ATI Isn't Foalin' Around Nicole Strouse

Breeding season can be one of the most stressful yet most rewarding timesof the year. The cold winter temperatures make the hours at the barn seem longer, especially overnight on foal watch. Students come bundled up in their Carhartt coveralls and muck boots ready for a long, cold night—ready and alert for a new baby to arrive at any time.The Ohio State University’s Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI) Equine Center breeds both quarter horses and racing standardbreds ATI also brings in client horses, which could be studs for the breeding season, mares to be bred or horses at the facility for training.The equine center is home to a group of 65 to 100 horses and is overseen by barn manager Aspen Adams. Her main job is to maintain the health of the horses and oversee all activities at the farm. Adams, an alumna of the program herself, said, “Bringing in outside studs allows the students to experience more and helps grow our yearling program.” The horse program atATI offers students hands-on experience in the standardbred racing culture.In the horse marketing class, students prep for the sale and then get to see the horses being sold. At the 2018Buckeye Classic yearling sale, ATI had the highest-selling horse bred at the farm, which sold for $11,000. Students were able to participate in every part of the process.

New Driving Program Creates New Friends

In addition to building the breeding program, last fall the ATI Equine Center added a driving program. Driving is when a horse is hitched to a cart, wagon or any other horse-drawn vehicle by a harness. Karen Wimbush, Ph.D., the technology coordinator of horse production and management, said, “I always try to innovate, and I was seeing more less experienced riders coming into classes and we don’t have enough beginner horses for riding. So driving is the perfect opportunity to team up students with the horse and carts.”The ATI Equine Center is placed in the perfect location to get the most experience with driving and cart horses given its proximity to the local Amish culture and communities. Ohio, especially the northeastern part of the state,has a large Amish populations. Over the past couple years, the horse program has been able to create a positive working relationship with local Amish communities. Wimbush said, “Since we are working more with the Amish now than we ever have before, we are able to bring draft horse teams out to the farm to educate the students and allow them to drive the team.” “The most valuable things to learn are outside of the classroom,” said Wimbush.

Outside the Classroom

Students have the opportunity to experience trips to draft horse auctions and visit other farms to expand their knowledge of the horse industry. Many horse classes go to the Mt. Hope horse auction. The auction takes place over a six-day period in early March. The sales include ponies, horses, hay, carriages and other equipment. One of the most popular classes is the horse judging class. In the classroom, they learn about the ideal physical makeup for a horse, such as having a balanced conformation.

2018 Advanced Breeding Class

Students go to the auction to observe the sales and animals. Students are then able to test their judging skills in a real-world experience beyond pictures they are shown in the classroom. The advanced breeding class takes a trip to Kentucky to visit breeding farms. At the farms, the students see working breeding operations and are sometimes able interact with the horses, giving them a chance to see what types of jobs are available in the breeding industry. Students are able to see more within the horse industry, and these experiences can even introduce them to equine professionals and help with networking.

“ATI taught me that I truly have a passion for our equine friends.”

Lasting Impact

“The professors and program structure at the Ohio State ATI horse program taught me discipline, independence and passion,” said Nicole Churilla, a current Ohio State student who started at the Ohio State Equine Center. Like many girls, Churilla found a love for horses and animals at a young age. She never thought she could engage with a career that would allow her to work with horses every day, but when she was looking at universities to attend, she came across ATI. Churilla is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in animal sciences, specializing in animal industries, with a minor in production agriculture and has already received an associate degree in horse science, which she received from The Ohio State ATI Equine Center. Some students leave ATI’s horse program with an associate degree in horse science or horse production and management and go right into the horse industry. Others transition to the Columbus campus to pursue further education. Everyone finds their niche. According to Wimbush, most students tend to find jobs in some aspect of the breeding industry. Churilla said, “ATI taught me that I truly have a passion for our equine friends.” Everyone has a passion—why not follow a career where you can find joy?

The Ohio State University Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI), which is located in Wooster, Ohio, has 1,725 acres of land dedicated to farming. ATI offers hands on experience in multiple agricultural fields. The Ohio State ATI Equine Center is home to agroup of 65 to 100 horses. The equine center has a 46-stall barn that includes a tack room, wash rack and foaling stalls. The barn also consists of a full breeding laboratory, where students have everything they would need to learn about breeding and artificial insemination.

ATI breeds Standardbreds and Quarter horses

Standardbred: They are used in harness racing, pulling a two-wheeled sulky cart. The racing has two categories based on the horse’s gait, where the horses will either race at a trottingrace or a pacing race. They are also used as the Amish buggy horse. Quarter Horse: They are the most common horses. They are known for being the cattle ranching horse. You seem them doing the western events like barrel racing, cutting and reining.


Photos taken by Aspen Adams.

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