international riding program expanding!

final riding
UF students meet up with their instructor at a show jumping competition in Wurselen, Germany in July 2012. Pictured above (l. to r.) Kayla McCarthy, hunter/jumper senior; Michelle Arnold, instructor; Dana Kurrle, 2011 hunter/jumper graduate; and Chrissie Kausrud, hunter/jumper senior.  All were working for stables
that were at the competition.

Teaching locally, riding globally

Michelle Arnold, UF hunter-jumper instructor, admits that she caught horse fever growing up in Carmel, Indiana and, as yet, hasn’t been cured. Her passion for horses has taken her from a small Midwestern town to international equestrian venues, including Europe and Bermuda.  Occasionally accompanied by UF students, Arnold is making a name for the UF English equestrian program as she travels to major horse shows and other events across the world.

UF’s global equestrian reach started back in 2006 when Arnold attended a jumping course design school in Aachen, Germany.  With a population of 60-70,000, Aachen is home to CHIO Aachen, probably the most prestigious horse show in Europe.  Held during the summer, CHIO Aachen draws up to 55,000 spectators a day and gets extensive television coverage.

“In Europe, show jumping is the second most televised sport, right after soccer in popularity,” added Arnold.  “This is an area where our students are beginning to compete as well as start careers.”


Aachen, Home Away from Home

In 2009, Arnold again travelled to Aachen, this time to attend the World Jumping Forum (WJF).  An intense educational program, the WJF features lectures in the morning with training sessions in the afternoons.  Arnold has attended the Forum every year and has added to her knowledge of horse show management and horse show complex design. In January 2012, UF equestrian graduates Sara Ballinger and Caroline Asbell accompanied Arnold to the World Jumping Forum. 

“It’s great for our students and graduates to see how popular this sport can be outside of the U.S.,” said Arnold.  “Of course, show jumping is very popular in many parts of the U.S., but it’s a major sport in other countries.”

Through her travels, Michelle connected with international rider/trainer Patrick Nisbett and was able to place a student to assist with his show jumping operation.  Nisbett was so impressed with UF student Alex Minnozzi that he sent a horse back to Findlay with her.  Alex benefitted from the international riding experience and UF gained Dylan, a talented new horse for its program.

Next, the Middle East, Japan and. . . Siberia?

The equestrian faculty is always looking for connections that will help them place students in internships and launch their careers after graduation.  While re-locating to the U.S. East Coast was considered a big move a decade ago, future graduates may be looking at jobs in the Middle East, Japan, and, yes, even Siberia!

“Siberia actually has a huge equine center,” Arnold stated. 

Saudi Arabia is known for doing things in a big way, and show jumping is no exception.  With riders competing in the last five Olympics, the country is said to have a budget of $100 million (U.S. dollars) to acquire the best horses.  Qatar is home to the Al Shaqab Equestrian Center, an equine facility with the look of a Ritz Carleton.  Arnold marvels at the interest and investment that Middle Eastern countries have put into riding and training.

“The equestrian center in Qatar was built to preserve, improve and promote the Arabian horse,” she said.  “They are also setting the standard in breeding, showing at the Olympic level, and equine research.”

“Jumping” to yet another continent, Arnold recently reported that she has been working at building equine contacts in Colombia, South America and may travel there in the near future. Arnold is also aware of other countries’ hunger for experienced riders and trainers.  This interest may foster more internships and jobs for UF English equestrian majors.  As far as career opportunities are concerned, most of Arnold’s students have voiced enthusiasm, rather than trepidation at possibly re-locating across the globe.  Horses, it seems, all speak the same language.