in a lot of different ways.”
 
She added, “Even if it’s not something we specialize in like
racing and breeding, there are people on faculty who have connections in those
industries or connections to connections in those industries. You can find a
way to spend your life with horses at William Woods that may or may not have
anything to do with riding horses or teaching lessons.”
 
While at William Woods, McClaren earned the Missouri Horse
Shows Association Instructor of the Year Award twice (1999, 2001), as well as
the Dads’ Association-Louis D. Beaumont Distinguished Professor Award for
Excellence in Teaching in 2005.
 
More importantly, she’s made a major impact on students’
lives.
 
“I’ve known Linda for a long time and I have always looked up
to her,” said Danielle Beaver, a junior equestrian science major from Fulton,
Mo. “She is an amazing person. She has a great sense of humor and is such a joy
to be around. Linda teaches you to set your standards high and never settle for
anything less than your best. I am lucky to have had her as a teacher. She will
be missed by all.”
 
“My education with Linda has not only made me a better rider,
but a better horse woman,” said Jacque Franco, a senior equine science major
from San Diego, Calif.  “Her empathetic approach, both on the ground and
under saddle, has had a profound influence on me and affected how I ride and
work with horses.  What I have learned from Linda will stay with me
wherever I go in the horse industry.”
 
After she retires this year, McClaren plans to do a lot of
traveling, writing and art.
 
“I am going to continue to stay in touch with all the
wonderful students and graduates that I have met here over the years and travel
and see what they’re up to,” she said.
 
She added, “I want to go see them and see what they’re up to
and do some clinics … or I think I could be the ultimate barn sitter. They
could have a day or two off and I could do their lessons or whatever. It
doesn’t have to be a formal clinic.”