Olympic Gold Medalist and United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) President David O’Connor was the clinician and speaker at William Woods University’s annual Equestrian Academic Showcase Oct. 29-30.
The showcase for prospective students highlighted the school’s nationally known equestrian program. The two-day event was planned for high school students interested in studying for careers in the equestrian industry, but was just as exciting for current WWU students.
More than 80 prospective students and their families were in attendance. The prospectives spoke with faculty members, current students and admissions representatives to learn more about a degree in the equine industry.
They toured the barns, and got the opportunity to watch WWU horses and riders in action during the “parade of disciplines” in the indoor arena. Three of the WWU seats were represented, hunt seat being the one that was not displayed, simply because the hunt seat horses and riders were working hard for two days in training with O’Connor.
The most exciting part for many was seeing O’Connor take his first ride on a Saddlebred. First he was introduced to The Great Gazoo, a five-gaited Saddlebred gelding. After riding “Gus,” he was then legged up onto Lydian, a black mare for a second chance to show that the riding seats are not all that different.
As Gayle Lampe, professor of equestrian science, put it, “A horse is a horse and good hands are good hands, no matter what the riding style.”
O’Connor is perhaps best known for bringing home the first Eventing Olympic Gold Medal for the United States in more than a quarter of a century when he clinched the individual Eventing championship at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney with the best score in Olympic history.
A fashion show also took place Saturday, during which current students modeled proper riding attire for each discipline, both home attire and show ring attire.
That evening O’Connor gave a speech that turned into the highlight of the day for
many students, both current and prospective. He spoke about his own accomplishments, how
incredibly smart horses are, and about competition.
But his main point, which hit home with many in the audience, was one of cooperation and respect among different horse disciplines, and how each can learn from the other to become better at his or her own area.
O’Connor also made the comment that WWU can be proud of its horses and riders.
“I’ve never seen another college with so many quality horses, and I’ve traveled and seen a lot of different colleges. I don’t think there is one anywhere that compares to this,” said O’Connor.
William Woods University, in 1972, was the first school in the country to offer a bachelor’s degree in equestrian science. A degree in equine administration was added in 1992.
The university has a reputation for providing one of the finest equestrian studies programs in the country—filling a national, regional and local demand for graduates holding a four-year equestrian science degree.
This demand is heightened by a thriving equine industry that contributes about $112 billion to the U.S. Gross Domestic Product each year.
The university’s equestrian facilities encompass a city block, with 128 large box stalls in four stables, two heated indoor arenas, a lighted outdoor ring and a 40-acre cross-country riding course.
The equestrian studies program is the most popular at William Woods, with an average of 102 students majoring in equestrian science and 14 students majoring in equine administration each year for the past 10 years. The placement rate for WWU equestrian graduates is nearly 100 percent.
Breeds represented in the William Woods stable include American Saddlebreds, Appaloosas, Arabians, Morgans, National Show Horses, Quarter Horses, Thoroughbreds and Warmbloods. The university provides instruction in saddle seat, hunt seat, dressage and western.
Students interested in learning more about WWU’s equestrian studies program should contact the Office of Admissions at firstname.lastname@example.org or (573) 592-4221.
CUTLINE: William Woods University Equestrian Science Professor Gayle Lampe with Olympic Gold Medalist and USEF President David O’Connor after his ride on Lydian during WWU’s annual Equestrian Academic Showcase.