By Emily Randolph
Walking into Collecting Gaits Farm in Milton, GA, visitors are sure to immediately notice the stunning horses and the well-kept barn aisles, but a closer look may also reveal a computer open to Clarkson University online.
It’s becoming an increasingly familiar sight in barns and equestrian homes across the country as top young riders begin to flock to Clarkson, thanks to the introduction of three equestrian studies courses in the summer of 2020.
“The courses are designed for those looking to expand their knowledge of the equestrian industry and how to best manage their hobbies, business and approach to our sport,” explained professor Piper Klemm, Ph.D., who teaches all three of the available courses, in addition to owning and publishing The Plaid Horse magazine, among other equestrian business ventures.
“Equestrian sport is somewhat unique in that it’s so lifelong,” continued Klemm, who designed the course curriculums to serve students of all ages. “Handling decision making, finances and emotions and understanding the market forces can be learned from an early age, and it can always be improved upon.”
Among the youngest students to complete one of Clarkson’s equestrian studies courses is Collecting Gait Farm’s Kat Fuqua.
At 14 years old, Fuqua is already a highly accomplished competitor, having earned numerous national hunter and pony hunter championship titles, eight U.S. Equestrian Horse of the Year honors, her U.S. Dressage silver medal in the FEI Prix St. George, and more.
“I really enjoyed the [Business and Bias in the Equestrian Industry] course,” said Fuqua, who was able to take the course remotely while also continuing to rack up top honors at shows such as the U.S. Equestrian Federation (USEF) Junior Hunter National Championships. “I’m already involved in sponsorship, staffing and scale decisions for our program at Collecting Gait Farm, so I was able to gain a lot of really practical knowledge.”
The BEA 110: Business and Bias in the Equestrian Industry course taken by Fuqua utilizes the interdisciplinary tools of economics, psychology and cultural norms to educate students on how the status quo evolved and how it can be navigated through cultural norms, customs and niche market biases.
In BEA 115: Grit, Toughness and Contemporary Equestrian Coaching, course materials focus on identifying and resolving the education challenges facing young riders and how to critically and creatively substantiate which methodologies serve riders best. In the final of the three courses, BEA 114: English Riding: History, Culture and Industry Evolution – 1950 to Present, students are immersed in the history and culture that have led to the current state of hunter, jumper and equitation competition today.
For top junior hunter/jumper competitors Jordan and Dominic Gibbs, the course gave them each a greater appreciation for the sport that they love.
“My biggest takeaway was definitely becoming more knowledgeable in the history of the sport that I’m so invested in,” said Jordan, who at 14 has already made a name for herself in show jumping and equitation competition. Most recently, Jordan earned team gold at the 2021 Fédération Equestre Internationale North American Youth Championships.
“One of the assignments that stuck with me the most was the story of Greg Best and Gem Twist and the 1992 Olympic selection process,” continued Jordan.
Like Jordan has begun to, her brother Dominic has made a name for himself as one of the nation’s top junior riders. In 2020, the highly respected 18-year-old won arguably the most prestigious class in the country for junior riders, the ASPCA Maclay National Championship, and since then, he has continued to find great success in the equitation and jumper rings.
For both siblings, the easily accessible virtual format of Clarkson’s equestrian courses made it possible for them to earn college credits while balancing their ambitious horse show schedules.
“My favorite thing about the format was that you could work at your own pace and really get the most information out of what was being taught,” said Jordan.
That was just what Klemm had in mind when she designed the courses.
“Because equestrians are so often travelling throughout the country, I very much wanted to be able to offer something in an online format,” explained Klemm. “Whether they are riding, training or operating an equine business, these courses are applicable to anyone interested in the equestrian space.
“It’s been wonderful to see individuals from across roles, and the young riders in particular, take such a great interest in their education and in prioritizing learning more about their industry,” said Klemm. “I’m appreciative to Clarkson for recognizing the opportunity and to all of the students who have already taken the courses and helped to truly put Clarkson on the map as a top choice for equestrians.”