WWU Equestrian Seniors to Present Honors Projects

Next week, three William Woods University equestrian students will present a year’s worth of work and research completed as Honors Scholars. Their presentations are free and open to the public.


Seniors Kate Woodard of Madison County, Iowa; Mary Schultz-Rathbun of Brush Prairie, Wash., and Suzanne Wassel of Whitehouse, Texas, will present their respective honors projects at 7 p.m. Tuesday (April 14) in the Library Auditorium.


Woodard will present “Lumps and Limps: An Equine Lameness and Blemish Dichotomous Key (for the WWU Keeper).”  “Keeper” is the common name for students enrolled in Techniques of Horse Management. During this class, students care for a string of approximately eight horses, and Woodard felt that such a book would be invaluable in helping to diagnose lameness in their horses.


“I wanted it to be a resource for future keepers,” Woodard said. “I thought it would be a great first tool for them, so they can communicate more effectively with the instructors. Other students go to keepers to find out what’s going on, so they need to be informed.”  


Woodard feels that the book will not only save time for instructors who will no longer need to be called out for every tiny scratch, but it will also serve to keep everyone “on the same page.”


“The book utilizes a dichotomous key,” said Woodard. “It asks a series of questions and as the person using the book answers those questions they are taken to different pages that will give them more information about what they’re looking at.”


“It’s easier than a typical reference book where you’d already have to know what you’re looking at before you can look it up,” said Woodard.


Woodard’s research has included personal experience, as well as what she has learned while participating in an internship at Equine Medical Services in Columbia, Mo., with lameness expert Dr. Paul Schiltz.


While Woodard will not be presenting the finished book during the April 14 presentation, her talk will cover lameness exams, and specific examples of how to diagnose lameness in horses.


Schultz-Rathbun’s presentation will deal with mental healing, rather than physical. Her project, “Healing through Horses: Equine Assisted Psychotherapy” explains the newly-emerging field that integrates horses into traditional human therapy for both mental and emotional disorders.


“It’s different than therapeutic riding, which is what most people think of when they think of horses in therapy. It’s a new field, so it’s pretty exciting,” she said.


She became interested in using horses as therapeutic tools while she was still in high school. She did some volunteering at a local therapeutic riding stable and found it very rewarding.


“I really enjoyed it because it was a way to share my passion of horses with other people and help them at the same time,” said Schultz-Rathbun, who became even more excited when she heard of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy (EAP).


“I really thought that this was fascinating and a really good tool for helping a lot of people. Based on the current research it looks like it has a lot of potential.”


While researching her topic, Schultz-Rathbun used psychology databases, journal articles from peer review journals that were actual EAP studies, and literature reviews of these studies, which she will combine into a 25-page paper.


During her presentation, however, Schultz-Rathbun will give the audience a general overview of the topic.


“I’m going to talk about the history of man’s use of horses through time and then give a general overview of the evolution of animals in therapy. After that I will focus on the history of horses in therapy.


“I touch on therapeutic riding and then the development of the field of EAP and how it’s evolved in the past 10 or 15 years. I will talk about where it’s at currently, show some research supporting its use, and then talk about where it might go in the future,” she said.


According to Schultz-Rathbun, “where it might go in the future” is exciting.


“I think it will continue to expand; it’s really grown tremendously in the 10 or 15 years and has spread worldwide. I think it will continue to grow as awareness grows.”


Wassel’s project  is a bit different. Called “Training a Green Horse: Project Bam,” her project deals with Bam, a young half-Arabian horse owned by Don Abbey of Fulton. Wassel has been training Bam (who has been labeled a “problem horse”) to be safer to ride and handle.


“I’ve been keeping a daily log of my plans and progress with him,” said Wassel. “I chose this project because I am very interested in horse training, and the owners really needed help.”


While she works with Bam, she is trying to break him of bad habits including biting and taking off with his rider. Her final project will take the form of a daily log, including goals, progress and rationales for all the training she has attempted with Bam.


Ironically, the hardest part of the project for Wassel has not been training Bam; it has been keeping the log.


“Sometimes I would have a lot to write about and other times it would be hard to even write a few paragraphs,” said Wassel.


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