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Horse Enthusiasts Launch Model Plan
VERONA -- North Mississippi horse owners and trainers are throwing their support behind a new university program aimed at promoting the equine industry throughout the state.
The North Mississippi Research and Extension Center recently hosted about 70 equine enthusiasts for discussion of the plans to provide increased support to area horse owners.
Dr. Pat Bagley, head of the research station in Verona, said it is time for horses to receive the same support other animal industries have received for years.
"Mississippi State University has numerous animal units across the state but has not devoted much effort to horses -- until now," Bagley said. "Recently, some animal industries have been shrinking, but Mississippi's horse population is at 150,000 and increasing."
Mary Ford, the newly hired equine instructor with MSU's College of Veterinary Medicine, said she hopes the program will open doors to individuals who have not had the opportunities to enjoy horses in the past.
"Horses need to be available to young people, including the underprivileged and the handicapped," Ford said.
"Once the benefit and pleasure of owning and riding a horse is realized, we believe many parents will look into long-term training and therapeutic riding opportunities," Ford said.
Semmie Johnston was a horse enthusiast who attended the recent meeting on the new program.
"As a nurse, I see a lot of underprivileged people and those with various disabilities who would love to have the opportunity to ride a horse," Johnston said. "There are so many things they are not able to do, we need to offer them something they can do."
Horses in the program will be involved in youth activities and continuing education opportunities for horse owners and area veterinarians. The MSU veterinary college hopes to conduct research in areas such as equine nutrition, skin and hoof care.
"We want this program to serve as a model across the state," Ford said. "Our success will result in better support of Mississippi's equine industry."
Dr. Dwight Mercer, dean of MSU's College of Veterinary Medicine, said a recent gift to the university will accelerate plans for the program. Dr. Ben and Sadie Buchanan of Tupelo donated 17 Registered Quarter Horses to MSU in September.
"These horses will enable the program to get underway stronger and faster than if we were starting without quality horses," Mercer said. "They will be our seed stock."
Mercer said MSU veterinary students will see to the horses' health needs and earn valuable experience in equine medicine.