NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - As many as 500 high school students from throughout 10 East Texas counties visited Stephen F. Austin State University as part of the School of Forestry and Agriculture's College Experience Day.
All the ag sciences took part, but East Texas talked to a favorite among the group - equine science.
Halloween came early for Harley, the quarter horse. He's all painted up for high school visitors who are learning from Harley's owner, Dr. Stephanie Jones.
"The vertebrate, the scapula, the humorous which is the funniest bone in the body," Jones said.
Jones gets her personal horse moving.
"So since he's painted, you actually get to see all of these bones in motion," Jones said.
Jones was recently hired as a SFA animal Science professor and director of the SFA Equine Center. She's ready for some new recruits.
"The market for equine is strong. There's a lot of riding programs, training programs and hippotherapy, and horse-assisted therapy is certainly an up and coming career opportunity," Jones said.
The career interests Diboll High School student Kendall Peeples. She has first-hand knowledge of how horseback riding relieves her own joint inflammations.
"She has me doing different exercises that bends me and stretches out those tendons that are all tensed up," Peeples said. "Once I leave there it feels so much better than before."
The students also learned SFA has university-owned horses, so novices to expert riders can take a variety of hands-on equine classes, including trail riding.
"It gives us the opportunity to teach you how to handle a horse, maneuver it through different obstacles, and it's an event you can have fun with," said Michael Coker, the manager of the Equine Center.
Future students beware. That bond could lead to horse ownership.
"This is Slick," Jones said. "He was actually one of the university-owned quarter horses, then we put him up for sale in May, and Meghan purchased him from SFA."
Now both are attending SFA. These young recruits may be down that trail soon.
According to SFA's Agriculture website, a recent USDA report indicates a great demand for college graduates with agricultural degrees. An estimated 58,000 high-skill job opportunities are available.