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Normandy Trip Highlights Equine Industry

Posted: April 11, 2014

Seventeen undergraduates traveled to France for an insider's view of the thriving equine industry.
Penn State students at the Caen Racecourse in Caen, France.

Penn State students at the Caen Racecourse in Caen, France.

For the seventeen Penn State undergraduate students who traveled to Normandy, France as part of a Department of Animal Science course, the trip offered an insider's view of the heart of the French equine industry, and an outstanding opportunity to experience another culture.

Visiting stud farms and other equine facilities provided insight into the thriving equine industry which makes Normandy the number one equine region in France with over 100,000 horses, 8,000 breeders, and an economic sector which generates 1.5 billion Euros.

While the course provided background on the equine industries both in the United States and France, the trip also showed the wide range of career possibilities.  For Taylor Shears, State College, the trip affirmed her desire to work in the horse industry as a career. "It gave me reassurance that I am on the right track with my life, and opened my eyes to all the possibilities that are available in the equine industry."

Molly Cashman, San Jose, CA, agreed, "This trip was very valuable as career preparation. It showed me many different sides of the industry - not only breeding but equine council work, event planning and more."

Terry Etherton, Ph.D., Head of the Department of Animal Science, said, "This course is one of several we offer that has an international travel component.  I strongly believe that this provides a wonderful undergraduate educational experience that our students enjoy immensely. Traveling to the Normandy region of France allows our students to see the many facets of France's outstanding equine industry and gives them a unique perspective as they compare and contrast what they learn with Pennsylvania's important equine industry."

Marianne Fivek, Ph.D., Assistant to the Dean for Student Recruitment Activities, added, "For the students, the trip is unprecedented in adding to their breadth of knowledge and allows them to really experience what they learned in the classroom. The "embedded" trip is designed to expand their knowledge and bring together a total picture of the equine industry, from breeding and training to international trade and agricultural policy to research.  Learning about the culture, the geography and the history of the region helped make it a really rich learning experience."

Along with Fivek, the course is taught by Ann Macrina, Ph.D., Senior Instructor of Animal Science; Ann Swinker, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Equine Science; and Jacob Werner, V.M.D., Assistant Professor of Veterinary Medicine and Dairy and Animal Sciences. Fivek, Macrina and Werner accompanied the students.

Shears said, "The trip allowed me to make connections to some of my other animal science and equine marketing classes. It was amazing that my coursework allowed me to appreciate the trip so much more."

Several stud farms were on the itinerary and a highlight was visiting the Saint Lô National Stud, which was outstanding not only for its horses but also for the beauty of the architecture and the vastness of the grounds. It features technical centers for horse owners as well as a museum that attracts 20,000 visitors. More than 140,000 people visit the complex annually.

Cashman was especially appreciative of the professionals who spent time with the students explaining the facilities and the industry. "They were all extremely impressive as they talked about their specialties.  Getting their viewpoints and opinions was such a unique and amazing experience."

The trip was coordinated by the Normandy Horse Council, which works to sustain and develop the equine industry while promoting it to the general public. Normandy is hosting the FEI Alltech World Equestrian Games August 23 to September 7, an opportunity the Horse Council sees as a chance to highlight the tradition of excellence and showcase the Norman's passion for horses. Cashman said learning about the preparations for these events was especially interesting.

The group also visited the Deauville International Equestrian Complex, the Clairfontaine Racecourse, the Throroughbred Training Center, the Auvers Jumping Show and the Graignes Horseracing School and Racecourse. A tour of The Equine Locomotion and Pathology Center near Caen showed research activities and scientific and technical support directed towards the equine industry.

Shears summed up a feeling shared by many participants, "It was just simply life changing." She was greatly impressed with the enthusiasm shown by the public by attendance at race track activities, and the true passion shown by those working in the industry. 

In addition to the strong equine component, students visited several important historical sites throughout the region - Mont St. Michel, the American Cemetery of Colleville overlooking Omaha Beach, and other Normandy D-Day Landing sites. A city tour of Paris and a Seine river cruise completed their cultural excursion before returning to the United States.